The College and Australasia

During the 19th century and right up to the present day, many Scottish trained doctors have settled in Australia. Of the 1,545 practitioners registered to practice in Australasia in 1883, 42 per cent possessed Scottish qualifications. About a quarter of these qualified either through the University of Glasgow or through the Faculty (now Royal College) of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. This online exhibition highlights some Glasgow/Australasian connections through eminent individuals, meetings and also the books and archives relating to Australasia held in the College Library. If you wish to find out more about our holdings or to see any of the items within the exhibition, please email library@rcpsg.ac.uk


Joint Conference of Surgical Colleges held at Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Melbourne, May 1977 (RCPSG 1/12/4/240)

The President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Professor Tom Gibson can be seen fifth from the right in the back row.


Sir William Macewen's visit to Australasia, 1923

In 1923, the renowned Glasgow surgeon, Sir William Macewen (1848-1924), made a tour to New Zealand and Australia. Macewen already had family links in Australia. His eldest brother, Thomas, had settled in Queensland during the 1850s, while his sister Janet was married and lived in Sydney. As an immediate Past President of the British Medical Association, the main purpose of his journey was to attend the first Australasian Medical Conference in Melbourne in November, 1923. Following a short stop in Wellington, New Zealand, where he was entertained by the New Zealand Branch of the British Medical Association, he arrived in Sydney on the 10th October. While in Sydney he was honoured with an MD degree (ad eundem gradum) from the University of Sydney. He then travelled by train to Melbourne for the Conference.

The items on Macewen have come from the Macewen papers in the College archive, RCPSG 10. Further Macewen papers are held at Glasgow University Archives.


  • Portrait of William Macewen (1848-1924)

    Charles R. Dowell

    This portrait was painted by the artist, Charles R. Dowell, from a photograph following Macewen's death and was presented to the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow by Dr Freeland Fergus and duly found a place in Faculty Hall, where it can still be seen to this day.

  • Dinner card for a dinner in honour of Sir William Macewen at Australia Hotel, Sydney, 25th October, 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/63)

    The dinner was hosted by the New South Wales Branch of the British Medical Association.

  • Trans Australian Railway Time Table, 2nd April 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/9)

    Sir William Macewen travelled on the Trans Australian Railway from Sydney to Melbourne to attend the Australian Medical Congress in November 1923.

  • Letter to Sir William Macewen providing details of his itinerary during the Australasian Medical Congress, November 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/86)

    This letter from the General Secretary of the Australasian Medical Congress to Sir William Macewen, details a very full itinerary of events during the Congress including the opening of the New Anatomy School at Melbourne University, dinners and receptions.

  • Title page of the programme for the Australasian Medical Congress held in Melbourne November 12th to 17th 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/19)

    The booklet outlines the very full programme of the inaugural conference with sections on: medicine; surgery; obsetrics and gynaecology; pathology and bacteriology; preventative medicine and tropical hygiene; ophthalmology; otology; rhinology and laryngology; diseases of children; naval and military medicine and surgery; dermatology; radiology and medical electricity.

  • Group road through virgin forest near Group settlements, West Australia, 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/12)

    This photograph is one of a series relating to land clearance in West Australia likely to have been given to Sir William Macewen during his visit to Australia in 1923.

  • Boring trees for blasting, West Australia, 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/13)

    This photograph is one of a series relating to land clearance in West Australia likely to have been given to Sir William Macewen during his visit to Australia in 1923.

  • Roadside post box, Group Settlement, West Australia, 1923 (RCPSG 10/1B/11/15)

    This photograph is one of a series relating to land clearance in West Australia likely to have been given to Sir William Macewen during his visit to Australia in 1923.

James Hogarth Pringle

James Hogarth Pringle was born in Paramatta, New South Wales, the son of a well-known Sydney surgeon, George Hogarth Pringle. Both George Hogarth Pringle and Joseph Lister had worked as dressers in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and formed a close friendship. Lister published his account of new antiseptic procedures in The Lancet in March 1867 using carbolic as an antiseptic. By October 1867, Pringle had adopted the antiseptic techniques of his friend, Lister, when operating in Sydney.

George Hogarth Pringle followed his father's lead and studied at Edinburgh, graduating in medicine in 1885. After house surgeons posts in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London he made a European Grand Tour and studied further in Berlin, Vienna and Heidelberg. He returned to Glasgow by 1888 assisting the great Glasgow surgeon, William Macewen. In 1896 he was appointed Surgeon to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, a post which he held until his retirement in 1923. He became a Fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1899 and was Visitor from 1923 to 1924. His book Fractures and their Treatment appeared in 1910 and was one of the first to be based on treatment with radiological control. He is chiefly remembered today in Pringle's manoeuvre, used by liver surgeons to minimize blood loss.

