Sue Young Histories

Bartholomew James Sulivan 1810 - 1890

August 03, 2008

Bartholomew James Sulivan 1810 - 1890 was a British sailor and hydrographer.

Bartholomew Sulivan sailed with Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle as Naval officer, hydrographer and Lieutenant. Charles Darwin was convinced to seek the help of homeopath James Manby Gully for his heath problems by Bartholomew Sulivan and by his cousin William Darwin Fox (Ralph Colp, Darwin’s illness, (University Press of Florida, 2008). Page 45. See also Dana Ullman, The Curious Case of Charles Darwin and HomeopathyEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2010 March; 7(1): 33–39. (Published online 2009 October 29. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep168). See also A. W. D. Larkum, A Natural Calling: Life, Letters and Diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox, (Springer, 2009). Multiple pages).

From Charles Darwin suffered repeated episodes of illness involving stomach pains from 1838 onwards, and had no success with conventional treatments. In 1849 after about four months of incessant vomiting he followed the recommendation of his friend Captain Bartholomew Sulivan and cousin William Darwin Fox, and after reading James Manby Gully’s book rented a villa at Malvern for his family and started a two month trial of the treatment on 10 March.

Bartholomew James Sulivan was a leading advocate of the value of nautical surveying in relation to naval operations. His early career included service under Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s voyage of 1836, and the island of Bartolomé in the Galapagos Islands was named after him.

From 1842 to 1846 he commanded HMS Philomel on the South American Station and surveyed the Falkland Islands. During the Crimean War he was sent by Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer of the Navy, to the Baltic to assist the fleet commanded by Charles Napier. Sulivan, commanding the paddle steamer HMS Lightning, made many invaluable surveys and charts of the shallow waters in which the fleet had to operate, and led the bombardment ships into position during the capture of Bomarsund.

From 1856 to 1865 he was the naval professional member of the Board of Trade. He was eventually promoted to Vice-Admiral. After Robert FitzRoy committed suicide in 1865, leaving his wife and daughter destitute, Sulivan convinced the British government to provide them 3000 pounds, to which Charles Darwin contributed another 100 pounds of his own money.