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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Sir Benjamin Simpson

Other: B. Simpson 
Other: Benjamin Simpson 
Dates:  1831, 31 March - 1923, 27 June
Active:  India / Afghanistan
Served in the Indian Medical Service Bengal 1853 - 1890. He served as the Surgeon-General for the Government of India from 1853 until 1890. A keen amateur photographer and member of the Bengal Photographic Society, he produced a series of 80 photographs of ‘Racial Types of Northern India‘ which was shown and awarded a gold medal at the London International Exhibition in 1862. Simpson‘s trip to Assam in 1867 - 1868 resulted in his photographs illustrating ‘Descriptive ethnology of Bengal‘ published in 1872. Many of Simpson‘s images were used in the eight volumes of ‘The People of India‘ published 1868-1875. Simpson produced a series of photographs of Kandahar, Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War of 1879-1880.

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India Son of Robert (solicitor) and Elizabeth Simpson, 34 Rutland Square West, Dublin; nephew of General Simpson, Bengal Army; baptised, Clontarf, 10.4.1831; educated Dublin University, BA 1851, MD 1853; Assistant Surgeon, Bengal Medical Service, October 1853; Surgeon, September 1864; Surgeon Major, July 1873; Brig. Surgeon, November 1879; Deputy Surgeon General, March 1882; Surgeon General, March 1885; retired 1890.
Arrived at Fort William, 1 Dec 1853, G.O. 7 Dec 1853. Directed to do duty in the European Artillery Hospital, Dum Dum, G.O. 2 Jan 1854. Ordered to proceed in medical charge of a detachment of European recruits to the upper provinces, G.O. 17 Jan 1854. Directed to place himself under the orders of the Superintending Surgeon of the Lahore Circle, G.O. 28 Feb 1854. Passed the colloquial examination in Hindustani, G.O. 6 Apr 1854. Ordered to assume temporary medical charge of the 39th N.I. at Lahore, G.O. 24 May 1854. Ordered to do duty with the 70th N.I., G.O. 11 Sep 1854. To assume medical charge of the 22nd N.I., 3rd Coy. 7th Battn of Artillery, No. 5 Light Field Artillery and garrison station staff at Delhi, G.O. 7 Apr 1855. ‘Very regular and zealous in his duty’ (Inspection report of 70th N.I., 21 Apr 1855). Posted to the 70th N.I., G.O. 13 Sep 1855. Removed to 68th N.I., G.O. 6 Nov 1855. Passed in Hindustani, G.O. 31 Jul 1856. Leave to Europe, G.O. 21 Oct 1856. Leave commenced 26 Oct 1856.[1]
Left for India, 20 Oct 1853; attached to Artillery, Dum Dum, on arrival; proceeded up country in charge of recruits; on arrival at Meerut ordered to Goordespore in medical charge of 10th Irregular Cavalry; from thence to Meean Meean (Lahore with 39th Native Infantry, May-October 1854; to Umballah for duty with 79th Native Infantry; accompanied regiment to Delhi and remained in medical charge until November 1855; posted to 68th Native Infantry, Bareilly, November 1855; on furlough in Europe, October 1856 to February 1860; Civil Surgeon, 24 Pergunnahs, March 1860 to November 1862; Civil Surgeon, Darjeeling, November 1862; in medical Charge of Sir Ashley Eden’s Mission to Bhutan, January to April 1864; Civil Surgeon, Patna, January 1871; on special duty with Cinchona Commission, February 1871; Superintendent, Temple Medical School, Patna, January 1871; Guardian of the Raja of Cooch Behar on trip to Europe, 1878; Deputy Surgeon General with South Afghanistan Field Force, 1881; Principal Medical Officer, Quetta, 1881; Sanitary Commissioner, Central Provinces, 1882; Surgeon General, Punjab, 1883-84; Surgeon General, Bengal, 1884-85; KCIE, 1887; to Burma to advise on medical establishments for Military Police, 1889. Edited Scientific memoirs by medical officers of the Army of India (Calcutta, 1885, etc).
Indian Medical Service 1853-90. Surgeon-General, Government of India 1885-90. Showed 80 portraits of Bengal natives at London International Exhibition of 1862 (awarded gold medal). Vice-President of the Bengal Photographic Society 1862. Gold Medal for ‘the best series of at least ten portraits’ and Gold Medal for ‘the best single photograph taken in India’ at Bengal Photographic Exhibition of 1862. Visited Assam to photograph racial types in 1867-8, several of these being reproduced in Edward Tuite Dalton's Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal (1872).
Contributed to The People of India (8 vols, 1868-75). Photographed scenes in Kandahar in 1880, during the Second Afghan War.
At the 4 February 1862 meeting of the Bengal Photographic Society, ‘A most excellent and very valuable collection of photographs was exhibited by Dr. Simpson, taken during a recent tour, and comprising, principally, specimens of the various tribes scattered throughout the Himalayan ranges, taken by order of the Government for the Home National Exhibition. These comprised, however, a very small portion of what he hoped to be able to accomplish before the expiration of next month.’[2]
At the 25 March 1862 meeting of the Bengal Photographic Society, ‘Dr Simpson exhibited a portrait of Lord Canning, which was considered to be an excellent and happy likeness, remarkable for its repose and softness.’[3]
In 1867 the Superintendent of Botanical Gardens and in charge of cinchona cultivation in Bengal, ‘requested to convey to Dr Simpson...the thanks of the Lieutenant-Governor for the packet of photographs of different species of cinchona growing in the Government plantations at Darjeeling, forwarded to this office, and informed that these photographs will be forwarded to the Secretary of State for India for exhibition in the Indian Museum in London.’[4] [IOR/L/MIL/9/394/ff.545-51;IOR/L/MIL/10/74; IOR/L/MIL/10/81 f.65; L/MIL/10/81 ff.103-4; L/MIL/10/86 ff.111-12; L/MIL/10/90 ff.137-38; L/MIL/10/98 f. 163 Who was who; Crawford; India Office List 1896; The Times, 23 June 1923] 

  1. Λ IOR/L/MIL/10/74 
  2. Λ Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol. 1, no. 1, 1 May 1862, p. 8. 
  3. Λ Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol. 1, no. 1, 1 May 1862, 10. 
  4. Λ Bengal General Proceedings (B), December 1867, IOR/P/432/3. 

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