The Baton Relay heads onto the shores of Antigua and Barbuda today (21.03.2014), but with the island of Barbuda having a population of just over one thousand, it’s not surprising that we have yet to come across our historic connections there. However, the University’s first known connections with the island of Antigua were made through the sugar merchant and plantation owner Thomas Jarvis who sent his sons here in the 1730s. The Jarvis brothers, Thomas and William, became politicians in Antigua. The Jarvis Family Papers from 1790-1884 are today held at the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan.
But it was in the medical profession in which the strongest early connections were established between the University and Antigua. Of the 23 Antigua connections so far discovered, the majority were the sons of medical doctors who chose to follow in their father’s footsteps. These graduates were to have an impact not just on their Caribbean homelands in the fields of Botany and Medicine, but they sent their knowledge of local plants and methods, introducing important medicinal concepts into Europe. Dr Thomas Fraser (MD 1749) of Antigua wrote in 1768 of the laxative effects of castor oil; and Dr James Farley (MD1839) was a proponent of the success of the quassia root in curing various fevers.