Can You Identify These Famous Fictional Physicians?

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 06, 2018

The Physician-Spy

Image from Alamy

Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000) authored a highly successful series of 20 novels focusing on the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Two of the main characters in this series are the ship's captain, Jack Aubrey, and his close friend, Stephen Maturin, who is not only the ship's surgeon but also an undercover spy for the British Crown.

Maturin, though born in Ireland, appears to have received some of his medical training in Paris. In the first book of the series, Master and Commander, Maturin earns the crew's respect and admiration when he performs a delicate neurosurgical procedure on an injured crew member wherein he replaces part of the patient's skull with a coin.

In addition to his medical skills, Maturin is fluent in several languages and is a passionate naturalist. When Captain Aubrey's ship, the Sophie, drops anchor in the Galapagos Islands, Maturin enjoys a brief opportunity to observe the island's unusual wildlife.

Maturin's many good character traits, particularly his compassionate nature, musical talent, absorbing interest in natural history, and his secret role as a spy, make him a very compelling and intriguing character.

As for the other characters listed in this question, Edward Armstrong (not to be confused with the scientist Armstrong from Cook's novel Acceptable Risk) is a physician in Agatha Christie's 1939 novel And Then There Were None. And of note, like Edward Armstrong, two famous Jack Stapleton characters appear in literature: The first Jack Stapleton is the antagonist in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous 1902 Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles; the second Jack Stapleton is one of the protagonists in a series of Robin Cook novels that include Blindsight and Contagion.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: