Dramatis Personae - Examiners

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The Examiners Other Than Those Who Were Fellows of Senate

In setting up a Faculty composed of Examiners, Senate cannot have failed to be aware that it was conferring a mark of distinction on a select group of practitioners. Even if Senate had not considered this point, it is self-evident that it would have wanted to choose from among the most distinguished practitioners in the city and that, in consequence, the practitioners so chosen would see their appointment in this light. Nevertheless, it is remarkable how little information is to be had about some of the members of the original group of Examiners. The Senate minutes, the University Calendars, and the annual reports to Parliament, all list their names and degrees, but not their licences, and that is all. Furthermore, their degrees were often given incorrectly. There appears to have been no formal discussion of their suitability or the suitability of rival candidates. Senate minutes in this period are far from prolix but it seems that Douglass and Nicholson, and perhaps O’Brien, must have agreed in advance on a suitable list of names and that these were accepted by Senate without much discussion: all of the practitioners were evidently well known and one must presume that Senate simply trusted Nicholson’s judgment. The following biographies deal with those Examiners who were not also Fellows of Senate.

Richard Greenup (1803–1866)

MD Cantab. Registrar (1851–1852) Examiner in Medicine (1856–1866) Examiner in Chemistry and Experimental Physics (1858–1866)

Richard Greenup was born near Halifax in England in 1803, the son of a clothier. In 1826, at the age of twenty three he entered Queen’s College, Cambridge, and gained his MB in 1831 and his MD in 1836. He practised for a time at Salisbury and, while there, married the niece of an eminent London surgeon, Sir Benjamin Brodie1. He then moved to Calne where he remained in practice for ten years, acting also as visiting physician to various asylums in the county. In 1850, for unknown reasons, he decided to emigrate with his family and came to Sydney as ship’s surgeon in the John Knox, arriving on 29 April, 1850. He opened a private practice in Sydney and, almost immediately, became associated with the foundation of the University. Senate appointed him Secretary of the University on 17 March 1851, and later Treasurer and Registrar (1851–1852). At the inauguration ceremony at the Sydney College he acted as ‘Chamberlain’ (what we now term the Esquire Bedell) and led the procession into the Hall. From June 1856 he was an Examiner in Medicine and in September 1858 he became an Examiner in Chemistry and Experimental Physics as well; he held both posts until his death. The Senate minutes referring to his appointment as an Examiner refer only to his being an Examiner in Physics although the Calendars indicate Chemistry and Experimental Physics; doubtless, Smith, who was more a Chemist than a Physicist, needed support mainly in the Physics area. A statement in Macarthur Brown’s book on old Parramatta that Greenup also lectured in Experimental Physics seems to be incorrect—at least, if he did give lectures he was not paid for them although the Senate did pay him when he acted as an Examiner.

In 1852, following the death of Patrick Hill, the Government Medical Officer at Parramatta, Greenup left Sydney for Parramatta to take Hill’s place. During the sixteen years of his residence at Parramatta, Greenup filled easily the role of prominent citizen of the town. He gave public lectures on such diverse topics as ‘The Poetry of Wordsworth’, ‘Ventilation’ and ‘The Character of Napoleon Bonaparte’ (his views on Napoleon were said to be uncomplimentary). He was always active in the affairs of the local Church (St John’s) as well as serving as a lay reader at St Paul’s, Castle Hill, and he was president of the Cumberland Auxiliary Bible Society. Alarmed by the events of the Crimean War, Greenup called a public meeting in May 1861 and formed a local, loyal militia, The Parramatta Volunteer Rifle Corps, of which he became the Regimental Honorary Surgeon.

Greenup’s appointment at Parramatta allowed him the right of private practice, of course, but the official duties were quite onerous. He was Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum, Medical Officer to the Protestant Orphan School, Visiting Surgeon to the gaol and to the Destitute Roman Catholic Children’s Institution, as well as being official Visitor to the Asylum at Tarban Creek (Gladesville). At the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum he instituted an enlightened regimen, allowing the patients, all sent there because they were supposedly incurable, as much liberty as possible. In consequence, he reported a number of cures and was much praised for his good work. His compassion, however, was his undoing when, on 17 July 1866, while on routine rounds, he was attacked by a criminal lunatic with a past history of murder and other violence, who stabbed him in the abdomen with a pair of surgical scissors. As was subsequently revealed at autopsy, the small intestine had been perforated and Greenup died of peritonitis two days after the attack. He was survived by a widow and six children who later moved to the Darling Downs and prospered2.

From his portrait, Greenup appears to have been a striking figure, and from the record of his activities at Parramatta he clearly had become a citizen of great consequence. His role in the foundation of the University was significant and it is to be regretted that he was tempted from Sydney to Parramatta. His tragic end, described in gory detail in the Sydney Morning Herald, shocked all who knew him, and Senate took the trouble to write, not only to his widow expressing sympathy, but also to the Herald to put on record its indebtedness to him and its sorrow at his death.

A.D.B. Vol. 4, pp. 290–291. Macarthur Brown, Keith (1937). Medical Practice in Old Parramatta, pp. 56–58 & 70–79. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Sydney Morning Herald (1866). 18, 19, 21 July; 19 September. Archives, University of Cambridge.

1Sir Benjamin Brodie was a much revered figure of great distinction, who, at various times, was President of the Royal College of Surgeons, President of the Royal Society, and first President of the General Medical Council of Great Britain (1858–1860). 2One daughter married a son of George West’s (q.v.).

The Hon. Arthur Martin a’Beckett (1812–1871)

FRCS LSA FRGS Examiner in Medicine (1856–1863)

Arthur Martin a’Beckett was born in London, the son of William a’Beckett, an attorney, and his wife Sara née Abbot, a strenuous supporter of municipal reform. He came of a Wiltshire family claiming direct descent from the father of St Thomas a’Becket, martyr Arch-bishop of Canterbury. He studied Medicine in London and enrolled at the University of London in 1834. He obtained his LSA in 1835 and his MRCS in 1838. Between these two dates he served as a staff surgeon to the British Legion in Spain, was several times decorated for distinguished conduct on the field of battle and received the insignia of a Knight of the order of San Ferdinand. Doubtless influenced by the decision of an elder brother, William (later Sir William) a’Beckett, who emigrated in May 1837, he left England for Sydney in June 1838. There he entered public life almost on arrival and was appointed as one of the first members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. He established a private practice at Elizabeth St. North, and obtained an appointment as Surgeon to the Benevolent Asylum in 1839 and as the first Consultant Medical Officer to the AMP Society (1849–1859). After some years in practice he returned to England, obtained his FRCS in 1855, and worked for a short time in Paris. On his return to Sydney he was appointed an Examiner in the newly created Faculty of Medicine (1856) and developed a reputation as one of the leading surgeons of Sydney. He became a Trustee of the Australian Museum and of the Sydney Grammar School and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). Although an undoubtedly distinguished surgeon and man of public affairs, he has been somewhat overshadowed by his brothers: Sir William a’Beckett, who was Chief Justice of Victoria, and The Hon. Thomas Turner a’Beckett, a Victorian lawyer politician, not to mention his nephew Sir Thomas a’Beckett, another Victorian judge.

His appointment as an Examiner in Medicine lapsed in 1863 when he returned to England with the intention of retiring, but heavy financial losses in colonial companies frustrated this plan, and he returned to Sydney and resumed practice in 1865. He died on May 23 1871.

Plarr’s Lives, Vol. 1, pp. 1–2. N.S.W. Med. Gaz. (1871). Vol. 1, pp. 317–319. Illustrated Sydney News (1871). July issue. A.D.B. Vol. 3, pp. 7–12.

George Bennett (1804–1893)

MD Glasgow FRCS FLS Examiner in Medicine (1856–1893)

George Bennett was born in Plymouth England in 1804. As an adolescent he visited Ceylon and Mauritius in 1819 and thus began his interest in natural history. In 1821 he began the study of Medicine, first at Plymouth, then at Middlesex Hospital and in the famous Hunterian Medical School. He obtained his MRCS in 1828. It was during this period that he fell under the influence of Richard Owen, then a lecturer in Comparative Anatomy in St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. He awakened Bennett’s interest in comparative anatomy and in palaeontology and maintained a life-long correspondence with him.

After qualifying, Bennett went on a long voyage to the South Pacific lasting from 1828 to 1835, returning with a large collection of plant specimens, a live Ungka ape and a young native girl! His greatest discovery during this early voyage was the Pearly Nautilus in its living state; he sent the specimen to Owen, then working in the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, who published a brilliant description of it in 1832. On his return to England Bennett published many papers on natural history, which led to his election as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and a Corresponding Member of the Zoological Society.

Bennett had visited Australia briefly in 1829 but arrived for a more extended visit in 1832. He studied a series of new plants and animals too numerous to mention here, but special mention must be made of his comprehensive descriptions of the habits and anatomy of the platypus. His descriptions are contained in some thirty letters sent to Owen at the College of Surgeons, but eventually Bennett wrote up his findings in a major two-volume work The Wanderings of a Naturalist in New South Wales, Batavia, Pedir Coast, Singapore and China, published in London in 1834. For his work the College of Surgeons awarded him its ‘honorary gold medal’.

In 1836 he returned to Australia, this time to settle permanently although of course he continued to travel extensively. He was appointed first Secretary of the Australian Museum but, to supplement the meagre salary (£100 p.a.), he developed a private practice in Elizabeth St., at Hyde Park. His connection with the Museum was a long one. He classified numerous specimens and published its first catalogue. He resigned in 1841 but, after the incorporation of the Museum in 1853, he became a Trustee for the next twenty years. During this time he was also active in establishing the Sydney School of Arts, working for that body as a Lecturer in Zoology, and serving as its Vice-President.

In 1859 he again visited Europe where, in London in 1860, he published his best-known book Gatherings of a Naturalist in Australasia1. While there, in 1859, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and received an MD from Glasgow University. By then one of the most famous of living naturalists, he received countless additional honours in the ensuing years.

In 1856 he had been appointed an Examiner in Medicine at the University of Sydney and he remained one until his death. His travels must have prevented him from taking too active a role in the work of the Faculty in the early days but it is known that he was active as an Examiner in Materia Medica and Therapeutics after the Medical School itself opened. An avid book collector, he donated many books to the University during his lifetime, including the complete works of the great ornithologist, John Gould, but sadly, the University declined the offer of purchasing his entire library from his estate. A colourful story about the purchase of the collection by Dymock, a noted Sydney book dealer, is recounted by Tyrrell, Dymock’s major rival, in his book Old Books, Old Friends, Old Sydney. In the late 1880s Bennett endowed the newly built Medical School with one of its stained-glass windows, that surrounding the south portal of Barnet’s original structure. It contains twenty-two escutcheons of distinguished physicians and surgeons, including his own and Anderson Stuart’s. Bennett died on 29 September 1893 in Sydney. His list of publications, including several books, occupies nearly two pages of Plarr’s Lives of the Surgeons. His name has been given to nine living animal species including a wallaby, two species of bird, and a lizard, as well as to two palaeontological species. His influence on the early Medical School must have been considerable but today, of course, he is remembered more as a great naturalist and his role as an Examiner has faded somewhat into history.

A.D.B. Vol. 1, pp. 85–86. Aust. Med. Gaz. (1893). 15 October. Plarr’s Lives, Vol. 1, pp. 85–89. Aust. Encyc. (1962). Vol. 1, p. 490. Coppleson, V. M. (1955). Bull. Post-Grad. Comm. Med. Univ. Syd. Vol. 11, pp. 207–264. Coppleson, V. M. (1955). Med. J. Aust. II, pp. 273–278. Barff, H. E. (1902). A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, pp. 129 & 140. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Tyrrell, J. R. (1952). Old Books, Old Friends, Old Sydney, pp. 149–150. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

1Recently, Currawong Press, Sydney has issued a facsimile edition of this book: 466pp, ISBN 0 908001 31 2.

The Hon. John Macfarlane (1813–1873)

MD Glasgow. MD Melb. Examiner in Medicine (1856–1870)

John Macfarlane was born in Glasgow in 1813 and educated at Glasgow Grammar School. He matriculated to the University of Glasgow in 1826 and obtained his MD from that University in 1837. Among his student friends was Henry Normand MacLaurin (q.v.). He sailed on an early Arctic expedition with Scoresby, a well known Arctic explorer, and then undertook a series of voyages, working as ship’s surgeon in immigrant ships going to Sydney. He first arrived in Sydney in 1838 and, on the way home, was forced to abandon ship somewhere between New Zealand and Australia, when the vessel (The Despatch) caught fire. He led a party to safety in the ship’s pinnace and was picked up by a ship bound for Newcastle. He returned to Scotland in 1839 but again voyaged to Australia, both in 1839 and 1840. On this last voyage he decided to remain in Sydney and, according to his obituary in the N.S.W. Medical Gazette, ‘passed the Medical Board of N.S.W. on the 7th January 1839,…the seventh gentleman who did so’. The obituary notwithstanding, he would only have had to present evidence of his qualifications to be registered, since the Act under which the Medical Board was set up (October 1838) was intended only to regulate who might be allowed to conduct autopsies and give evidence at Coroners’ Inquests. In 1852 he was appointed to the Medical Board and he became its President in 1869. He was a foundation member and councillor of the Australian Medical Association in 18591. During his time in Sydney he practised at Pitt St. South, and later at Bligh St. and Macquarie St.

Macfarlane was appointed Honorary Physician to the Sydney Infirmary in 1845 and became an Honorary Consultant in 1866. At that time he was also elected Honorary Consultant Surgeon ‘for life’. He became an Examiner of the Faculty of Medicine in 1856. He had numerous other ‘public’ medical posts including the Vice-Presidency (1859) and Presidency (1860) of the Australian Medical Association; he was also Physician to the Benevolent Asylum and a Trustee of the Australian Museum. He was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1858 where, unsuccessfully, in 1858, 1861 and 1869, he tried to introduce Medical Bills to regulate who might practise medicine in N.S.W. In 1861, when the constitution of the Legislative Council was amended, he became a member of that body for life. He was a strong supporter of the campaign to open a Medical School in 1859 and gave extended evidence on this matter to the Parliamentary Select Committee inquiring into the University in 1859. In 1857 he made a trip south to Victoria where he was admitted to the degree of MD ad eundem gradum and registered to practise in that Colony. He was an honorary member of the Medical Society of Victoria. He is certainly the first member of the Faculty at Sydney University to be honoured with a Melbourne degree—indeed since Sir Anthony Colling Brownless, the founder of the Melbourne School, had himself only received an MD ad eundem gradum from Melbourne in May 1856, Macfarlane was evidently one of the earliest persons to receive a medical degree in Australia2. He could not receive one in Sydney, of course, since the ad eundem gradum Act was not adopted until 1881 and, as an Examiner, he could hardly have applied to obtain a Sydney degree by examination.

Macfarlane died on 6 July 1873 aged sixty. He seems to have been a most significant figure in N.S.W. medicine, but is now largely forgotten. His testimony on the need of a medical school in N.S.W. before the 1859 Select Committee is a most valuable document revealing all the arguments, for and against, that were then current.

N.S.W. Med. Gaz. (1873). Vol. 4, pp. 362–364. Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly N.S.W. (1859–1860). Vol. 4, pp. 111–115. Anonymous (1914). Medical School Jubilee, 1914. The University of Melbourne. Ford & Son, Melbourne. Archives, University of Melbourne.

1The short-lived Australian Medical Association was founded in 1859 by James Robertson (q.v.). 2After Sir Anthony Colling Brownless received the degree in 1856, eight others, including Macfarlane, received it in 1857. There were no other Sydney practitioners among the list.

Donald Macintosh McEwan (circa 1815–1859)

MD Edin. LRCPEd Examiner in Medicine (1856–1859)

Donald Macintosh McEwan is the most obscure of our Examiners, about whom little can be written. He must have been born in about 1815 and he studied Medicine in Edinburgh. He received his licence to practise in 1834 (LRCPEd) and obtained his MD from the University of Edinburgh1 in 1836 for a thesis entitled On Hydrocyanic Acid. He must have come to Australia in 1842 or earlier, since his name (spelled M’Ewan) first appears in the 1842 Medical Directory and in the 1842 and later issues of the N.S.W. Government Gazette (spelled M’Ewen). The exact date of his arrival is unsure, however, since he is recorded in the daily newspapers as having been a passenger on two different ships entering Sydney from London on 26 June and 7 July, 1842, and as departing from Sydney on ships bound for London on 29 August 1842 and 9 September 1843. Possibly he kept booking his passage on ships only to cancel at the last minute. Alternatively he may have wished to visit friends in other Australian colonies and chose to travel by ship rather than trek overland. He was elected an Honorary Surgeon at Sydney Hospital from 1847 and he practised at 145 Phillip St., Sydney. He died on a visit to Ipswich (then part of N.S.W.) on 26 May 1859. A death notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald but no obituary. At that time he had been a member of the Medical Board for some years. He was appointed an Examiner in Medicine in 1856, presumably because of his position at Sydney Hospital.

A lengthy, if somewhat lurid report of his performing an amputation at Sydney Hospital on an inadequately anaesthetized boy with bone tuberculosis is given in the Herald on 28 June, 1847. The report ran as follows:

The patient was a youth of about fifteen years of age, who from scrofuluous affection of the bone, was obliged to suffer amputation of the left leg above the knee. The operation itself, was performed in a masterly manner, and in about five and forty seconds, by Dr Macewan (sic) who was assisted in the taking of the arteries by Drs Mackintosh and Markham…At the first incision of the knife, the patient gave a sharp scream and notwithstanding the partially comatose state to which he had been reduced by the inhalation of the ether it was evident that he suffered considerably…

Evidently McEwan was a skilled surgeon or, at least, a quick one. Potter (1938), claims this as the first operation performed in New South Wales in which ether was used as an anaesthetic agent, but the dentist, John Belisario, and Charles Nathan (q.v.) surely deserve to be given this honour even if the surgical procedures for which they employed ether (tooth extractions) were relatively minor. McEwan, however, does seem to be the first person ever to operate in Australia on a patient under chloroform anaesthesia. The operation, for an unspecified procedure described as ‘normally very painful and tedious’, was carried out on 11 April 1848, at Sydney Hospital.

Baker, W. (1842). List of the Legally Qualified Medical Practitioners of the Colony of N.S. Wales. New South Wales Medical Board, Sydney. Anonymous (1860). The Medical Directory for New South Wales and Queensland. Australian Medical Association, Sydney. Archives, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Nathan, C.V. (1968). Med. J. Aust. II, pp. 690–691. Potter, W. L. (1938). Med. J. Aust. II, pp. 940–950. The Australian (1842). 8 July; 17 August. Sydney Morning Herald (1842). 27 June; 7 July; 29 August; 9 September. Sydney Morning Herald (1847). 28 June. Sydney Morning Herald (1848). 12 April. Sydney Morning Herald (1859). 7 June.

1At that time there was no MB degree at the University of Edinburgh.

James Robertson (1822–1862)

MB Lond. MD StAnd. FRCS LSA Examiner in Medicine (1856–1862)

James Robertson was born in Devon in 1822, the son of a local medical practitioner. He studied medicine in London and obtained his MRCS in 1843, LSA in 1845 and FRCS in 1848. He then obtained his MD from St Andrew’s University (not Edinburgh as stated in the University Calendars) and, subsequently, his MB from the University of London in 1850. He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis and emigrated to Australia in 1854 seeking a better climate. He set up in practice in Wynyard Square and shortly afterwards married Flora Adelaide Porter. His practice was very successful and in 1856 he was well enough known (and qualified) to be appointed an Examiner in Medicine at the University. At that time St Vincent’s Hospital had just acquired Sir Charles Nicholson’s house Tarmons in Potts Point and had determined to open a private hospital. It was known that they were seeking staff and Robertson applied. We are fortunate in that, as was not uncommon at the time, he had the application printed and bound. In this application, he stated that he had sought those qualifications which are most difficult to obtain and he claimed that, in England, his success in private practice was ‘so good and so rapid’ that a few years enabled him ‘to realize his independence’. He had worked as Surgeon and Physician to the Hitchin Infirmary until forced by his illness to emigrate. In Sydney he joined a Dr O’Brien in a large private practice (this must have been Bartholomew O’Brien since no other O’Brien was registered in Sydney at that time).

In his application he offered to work as physician or surgeon although expressing a preference for the latter. His request was granted and he became St Vincent’s first Honorary Surgeon late in 1856. He treated a large number of patients—for instance a total of 180 in 1858 —the commonest medical conditions treated being tuberculosis and lead-poisoning. He was deeply concerned with public health problems and campaigned for the use of iron instead of lead pipes for carrying drinking water. Similarly he was very critical of Sydney’s sewerage system which drained into the harbour at Bennelong Point. His comments, taken from the 1858 hospital report, as quoted by Sir Douglas Miller, could apply to Bondi Beach today:

The poison…was not purchased in the chemist’s but was administered in the silence of the night, in the streets at noon day, either with the air which they breathed or with the water which they drank.

Robertson performed the first recorded surgical operation at St Vincent’s Hospital on 3 December 1857, operating for bladder stone on a six-year-old boy who recovered satisfactorily. Unfortunately his career at the Hospital was cut short when he resigned in protest at the treatment meted out to the Rectress at the Hospital who was disciplined for supplying the Authorized King James Bible, stamped with St Vincent’s name, to a protestant patient. The reason for his resignation may have been more complex than this, since even when the right to use a protestant bible in this way was confirmed by the Catholic Archbishop, Robertson declined to resume his post.

During the remaining years of his life, Robertson continued to practise successfully and he later accepted appointment as Honorary Surgeon at Sydney Hospital, from 1860 until his death1 in 1862. During this period he was active in forming the Australian Medical Association. The first meetings of this body, referred to as conversaziones, were held on 15 November and 13 December 1858 at his home and it was agreed that an association should be formed. In the circular with which he called the meeting he suggested that a society be founded with the object of ‘the promotion of mutual respect and good fellowship amongst the membership of the profession: the consideration of such matters as would lead to the general advancement of it: and for the collection of a benevolent fund for the use of poor and sick fellows, their widows and orphans.’ At subsequent meetings in 1859, suitable by-laws were drawn up and, on 28 February, at a special meeting, office bearers were elected. Robertson became its Secretary, and he and his colleagues Nathan and O’Brien were appointed Trustees. William Bland became President and O’Brien, Treasurer. Other Councillors were H. G. Alleyne, S. Boyd, J. Foulis, J. Macfarlane, C. Nathan, Alfred Roberts and George West.

Unfortunately Robertson’s tuberculosis became active soon after 1860 and he died in retirement outside Parramatta on 17 November 1862. He was buried in the parish cemetery at Newtown. The Medical Association that he founded slowly disintegrated after his death and it was not until 1880 that the N.S.W. branch of the B.M.A. was formed and acquired some degree of permanence. His widow donated his medical library to the University, thereby forming the nucleus of a small medical collection which, in conjunction with gifts by Nicholson and Bennett, was the basis on which Anderson Stuart would ultimately build.

Miller, Douglas (1957). Bull. Post. Grad. Comm. Med. Univ. Syd. Vol. 13, pp. 61–67. Plarr’s Lives, Vol. 2, p. 234. Barff, H. E. (1902). A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, p. 129. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Tovell, A. and Gandevia, B. (1962). Med. J. Aust. I, pp. 756–759. McIntosh, A. M. (1951). Med. J. Aust. I, pp. 533–540. Anonymous (1859). The Laws and a Sketch of the Origin and Formation of the Australian Medical Association. Published privately for the Association, Sydney (Mitchell Library).

1Notwithstanding the entry in Plarr’s Lives, Robertson died on 17 November 1862 not 1863. His death is recorded in the N.S.W. Registrar General’s Archives and was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in November 1862.

George West (circa 1805–1866)

MD Dubl. LRCSIrel Examiner in Medicine (1856–1866)

George West was a protestant who appears to have been born in Dublin not later than 1805 (since he married in 1827). He received his medical training there, obtaining a Licence from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland1. Subsequently he practised in Longford, about sixty miles from Dublin, and held the post of Visiting Surgeon to the Gaol at Longford for sixteen years. During this period he is believed by his descendants to have lectured at Dublin University, presumably at one of the Medical Schools affiliated with Trinity College, but I have been unable to confirm this. He first came to Australia as a ship’s surgeon around 1836 but returned to Ireland after a short stay. He returned subsequently with his wife and family, arriving in Sydney at some time between 1851, when he is known to have resigned his posts and given up his practice in Longford, and January 1853 when his name first appears in the Government Gazette as a registered medical practitioner. He probably arrived early in 1851 since the marriage of his eldest son, also called George, at St Mary’s Cathedral, is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 September 1851. This event caused somewhat of a family crisis and the eldest son was cut off from further contact with his staunchly protestant family. The father seems to have practised in Elizabeth St., and later at 453 Pitt St. and at Lyons Terrace in Liverpool St., opposite Hyde Park. In March 1853 he was appointed Visiting Surgeon to the Darlinghurst Gaol and Medical Officer in Charge of the Cockatoo Island Dockyards (a penal institution at that time), posts formerly held by Bartholomew O’Brien, at that time Government Medical Officer. He seems to have held these appointments until his death. The duties were time-consuming but not onerous—for instance he visited Cockatoo Island twice weekly, examining and classifying newly arrived convicts and treating those already there who had fallen ill. For this, he was paid five shillings for each day’s visit plus ‘the gold increase’; his work on the island was assisted by a resident dispenser. His appointment as an Examiner in Medicine in 1856 was surely due to O’Brien, his predecessor in office, and his superior in the Government Medical Service, but West’s death on 14 May 1866 would have robbed him of the opportunity to act, since the first candidate to be examined, Goldsbro’, presented for his MB examination only in that year. West’s detailed testimony before the Parliamentary Committees of Enquiry into the Dockyard and the Gaol gives valuable insight into the running of such penal institutions and the prevailing social attitudes. The following excerpts are quite revealing:

In answer to a question on the guarding of lunatics at the Darlinghurst Gaol he said:

‘Sometimes when we change our warders—they are not free warders, but prisoner warders—when we change them we sometimes find them very rough indeed, so much so that I have been obliged to dismiss them, and get others’. In answer to a question as to the effect on lunatic patients of incarcerating them for up to two weeks in prison, he replied, ‘I hardly think it has any effect upon the minds of the class of person who come there generally. You may meet with a rare case, where a man of better education is brought in’.

George West founded a medical dynasty in Australia. In 1872, one of his younger sons, Francis James West, married Kathleen Hussey Greenup, a daughter of Richard Greenup (q.v.). One of their sons, Francis William West (1874–1932) studied medicine at Sydney University, graduating MB ChM in 1900. He married Adeline Lydia Jones, a daughter of Richard Theophilus Jones (q.v.), and, in turn, one of his sons, Richard Francis Kirby West (b. 1914) also studied Medicine at Sydney University and graduated MB BS in 1937. He is at present in practice at Cooma. The youngest of their children, Andrew Leslie West (b. 1948), after graduating in Rural Science at the University of New England, went on to study medicine at the University of Hobart. He graduated MB BS in 1978 and he too now practises in Cooma.2

Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of N.S.W. (1858). Vol. 2, pp. 288–291. (1859). Vol. 2, pp. 415–417. (1863). Vol. 4, pp. 909–913. Sydney Morning Herald (1851). 29 September. Sydney Morning Herald (1852). 3 September.

1The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland maintains no archives from which the date of issue of this qualification can be obtained. West was commonly styled MD and may, indeed, have held a doctorate from one of the Dublin Medical Schools associated with Trinity College. Unfortunately the University records in Dublin from this period are incomplete and this possibility cannot be verified. 2I thank Dr R. F. K. West, Miss Lydia P. West and Emeritus Professor C. R. B. Blackburn for their assistance.

Sprott Boyd (1813–1902)

MD Edin. LRCSEd MRCS LSA HonFRCS Examiner in Medicine (1863–1883)

Sprott Boyd was born in 1813 but details of the place and his parents are unknown. He studied medicine for four sessions at Edinburgh University from 1831 to 1836, obtaining his MD in 1836 as well as his Licence from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (LRCSEd). His thesis was entitled On the structure of the mucous membrane of the stomach and was published in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in the same year. Later he obtained London Licences (MRCS in 1839 and LSA in 1849) and he received an honorary FRCS in 1857. During this period he practised at Weymouth and was Surgeon to the Infirmary there. By 1859 he was in Sydney, practising at No. 6 Lyons Terrace, in Liverpool St., and had appointments as a member of the Board of Visitors to Lunatic Asylums (Parramatta and Tarban Creek) and as Physician to the Benevolent Asylum. He became Chief Medical Referee for the AMP Society (1859–1876) in succession to Arthur Martin a’Beckett (q.v.), who had been the Society’s first Consultant Medical Officer. In 1859 he became a foundation member of the Australian Medical Association and a member of its council. He was appointed an Examiner of the Faculty in 1863 and resigned in 1883 when he returned to England in retirement at the age of seventy. He lived then at Lexham Gardens in S.W. London and died aged 89 on 15 April in 1902. In consequence of his longevity and the fact that he spent his retirement in London, no informative obituary of him was published and his entry in Plarr’s Lives is of the briefest. We learn something of him from the transcript of his evidence as a Visitor to Lunatic Asylums before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lunatic Asylums set up by the Legislative Assembly in 1863. His duties required him to visit Tarban Creek (Gladesville) Asylum once a week and see all the inmates; in addition he had to visit the Parramatta Asylum once a quarter. For his work he received £260 per year. He advocated construction of an additional asylum intended to serve as a half-way house between Tarban Creek and freedom and he wanted the existing premises made more comfortable and less like a prison. He felt that the certification procedures were inadequate and wanted certifying practitioners to be obliged to give full details of their history taking, clinical findings and diagnosis on the certification slip.

All in all, he appears to have been among the more enlightened in his handling of the insane. His significance to the Faculty as distinct from the profession is difficult to determine in the absence of a useful locally published obituary. Scot Skirving (q.v.), in his unpublished memoirs1, recounts a description of him attributed by Scot Skirving to Sir Philip Sydney Jones (q.v.):

…a kindly but not very learned doctor. He it was, whose favourite diagnosis, when in doubt, was ‘an irritation on your liver’. When practice was slack the old social doctor’s wife used to say: ‘My dear we’ll give a few big dinners’ and the hospitality of the dining room seemed to attract rats to the consulting room trap.

Plarr’s Lives, Vol. 1, p. 132. Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly N.S.W. (1863). Vol. 4, pp. 916–921. Edin. Med. Surg. J. (1863). Vol. 46, pp. 382–404.

John Foulis (1816–1870)

MD Edin. Examiner in Medicine (1863–1868) Examiner in Experimental Physics (1866–1868)

John Foulis was born in Scotland in 1816, the second son of Sir James Foulis, 7th Baronet of Woodhall. He studied at the University of Edinburgh for five sessions from 1833 to 1839, and he obtained his MD in 1839 for a thesis entitled On Haemorrhage. He came to Sydney soon after and, on 9 December 1840 his name first appeared on the list of registered practitioners. In the 1842 Medical Directory he is listed as working at Parramatta, where he was in partnership with Gordon Gwynne, a well known Parramatta personality. In 1842 he married a Scottish girl, Mary Buchanan and a daughter was born to them on 1 February 1843. His wife died suddenly on 8 October in the same year, evidently a shattering blow, since he dissolved his partnership with Gwynne on 20 April 1844, and sold up his medicines, announcing that he intended leaving the Colony. On 26 June, however, he was still very much in the Colony, since his marriage to Jane Selina, a daughter of the musician Isaac Nathan (and a sister to Charles Nathan (q.v.)), was announced.

On 29 July 1844, the couple went for three years to Lord Howe Island where Foulis hoped to obtain a lease to develop the island. He had formed a syndicate with two others and they had bought out the existing inhabitants for £350. They failed to obtain the hoped-for lease and eventually he sold out to his partners, returned to Sydney and resumed his practice of medicine. Subsequently, in September 1851, he wrote an interesting report on the island for the Government in which he appraised its suitability as a potential site for a new penal colony. He seems to have been the first to prepare a detailed map of the island and appears to have explored it carefully. Of course, when he came there, it was already inhabited and was used on and off by whalers as a reprovisioning depot.

After his return he seems to have lived at Elizabeth Street (by 1850, at least) and by 1858 he had his practice at Glebe (Point) Rd., then a very smart residential district. During these years he had two sons and another daughter by his new wife.

He seems to have prospered. Thus, in 1859, he became a foundation member and councillor of the Australian Medical Association and he was appointed an Examiner in Medicine in 1863 although he had resigned by 1868. Following Greenup’s death in 1866, he was also appointed an Examiner in the Faculty of Arts, presumably to take Greenup’s place as Examiner in Experimental Physics. He died on 27 March 1870. The reason for his appointment as an Examiner are unknown but he was a committee member of the Australian Medical Association, along with O’Brien, Macfarlane, Robertson, Alleyne, Nathan, Roberts and West, all of whom were Examiners. His excellent family connections and his relationship by marriage to the Nathan family must have been helpful. It can be guessed that he resigned on grounds of ill health in view of his death two years later. He had no obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald1, 2.

Baker, W. (1842). List of the Legally Qualified Medical Practitioners of the Colony of N.S. Wales. N.S.W. Medical Board, Sydney. Anonymous (1860). The Medical Directory of New South Wales and Queensland 1860. Australian Medical Association, Sydney. Archives, University of Edinburgh.

N.S.W. Government Gazette (1841). 4 January. Macarthur Brown, Keith (1936). Medical Practice in Old Parramatta, Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage (1970). 105th edition, p. 1044. Sydney Morning Herald (1842). 19 January; 23 December. Sydney Morning Herald (1843). 1 February; 20 April; 26 June. Sydney Morning Herald (1850). 19 April (birth notices). Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council N.S.W. (1853). Vol. 2, pp. 719–721.

1I am grateful to Dr Ursula Bygott, University of Sydney, for drawing my attention to the details of Foulis’s remarriage, to Mr C. V. Nathan of Vaucluse for access to his private family papers, and to Professor M. J. Rowe for his help. 2One of his sons, James Foulis (1846–1901), studied Medicine at Edinburgh (MB 1872, MD FRCPEd subsequently) and practised there as a physician (see Edin. Med. J., 1901, Vol. 10, pp. 495–496).

Sir Alfred Roberts Kt (1823–1898)

MRCS LSA Examiner in Medicine (1863–1898)

Alfred Roberts was born in London, a surgeon’s son. His medical training was at Guy’s Hospital and he obtained his licences, LRCS and LSA, in 1844. Thereafter he practised in England, first with his father in London, and later in Sussex. He emigrated to Sydney with his family in 1854, seeking, according to the Australasian Medical Gazette, ‘fresh woods, and pastures new’. He rapidly built up a successful private practice and obtained appointment (by election) as an Honorary Surgeon to the Sydney Infirmary in February 1855, a post he retained until 1871. From 1873 until 1897 he was an Honorary Consultant Surgeon. In 1859 he became a Councillor and foundation member of the Australian Medical Association.

He became active in the agitation for reform of nursing practice at Sydney Hospital and persuaded Henry Parkes, whose physician he was, to consult Florence Nightingale, then at the height of her fame. As a result, Lucy Osburn and five trained sisters were despatched to Sydney in 1868 and quickly set about reorganizing the Nursing Service. This was remarkably successful but evidently not sufficiently so for Roberts, who clashed with Miss Osburn and criticized her severely before the Royal Commission on Public Charities (1873). Henry Parkes dissociated himself from this attack and wrote in one of his letters to Miss Nightingale that ‘Mr Roberts is a respectable professional man …but he is…a fussy officious dilettante in all matters of sanitary reform, who spoils his own efforts to be useful by his desire to be the authority on all occasions’.

Following the attempted assassination of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868, Roberts was appointed a Director and Honorary Secretary of the Prince Alfred Fund. At first he supported the idea of using the money to build a new wing onto Sydney Hospital but, after negotiation with the government on land ownership broke down, he supported the plan to build a new hospital on a new site. The upshot, of course, was the erection of the Prince Alfred Hospital on land given by Sydney University, a decision of major significance to the future development of the Medical School. Since Roberts had been appointed an Examiner in Medicine in 1863, he would have had opportunity to discuss the matter with the medical Fellows of Senate and to negotiate the concession of required land.

Following the death of his wife (Susan Eliza, née Spencer) in 1870, he took a long trip to Europe visiting hospitals everywhere he went, seeking ideas for the design of an ideal hospital. The outcome of this was the overall plan for Prince Alfred Hospital, considered at that time, even in its incomplete state, to be a model of modern hospital design. Roberts remained a Director of the Prince Alfred Hospital until his death in 1898 serving throughout that time as Secretary. In this capacity he attended the Hospital daily and acted in effect as chief executive officer. His last achievement was the supervision of the renovations of the operating theatre block. Parkes’s expressed view of him as a rather pedantic, fussy administrator is borne out by Robert Scot Skirving’s reminiscence of him as ‘sometimes rather a trial’. Scot Skirving also said of him ‘if he had not a brain of the highest type, yet he was an example of what single-hearted devotion…could accomplish.’

In 1881, as an executive member of the newly created Board of Health, he had charge of the campaign against a serious outbreak of smallpox. In consequence of his activity, the Coast Hospital at Little Bay, now Prince Henry Hospital, was built as a quarantine hospital. He supervised the design of this building with the assistance of James Barnet, Colonial Architect, the man who built Anderson Stuart’s Medical School building, not to mention the General Post Office. Roberts held numerous other public medical appointments including acting as an Honorary Surgeon at the Sydney Hospital for Sick Children and serving as a member of the Hospital Board from 1889 to 1897. He was created a Knight Bachelor in 1883 for his services to medicine and died at Wentworth Falls on 19 December 1898, aged 75. A marble bust of him stands in the vestibule of the Prince Alfred Hospital. His importance to the Faculty lies chiefly in his role in the siting of Prince Alfred Hospital, in the moves to get the Medical School opened and as the executive officer of the School’s first teaching hospital.

A.D.B., Vol. 6, pp. 34–35. Aust. Med. Gaz. (1899). pp. 38–40. Hipsley, P. L. (1952). The Early History of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, p. 24. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. Shlink, Herbert (1956). Bull. Post-Grad. Comm. Med. Univ. Syd. Vol. 12, pp. 69–95. Watson, J. F. (1911). The History of the Sydney Hospital from 1811 to 1911. N.S.W. Government Printer for Sydney Hospital, Sydney. Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly N.S.W. (1870). Vol. 2, pp. 554 & 569. Maddox, Kempson (1978). Schlink of Prince Alfred. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. Scot Skirving, Robert (1926). Med. J. Aust. I, pp. 290–299.

James Charles Cox (1834–1912)

MD Edin. FRCSEd FLS Examiner in Medicine (1864–1900) Lecturer in the Principles and Practice of Medicine (1882–1900)

James Charles Cox was the third son of Edward Cox, MLC, of Mulgoa, and the grandson of Lieutenant (later Captain) William Cox of the N.S.W. Corps, the man who built the first road over the Blue Mountains in 1814; he was the younger brother of Edward King Cox, a grazier who achieved importance for his refinement of the breeding line of Australian Merino Sheep. James Cox was born at Mulgoa on 21 July 1834 and attended The King’s School at Parramatta in 1847. After leaving school he was apprenticed for three years to H. G. Douglass at the Sydney Infirmary for a fee of 300 guineas, where he received standard clinical training according to the time. It is interesting to note that during his apprenticeship he worked as an assistant to Professor John Smith (q.v.), shortly afterwards to become Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, immediately after Smith’s arrival in Australia. Later he clashed bitterly with him over Smith’s opposition to the 1874 Medical Bill. Having completed his apprenticeship, he studied at the University of Edinburgh, obtaining his MD in 1857 and his FRCSEd in 1858. He returned to Sydney in 1859 and soon had a very prosperous practice.

Cox was associated with Sydney Hospital for almost fifty years, serving as Honorary Physician (1862–1872), Honorary Consultant Physician (1873–1876, 1880–1911) and Honorary Surgeon (1877–1879), and, during this time, was responsible for the compilation of a pharmacopoeia for use at the Hospital. He was a member of the Hospital Board of Directors for 1880–1883. In 1864 he became an Examiner in Medicine at the University and in 1882 he was appointed to the post of Lecturer in the Principles and Practice of Medicine at the Medical School that was to open a few months later when Anderson Stuart arrived; consequently he was also an Honorary Physician at Prince Alfred Hospital. He retired from both posts in 1900 at the age of sixty five and died on 29 September 1912. He was loved by students and colleagues alike, a most kindly and courteous figure, described rather picturesquely as having bow legs and ill-fitting dentures.

Cox made a substantial contribution to natural history in Australia. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of N.S.W. in 1859 and a Trustee of the Australian Museum and for many years he was President of the N.S.W. Board of Fisheries. He was a member and later President (1881–1883) and then Vice President (1884–1901) of the Linnean Society of N.S.W. and in 1868 became a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He was a particular authority on Pacific conchology and left an important shell collection to the Australian Museum. He published several annotated catalogues of shells and fishes.

Aust. Encyc. (1962). Vol. 3, p. 80. A.D.B., Vol. 3, pp. 482–484 Aust. Med. Gaz. (1912). pp. 370 & 372. Watson, J. F. (1911). The History of the Sydney Hospital from 1811 to 1911. N.S.W. Government Printer for Sydney Hospital, Sydney.

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford (1809–1876)

FRCS Examiner in Medicine (1866–1875)

Edward Samuel Pickard Bedford was born in London in 1809, the second son of William Bedford, an Anglican priest who became prominent and somewhat controversial in the affairs of Hobart and Van Diemen’s Land. At the age of fourteen, Edward Bedford emigrated with his parents to Hobart Town where the family settled in January 1823. He trained initially at the Colonial Hospital in Hobart, becoming Junior Assistant Surgeon in 1826. There, he was apprenticed to James Scott MD, and, on completion of his apprenticeship in 1828, became his assistant (in 1829) with the title Assistant Colonial Surgeon. In 1831 he went to England where he studied at King’s College and Guy’s Hospital, obtaining his MRCS in 1833; he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1854. He then returned to Hobart to become Assistant Colonial Surgeon, First Class, and also developed a successful private practice. Among his many appointments at that time one is particularly significant — he joined the Medical Examiners’ Board (1841), a body concerned with licensing local practitioners, and devoted his energy to the recruitment of suitable persons to train as practitioners. In 1847 he opened a private subscription hospital, St Mary’s, in order to provide an alternative to the Colonial Hospital, which was too closely associated in the minds of the free settlers with the penal settlement. The Hospital proved very successful and Bedford formulated detailed plans to use it as a Medical School, but the Royal College of Surgeons declined his request for its recognition. As prosperity receded from the Colony his Hospital was forced to close in 1863 and he migrated to Sydney. In Hobart he has left a legacy in the form of the Hospital building in Davey Street. (This was the second building in which St Mary’s had been housed — the first had been in Campbell Street.) He is also credited with having started a number of young men on careers in medicine.

On coming to Sydney he was appointed a Medical Adviser to the Government, probably utilizing the influence of his brother-in-law, Sir Alfred Stephen. He was active, along with Sir Alfred Roberts (q.v.) in the formation of the new Prince Alfred Hospital, and served on its board for some years. He became an Examiner in Medicine in 1866, and certainly had a record of demonstrated interest in medical education to justify this. Indeed he could fairly be described as the practitioner best qualified to hold appointment as an Examiner in the period from 1856 until the Medical School opened. He died in Sydney on 24 February 1876.

Crowther, W. E. L. H. (1944). Med. J. Aust. II, pp. 25–32. A.D.B., Vol. 1, pp. 77–78. A.D.B., Vol. 3, pp. 128–129. Plarr’s Lives, Vol. 1, p. 78. Sydney Morning Herald (1876). 26 February.

Haynes Gibbes Alleyne (1814–1882)

MD Edin. LRCSEd Examiner in Medicine (1867–1882)

Haynes Gibbes Alleyne (pronounced Allen) was born in 1814 in Barbados, the son of a planter, John Alleyne; his mother was a daughter of the British General, Sir Fitzroy Maclean. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, obtaining a Licence from the Royal College of Surgeons there in 1838 (LRCSEd), and then migrated to Sydney, arriving in 1839. He appears not to have practised, but rather to have worked on a stock breeding property, but, in any case, he became bankrupt in 1844. After further adventure in New Zealand, fighting in the Maori wars, he returned to Edinburgh where he obtained his MD in 1846.

In 1848 he returned to Australia and was registered by the Medical Board on 3 July. In addition to running a private practice at Upper Fort Street, he obtained a number of public appointments, including that of Medical Officer at Port Jackson, a post he held from 1852 until his death. This involved him in quarantine work and he did much good in controlling several infectious disease epidemics, especially smallpox.

