Reid, Thomas (1791–1825), naval surgeon and author, was one of four sons of Thomas Reid, farmer, from Cadian, near Eglish, Co. Tyrone. He received a classical education from the family pastor, the presbyterian minister Hugh Bell, before attending the Royal College of Surgeons in England and qualifying as a naval surgeon (May 1813). On 3 November 1815 he was admitted to membership of the college. In 1817 he sailed as surgeon-superintendent on the Neptune, a ship carrying 170 male convicts to New South Wales, Australia. A religious man, he was influenced by the principles of the prison reformers John Howard and Elizabeth Fry, whose Christian faith was central in their attempts to improve the lot of prisoners, and was shocked by the depravity and ignorance of his charges. He commenced reforms in their treatment, emphasising moral improvement rather than punishment, and was able to record that two-and-a-half years after the ship landed in Australia only nine men had been called before the magistrate. In 1820 he maintained a similar philosophy when dealing with the female convict ship the Morley, although his assertions of success with his charges were sometimes naïve. He reported how one prisoner of notorious character gave satisfactory evidence of reform by reciting a hymn which he had given her to memorise a few days earlier. In 1822, at a time when many organisations for the reform of the penal system were being established in Britain and Ireland, he published his experiences in Two voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (London, 1822) dedicated to Elizabeth Fry, which was later used by Marcus Clarke as a basis for his romance For the term of his natural life (Melbourne, 1874). The system of surgeon-superintendents had only been set up in 1814, so the completion of two voyages by 1820 made Reid one of the more experienced superintendents at that time.
In 1822 he returned to Ireland to inspect the conditions of the poor and imprisoned, and published his findings as Travels in Ireland in the year 1822 (London, 1823). In the preface he stated his advocacy of catholic relief and his disagreement with the principles of the Orange Order, despite many friends and relatives being members. The book consists of three sections: part 1, a history of Ireland from ancient times to the act of union; part 2, a discussion of beggars, prisons (four years after a government inquiry into prisons in Ireland and a year after the prison service there had been divided into two circuits with an inspector for each) and social relief; and part 3, where he hypothesised that the reasons for Irish poverty lay with avaricious landlords, tithes, want of employment and education, and political disabilities and monopolies. This ‘excited a strong sensation’ in both Britain and Ireland (Gentleman's Magazine, ii (1825), 377) and was a precursor to Elizabeth Fry and Joseph Gurney, Report addressed to the Marquess Wellesley, lord lieutenant of Ireland, respecting their late visit to that country (London, 1827). Reid died 21 August 1825 at Pentonville, London. There is no record that he ever married.