Walsh, Edward (1756–1832), physician and writer, was born in Waterford, eldest son of John Walsh, merchant of Ballymountain House, Co. Kilkenny, and brother of the writer and clergyman Robert Walsh (qv). He was sent to school in England, and on his return to Waterford founded a literary society, before departing to study medicine at the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, where he graduated MD (1791). The following year he published ‘The progress of despotism: a poem on the French revolution’, which was dedicated to the whig politician Charles James Fox. This was a plea for tolerance and reason; it castigated monarchists and republicans alike and took a Swiftian view of man as intrinsically debased. Walsh was evidently taken with some of the ideas of the revolution; he was probably the Edward Walsh, physician, who joined the United Irishmen on 16 November 1792, though nothing further is known of his activities for that society. His final poetic efforts were published in 1793 in a collection called Bagatelles.
His first professional assignment as a medical officer was on a West Indian packet, where he cured patients of yellow fever by evacuating them to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. He was present during the 1798 rebellion in Wexford as physician to the crown forces. This he always considered the most melancholy period of his life. The following year he served in Holland, which gave him material for his Narrative for the expedition to Holland (1800). It was a semi-official work, confined to details of the main political and military events with few personalised sketches, and is as a consequence rather dull. While in the Netherlands he managed to acquire a highly valuable collection of Dutch masters, including Van Dykes and Rubenses.
At the attack on Copenhagen (2 April 1801) his hand was shattered. He was afterwards sent with the 49th Regiment to Canada where he remained six years, living for considerable periods among indigenous people. Concerned that as these people were unlettered their way of life, which was fast disappearing, would vanish without record, he set about amassing a vast amount of data on their customs and rituals, as well as more general information on Canadian botany, fauna, and mineralogy. He intended to publish, but apart from a few articles in periodicals, none of this material was ever in the public domain. Leaving Canada about 1808, he spent a short period in the USA before returning to England, where he was attached to a regiment of dragoon guards, with whom he proceeded to the Iberian Peninsula. He was present at most of the battles of the Peninsular war and at Waterloo; his last posting was as professor of the medical board established at Ostend. Returning to Ireland, he found his collection of Dutch masters had been seized at customs and were never recovered. He died some years later at Summerhill, Dublin on 7 February 1832. It is not known whether he married.