He was a foundation member of the Australian Medical Association and served on its council in 1859. He was elected an Honorary Physician at Sydney Hospital in 1855 and became an Honorary Consultant in 1875. J. Frederick Watson, in his history of Sydney Hospital, claimed that he was the first person in Australia to operate while using chloroform as an anaesthetic agent when, in 1852, he amputated the leg of a young girl. In fact, however, Donald Macintosh McEwan (q.v.) has the priority for an operation performed at Sydney Hospital on 11 April 1848 which was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on the following day.

Alleyne became a member of the Medical Board in 1854 and its President in 1877. He seems to have been a good natural historian and wrote an excellent monograph on the fishes of Port Jackson, which was published by the Linnean Society, of which he was an active member. He was appointed an Examiner of the Faculty of Medicine in 1867 but died in 1882 on 9 September, just too soon to see the Medical School opened. The reason for his appointment as an Examiner doubtless relates to his position on the Medical Board.

A.D.B., Vol. 3, pp. 26–27. Aust. Med. Gaz. (1882). p. 165. Watson, J. F. (1911). The History of the Sydney Hospital from 1811 to 1911. N.S.W. Government Printer, Sydney. Dunlop, N. J. (1927). Med. J. Aust. I, pp. 141–172. Potter, W. L. (1938). Med. J. Aust. II, pp. 940–950. Sydney Morning Herald (1848). 12 April. Sydney Morning Herald (1882). 11 September.

Frederick Norton Manning (1839–1903)

MD StAnd. MRCS LSA Examiner in Medicine (1873–1903) Lecturer in Psychological Medicine (1886–1888)

Frederick Norton Manning, a farmer’s son, was born in Northamptonshire in 1839. He studied medicine at St George’s Hospital, London, and obtained his licences (MRCS and LSA) in 1860. Two years later, in 1862, he obtained his MD from St Andrew’s University. He came to the South Pacific as a naval surgeon and first visited Sydney in 1867. He met Henry Parkes, who invited him to take over the management of the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. Manning first returned to Europe and studied modern methods for management of mental disorders and then returned to take up the post in 1868. He reformed and modernized the asylum (which he had renamed the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane) and revolutionized the treatment of mental illness in N.S.W. In consequence of his success, Manning was appointed Inspector of the Insane for the State and extended his reforms to all similar institutions, even reforming the notorious Parramatta Asylum for the Criminally Insane. His reforms did not extend only to improved methods of hospital management but were concerned also with the laws governing certification, admission and discharge. He also did much to raise the status of nurses, particularly those working in mental hospitals, by encouraging the development of local training schemes.

Manning was appointed an Examiner in the Faculty of Medicine in 1873 and, after the opening of the Medical School, became concerned particularly with the examinations in psychological medicine. In 1886 he was appointed University Lecturer in Psychological Medicine, in time to lecture to and examine the first intake of students as they entered their clinical years. He relinquished his post in 1888 to be succeeded by his protegé Chisholm Ross. He retired from active practice in 1898 and died on 18 June 1903. At his own request he was buried in the cemetery at the Gladesville Hospital. His name is commemorated at Sydney University by the Norton Manning Memorial Prize for proficiency is Psychiatry. The prize was established in 1907 by a gift from subscribers to a memorial for Manning.

A.D.B., Vol. 5, pp. 204–205. McDonald, D. I. (1972). J.R.A.H.S. Vol. 58, pp. 190–201. Aust. Med. Gaz. (1903). pp. 317–318.

Frederick Harrison Quaife (1841–1922)

MA Syd. MD ChM Glasgow FRCSEd Examiner in Medicine (1884–1889)

Frederick Harrison Quaife does not, strictly speaking, belong in this chapter since, although a Sydney graduate in Arts, he did not have a medical degree from Sydney University, and although an Examiner in the Faculty, he was appointed after Anderson Stuart’s arrival. However, his career is so similar to that of some of the Sydney graduates and early teachers, that it is instructive to make the comparison in order to see the range of opportunities available to young colonials in the mid-19th century who wished to study medicine. Quaife was born at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand on 5 January 1841, the son of the Rev. Barzillai Quaife, a well known Congregational Minister, and he came to Australia at the age of three when his family moved. He enrolled as an undergraduate at Sydney University from 1857 to 1860 and obtained his BA in 1860 and his MA in 1862. He then proceeded to the University of Glasgow where he pursued his studies in Physics under Lord Kelvin. Eventually, however, he studied medicine and graduated MD ChM from the University of Glasgow in 1867; in addition he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

He returned to Australia and commenced practice in January 1869 in Queen St., Woollahra, where he remained for most of the rest of his life. He was appointed an Honorary Physician at Sydney Hospital in 1871 and became an Honorary Consultant Physician in 1879. He was a foundation member of the N.S.W. branch of the British Medical Association (founded 1880) and was its President in 1884–1885. He was a member of the N.S.W. Medical Board from 1894 to 1915 and was an Examiner in the Faculty of Medicine at Sydney University from 1884 to 1889. Apart from his medical practice, he was an enthusiast in many aspects of science related to physics, including optics, electricity and astronomy. He had a laboratory at his home in Woollahra, where he conducted numerous experiments, and possessed one of the first X-ray machines in the State. (In 1896 he provided the funds with which Sydney Hospital bought its first X-ray machine.) He joined the Royal Society of N.S.W. in 1876 and was a council member of that body from 1897 until his death, and was twice its Vice-President (1905–1909, 1912–1916). He was also an active member of the Astronomical Society and made a study of spectroscopic phenomena.

Quaife was a talented pianist and an active member of the Sydney Amateur Orchestral Society and the Royal Philharmonic Society of N.S.W. The latter body gave him a gold badge in 1918 to commemorate his twenty-fifth year as Vice-President.

Quaife’s career is a model of what an intellectually alive young colonial could achieve. As one might have expected, he suffered no disadvantage from not having a Sydney degree. He held office in the B.M.A., was on the Medical Board and was an Examiner in Medicine and evidently managed to build a good career without the advantage of great wealth. His interest in Physics is an enigma. Clearly no one at Sydney University, certainly not Smith, could have inspired it. Who sent him to Kelvin at Glasgow and why did he switch to medicine? The answer now is lost but, clearly, Sydney Hospital has his interest in physics to thank for its first X-ray machine. Quaife died on 7 March 1922. Two of his brothers, both of whom predeceased him, were medical practitioners and his own three sons all studied medicine, although one died while still an undergraduate. He is commemorated in the University by a memorial fund established in 1929 by one of his sons for the purchase of books and apparatus for the Physical Laboratory1.

J. Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W. (1922). Vol. 56, pp. 3–5. Sydney Morning Herald (1918). 3 September. Sydney Morning Herald (1922). 9, 10 March. A.D.B. Vol. 2, pp. 356–357. Archives, Sydney Hospital.

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