Bancroft, Peter

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MB 1888 ChM 1888

Peter Bancroft was born in Lancashire in 1861. While still a youth, he was sent to Brisbane on the SS Victoria. He seems to have been brought up under the care of his uncle who originally intended to train him as his dispenser but, perceiving his talent, sent him to study at the newly opened Medical School in Sydney instead.

He enrolled in the common first year at the University of Sydney in 1883, entered Medicine II in 1884 and graduated in minimum time in 1888 with honours and a University Gold Medal. Peter had a brilliant undergraduate career and at his graduation was eulogised by Anderson Stuart, who referred to him as the first graduate of the Sydney Medical School and described him as “absolutely the best man”.

Peter registered as a medical practitioner in August 1888 and joined his uncle’s Ann Street practice a year later. He appears to have been a highly capable and successful practitioner who fulfilled the role of running the family practice allowing his uncle and cousin to devote themselves to their scientific interests. As described in his obituary by a friend, David Hardie:he was a general practitioner of the best type – a first-rate all-round surgeon, physician, gynaecologist and accoucheur. Had he chosen to specialise… I hardly know which would have suited him best. In any case he would have had a brilliant career…

He never failed to take a holiday once or twice a year but when on duty his whole time was taken up with his patients.

His medical appointments included the Hospital for Sick Children, the Lady Lamington Hospital for Women, and the Lady Bowen Lying-in Hospital. He took no active part in public life or politics but, undoubtedly influenced by his uncle, became a member of the Medical Society of Queensland (first founded in 1871 with Joseph Bancroft as its Secretary) and its President in 1894, one year after presenting his only scientific paper to that body. As President, he was involved in the establishment of the Queensland Branch of the British Medical Association which came into being in the same year.

Peter died in Brisbane in 1911, debilitated by a chronic pneumococcal infection that may have originated as much as two years earlier from a poisoned hand wound, an occupational hazard for surgeons in those days before antibiotics.

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Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Bancroft, Peter. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Young, J A, Sefton, A J, Webb, N. Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine, (1984) Sydney University Press for The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine.