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Q: John L. Fox, M.D. ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: John L. Fox, M.D.
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: modeltman1-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 31 Oct 2002 07:28 PST
Expires: 30 Nov 2002 07:28 PST
Question ID: 94189
Information about Dr. John L. Fox. United States Navy.  Asst. Surgeon
on the 1838-1842 Wilkes Expedition which came to the Paacific
Northwest of the US. Fox
Island, WA was named for him.  I would like a picture of him along
with other information.

Request for Question Clarification by omnivorous-ga on 31 Oct 2002 08:46 PST
Do you have any of the printed information about the history of Fox
Island or the Wilkes Expedition?  Several of the early references that
I've found are to things in print -- but not on the Internet.

Best regards,


Clarification of Question by modeltman1-ga on 31 Oct 2002 10:10 PST
Yes, I have had found some information but it is only brief references
to him from Wilkes notes during the expedition.  I also have heard
that there is a sextant he used on the expedition which is at
Annapolis and the card of explanation gives some facts about his
family members.
Subject: Re: John L. Fox, M.D.
Answered By: omnivorous-ga on 31 Oct 2002 11:37 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dr. John L. Fox served aboard the Vincennes as part of the Wilkes
Expedition (1838-1842), then later served as Surgeon General of the
U.S. Navy.

Wilkes Expedition was authorized by Congress in 1836 and was the first
ever funded for exploration and survey.  It was a wide-ranging voyage,
starting in August, 1838 at Hampton Roads, VA and continuing to South
America, Samoa, New South Wales, along the Antarctic, Fiji, Hawaii and
in 1841 along the west coast of the U.S.

Charles Wilkes' surveys and naming of the U.S. Northwest were
influential in debates with Great Britain over ownership of the Oregon
Territory (including the current state of Washington).  However,
Wilkes was notorious for his strict discipline and is said to have
been the model for Captain Ahab in Melville's novel, "Moby Dick."

John L. Fox, of Narragansett, MA, was on board one of the six ships in
the expedition, as this note in the Fox Island Historical Society
Newsletter (January, 2002) indicates:

There is an excellent description of the expedition, including some
good source documents at HistoryLink, a Seattle-King County on-line
encyclopedia under "Wilkes, Charles" (Sept. 1998):

It appears that in 1859, he was part of the group that opened the
first American Embassy in China, attached to the ship Powhaten.  This
account, "China and Japan," was written originally by Lt. James D.
Johnston, U.S.N. (1860) and is reprinted on the Internet here:

There are excellent resources on Dr. Fox and his trip in several
libraries.  The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, has Dr.
Fox's papers from 1838-1840, as their web page, "Source on U.S. Naval
History" (May 11, 2002) indicates:

This one volume (from before their arrival in the Puget Sound) covers
collecting of scientific specimens, conducting of anthropological
studies, medical observations on the health of sailors and of native
populations.  It also has a description of the preparation and cooking
of the human body by cannibals in the South Pacific.  There's no
indication of what became of his papers from the latter period, when
he would have been in the Pacific Northwest.

As you'd alluded, this account notes that his sextant is in the Naval
Academy Museum at Annapolis (December, 1997).  It notes that his son
was Rear Admiral Charles E. Fox and also lists two grandsons:

Information from the Wilkes Expedition, officially called the "United
States Exploring Expedition," is in 27 reels of microfilm at the
American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.  Their web reference
is "Naval History Manuscript Collections" (2000):

Here are some references to historical documents that you may find
"Western America, Including California and Oregon," 1849, Charles
"Voyage Around the World," 1849, Charles Wilkes
"The Diary of Wilkes in the Northwest," E.S. Meany in Washington
Historical Quarterly, vol. 16-17 (1925-26)
"Puget's Sound", Murray Morgan,  University of Washington Press, 1979
"History of King County, Washington,"  Clarence Bagley, S.J. Clarke
Publishing Co., 1929.
"The Wilkes Expedition on the Pacific Coast," Herman Viola, Pacific
Northwest Quarterly,  January 1989

The Washington Historical Society had no on-line information
concerning Dr. Fox.
I could find no pictures of Dr. Fox on the Internet, nor even what
happened to him later in life.  I have put a query in to the Fox
Island Historical Society and will let you know if there is any
additional information available.

