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Posted By Robert. Stephenson


Charles Empson (1794-1861), as painted by Willes (or Willis) Maddox in 1840-50 when Empson was 45-55 years old and living in Bath, England. 


Posted By Robert. Stephenson


Dr Cheyne was based in bogota at the time Robert Stephenson was working for the Colombian Mining Association and  he advised RS on a number of occassions in 1825.  Cheyne was born, 24 August 1798, in Edinburgh and was admitted into the Society of Medicine in Edinburgh and titled a doctor of medicine and surgery, 14 April 1820.

In 1824, he relocated to the Atlantic coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia. He remained there for some time studying tropical diseases, acquiring fame for his expertise before moving to Bogota.

On page 322 of a book called the Four Seasons of Manuela, written by Victor W. Von Hagen, published by Dent in 1952, there is a short reference to a Dr. Richard Ninian Cheyne. It describes an incident in near Bogotá in 1829 involving the doctor, described as ‘a handsome Scotsman’, as he attends a lady called Manuela, who has fallen from a horse and who was romantically connected to Simon Bolivar.

Simon Bolivar, the General, who gave independence to 5 countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela ) from Spain and later became president, had a murder attempt and Dr. Cheyne was called to assist him, becoming his personal doctor.

Simon Bolivar gave Dr. Cheyne a golden sword with precious stones which was called The Birnania Sword. It is now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was donated by Amelia Branson Cheyne, his granddaughter.

Dr. Cheyne was also the personal doctor of General Santander, second in importance in Colombian history.

In 1831 he was formally accepted into the Colombian Medical Society.

Ninian Richard Cheyne married Paula Fajardo Barona in 1837, in Popayan, Cauca, Colombia. She was a member of one of the most important and affluent families in Popayan and went on to have children.

In 1847 the Colombian Congress gave Dr Cheyne a life pension of sixteen thousand reales per year, in recognition of his dedication and work.

Ninian Richard Cheyne died 16 March 1872 in Bogota.

Posted By Robert. Stephenson

Born December 21, 1794, Charles was the third child of Mary Askham and John Empson, a weaver in York.     

Not much is known of Charles Empson's early years except that he yearned to travel. His family was not wealthy, with the father having been a weaver.  When Charles was 29, he left England in June 1824 for South America, and traveled with Robert Stephenson to is now Colombia.  

In 1827 when John Snow was 14 and considering a medical  apprenticeship, Uncle Charles and his friend Robert were finishing their three-year South American journey and continuing to New York.  Robert Stephenson's family doctor was William Hardcastle who lived in Long Benton; Hardcastle was also a close friend of Charles Empson.  Knowing of his nephew's interests in medicine, Charles likely encouraged Robert to write Hardcastle to arrange for the apprenticeship of John Snow. 

The two friends left Colombia at the end of July 1827, one month after John Snow started his apprenticeship with William Hardcastle.  They brought with them precious objects of pre-Colombian art, including some gold artifacts which Charles later exhibited in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  Unfortunately, some of their possessions were lost in a shipwreck at the entrance to New York harbour.  After spending time in New York city, Charles and Robert went on a walking tour of New York State and Canada, traveling as far as Montreal.  They arrived in Liverpool, England in November 1827.  

After his three-year journey,  Charles Empson settled in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and where he started a business as a fine art bookseller. The business flourished until 1834, when he relocated to Bath.  A year earlier John Snow had also left Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but for Bumopfield to attend the second of three medical apprenticeships. 

In Bath Charles Empson was described as a museum keeper or perhaps more accurately, as a picture dealer. He became increasingly prominent in local society.  One of his acquaintances was Charles Louis Napoleon (1808-1873) who was living in Bath and later proclaimed himself to be Emperor Napoleon III of France. 

When first moving to Bath, Empson lived at 9 Cleveland Place, next to the Cleveland Bridge over the River Avon.  In the same building he had a museum which showed both paintings and historical works.  

A painting of Charles Empson is now owned by the descendant of John Snow's brother Thomas (1821-1893).  The undated portrait is believed to be painted by Willes (or Willis) Maddox, a Bath artist who later moved to London.  




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