Windeyer, John Cadell

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Professor John Cadell Windeyer

Professor of Obstetrics (1925-1940)

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (1930-31) (1939)

MD ChM FRACS FRCOG MRCS LRCP

John Cadell Windeyer was born on November 27, 1875 in New South Wales. He was the grandson of Archibald Windeyer.[1] He was educated at The King's School, Parramatta, then at Sydney University where he graduated Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in 1899. After graduating, he was appointed resident medical officer to Sydney Hospital.[1]

In 1901 he travelled to England where he obtained diplomas from the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (MRCS) and Physicians (LRCP). After spending some time in Dublin and then Vienna, Windeyer returned to Sydney, practicing in Sydney Hospital in the Pathology Department.[1]

In 1904 he became Honorary Assistant Surgeon to the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington. For the next fifteen years he worked hard to better conditions for mothers and babies. To this end he persuaded the Women's Hospital to appoint its first Honorary Paediatrician, Dr Margaret Harper. Windeyer was instrumental in encouraging Professor Anderson Stuart to include clinical teaching in Obstetrics in the University of Sydney medical curriculum in 1909.[1] His belief was always 'to try and make childbirth safer for the mother.'[1]

Continuing his efforts, in 1912 Windeyer established an ante-natal clinic at the Women's Hospital: it was the first ante-natal clinic in Australia and said to be only the second ever established in the English-speaking world. It was modelled on a clinic established a few years previously at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. In 1914 Windeyer became Examiner in Gynaecology to the University of Sydney, and in 1919 appointed Honorary Surgeon to the Royal Hospital for Women in Paddington. In 1920 he was appointed Lecturer in Obstetrics at the University of Sydney. Five years later, he became the first Professor of the subject, and thus the first Professor of Obstetrics at an Australian University. These appointments resulted in better organization of teaching with more experience for the student, who now witnessed over one hundred deliveries.

By all accounts, Windeyer was a kind and sympathetic but not inspiring teacher, and a very competent practitioner. The medical students writing in the University of Sydney Senior Year Book of 1924 described him as, 'Benevolent and imperturbable, with a slumberous voice and an uncanny long memory. Delivers lectures and infants with equanimity, and faces a squawling ten-pounder or an uproarious class with a manner which is almost maternal.'[1] Apart from being Honorary Consulting Physician to the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies from 1923 onwards, he was for a time on the Board of Management of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He was a Trustee of the King George V Memorial Fund for Maternal and Infant Welfare, Chairman of the Australian Reference Committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a member of the Nurses Registration Board, Chairman of the Medical Appointments Advisory Committee to the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales, a member of the New South Wales Post-Graduate Committee, a member of the Obstetrical Research Committee and a member of a special Medical Committee Investigating Maternal Mortality.

Windeyer published broadly in the areas of gynaecology and obstetrics; his most siginificant writing culminating in the pamphlet Methods of Ante-Natal Abdominal Palpation of 1926.[1]

In 1927 he was appointed a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and two years later a foundation fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London.[1] He was referred to as the 'Grand old man of the Royal.'[1] From 1928-48 he was part of the editorial committee of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery.[1] He was twice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sydney (1930–1931 and 1939), and, ex officio, a Fellow of Senate in the same years. Windeyer's involvement in the administration of the Medical School was rather limited, however, partly at least, because of his extensive involvement in areas outside the University. He remained in the Chair of Obstetrics until his retirement in 1941.

He died in Sydney in 1951, survived by his wife, daughter, and two sons. His son Dr John Spencer Windeyer (MB BS 1941, DA 1948), and his daughter Dr Ella Spencer Donovan (MB BS 1936) graduated from the University of Sydney in Medicine.

Webb, N. and Young, J. A., "The Medical School in the 1920s" in Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine (1984) in Young, J. A., Sefton., A. J., and Webb, N., Sydney University Press, Sydney, pp. 216-7.

Reid, B. L., "Obstetrics and Gynaecology" in "The Clinical Disciplines" in Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine (1984) in Young, J. A., Sefton., A. J., and Webb, N., Sydney University Press, Sydney, pp. 394-5.



Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Windeyer, John Cadell. 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.