Google search strategy:

"Fox Island" + Washington + history
Fox + "Charles Wilkes" + Washington
"John Fox" + Navy + "surgeon general"
"John L. Fox"

Best regards,


Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 09 Nov 2002 02:52 PST
Some additional information about John Fox from Amherst College:

Fox, John Lawrence.  S. of Ebenezer and Susannah (Patterson), b.
Salem, Jan. 8, 1811.  M. D., Harvard, 1835.
Prepared Salem Latin School.  Studied med. Philadelphia, Penn. and
with Dr. A. L. Pierson, Salem; taught, 1835-37; Asst. Surgeon U. S.
N., 1837-47; Surgeon, 1847-64; Fleet Surgeon No. Atlantic blockading
squadron, 1864; had charge Naval Hospital Chelsea and Brooklyn; asst.
Med. Bureau, Washington, D. C.  D. Roxbury, D. 17, 1864.

Married Je. 15, 1847, Elizabeth A., daughter of Commodore Charles
Morris, U. S. N., Washington, D. C.  Ch. Helen L., Charles E.,
Elizabeth M.; William H.

Best regards,


Request for Answer Clarification by modeltman1-ga on 31 Dec 2002 15:40 PST
Do you mean if you had my E-mail address you could send me the
information from Amherst?

Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 31 Dec 2002 15:54 PST
Modeltman --

The file that I received has been uploaded for you here: -bf.gif 

It will only be available for 30 days, so download it if you are
interested in keeping it.

I ran across another Fox recently in this account of the sinking of
the SS Golden Gate, though they're apparently NOT related:

Best regards,


Request for Answer Clarification by modeltman1-ga on 31 Dec 2002 17:36 PST
The downloaded file you noted I can not get on my computer.  I have
Linux and that may be why.  I can possibly get onlline at the library
and download it there.

Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 31 Dec 2002 18:24 PST
Modeltman --

Please note that a gap in the file name may have caused it to be read
incorrectly.  You should be able to view this file (and download it)
at:The file that I received has been uploaded for you here:  
Best regards,


Request for Answer Clarification by modeltman1-ga on 31 Dec 2002 19:50 PST
Thanks for your help but I still can not download it.   I will try on
another computer with different software.

Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 01 Jan 2003 02:03 PST
Modeltman --

I reposted it; try this link:

Best regards,


Request for Answer Clarification by modeltman1-ga on 01 Jan 2003 16:10 PST
Thanks a lot.  This time I was able to read it. It was the one page, right?

Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 01 Jan 2003 16:20 PST
Just the one page.  I had a 2nd page but it was a repeat of the
material already forwarded from Amherst.

Happy New Year!


Clarification of Answer by omnivorous-ga on 25 Nov 2003 16:30 PST
Modeltman --

The new book by Nathaniel Philbrick, "Sea of Glory," which is about
the Wilkes Expedition has Dr. Fox mentioned 5 times in its index.  I
haven't read the book yet, but it's widely available:

Best regards,

modeltman1-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Best information I have received thus far about Dr. Fox.

Subject: Re: John L. Fox, M.D.
From: omnivorous-ga on 18 Jun 2003 07:23 PDT
Modeltman1 --

I was at the home of a neighbor yesterday (curiously enough he's a
Model A collector) and found a book on his shelf, "The Wilkes
Expedition" by David Tyler (American Philosophical Society publisher).
 No mention of Dr. Fox in the index.  The book covers the expedition,
which ranged through the South Pacific and well as the Pacific

Additionally the friend had a bibliography of Wilkes' writing,
including his detailed diaries in 5 volumes, "Narrative of U.S.
Exploring Expedition," Lea & Blanchard, Philadelphia, 1845.

Best regards,


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