William Dring

This portrait by William Dring appears to have been painted when Pringle was in his forties. The portrait currently hangs in College Hall of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.


Dr John Reissberg Wolfe

John Reissberg Wolfe was born in Breslau c.1824. He received his medical education at Glasgow University from where he graduated as Doctor of Medicine in 1856. After working for a while in Salonica and then Paris, Dr Wolfe was appointed surgeon to Garibaldi in Sicily. Dr Wolfe's first post in Scotland was at the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen. He worked there as an ophthalmic surgeon and lecturer for several years before moving south to Glasgow. He founded the Glasgow Ophthalmic Institution in 1868 shortly after his move. The Ophthalmic Institution merged with the Royal Infirmary in 1891. During his time in Glasgow Dr Wolfe became consulting ophthalmologist to the Royal Infirmary as well as Professor of Ophthalmology in the extra-mural colleges of St Mungo's and Anderson's. In 1892 Dr Wolfe visited Australia and was 'so charmed with the climate and the country that he resolved to settle permanently'. He settled in Melbourne, his arrival being heralded by the local press, and became surgeon-oculist to the Governor of Victoria, John Hope (1860-1908), 7th Earl of Hopetoun and 1st Marquis of Linlithgow. Four years before his death, Dr Wolfe returned to Glasgow where he lived until his death on 26 December 1904.

  • Photograph of John Reissberg Wolfe taken c. 1893 (RCPSG 25/21/2)

    A photograph similar to this one of John Reissburg Wolfe appeared in an article in Melbourne Punch in January 1894. The article states that Dr Wolfe 'visited Melbourne in connection with some private business about eighteen months ago, and was so charmed with the climate and the country that he resolved to settle permanently here. With this end in view he returned to Glasgow, resigned his numerous appointments in that city, and made his arrangements for settling in the land of the Southern Cross'.

    John Reissberg Wolfe was born in Breslau c.1824. He received his medical education at Glasgow University from where he graduated as Doctor of Medicine in 1856. After working for a while in Salonica and then Paris, Dr Wolfe was appointed surgeon to Garibaldi in Sicily. Dr Wolfe's first post in Scotland was at the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen. He worked there as an ophthalmic surgeon and lecturer for several years before moving south to Glasgow. He founded the Glasgow Ophthalmic Institution in 1868 shortly after his move. The Ophthalmic Institution merged with the Royal Infirmary in 1891. During his time in Glasgow Dr Wolfe became consulting ophthalmologist to the Royal Infirmary as well as Professor of Ophthalmology in the extra-mural colleges of St Mungo's and Anderson's. In 1892 Dr Wolfe visited Australia and was 'so charmed with the climate and the country that he resolved to settle permanently'. He settled in Melbourne, his arrival being heralded by the local press, and became surgeon-oculist to the Governor of Victoria, John Hope (1860-1908), 7th Earl of Hopetoun and 1st Marquis of Linlithgow. Four years before his death, Dr Wolfe returned to Glasgow where he lived until his death on 26 December 1904.

  • Article taken from the Melbourne Evening Standard, 21 December 1893 (RCPSG 25/20/10)

    This article describes Dr J R Wolfe's successful operation in restoring the sight of Mr M'Cutcheon of Melbourne, one of the liquidators of the Commercial Bank.


Australasian Books In The College Library

  • South Australian Directory, 1878

    This volume is stamped 'South Australian Emigration Office in Scotland; 21 West Nile Street, Glasgow'. It is not known when the volume was acquired by the College Library. The volume includes a map of the city of Adelaide along with an alphabetical list of the principal streets along with an alphabetical directory of tradespeople in South Australia.

  • Table from The Australasian Medical Directory and Handbook, 1883

    This table shows that the total number of physicians and surgeons in Australasia in 1883 was 1,693; the largest number being in Victoria. Although doubt has been expressed about the accuracy of the figures due to the federal structure of Australia at this time and the problems of communication, the Directory is a valuable aid in helping to analyse the medical profession in Australasia at that time.

  • Title page of the Australasian Medical Directory and Handbook edited and compiled by Ludwig Bruck, Sydney, 1883

    This was the first such work to be published, taking the compiler Ludwig Bruck, three years to complete. In addition to a list of medical practitioners in Australasia, the volume includes abstracts of the principal laws affecting the medical profession in Australasia and the regulations for medical examinations from the universities of Sydney, New Zealand, Otago, Auckland, Adelaide and Melbourne.

  • Heart Diseases in Australia with Observations on Aneurism of the Aorta by C.E. Reeves, Melbourne, 1873

    This work was presented to the Faculty Library by the author. The book was the result of examination of between five and six hundred cases of diseases of the heart presented at the Institution for Diseases of the Chest, Melbourne; the Melbourne Hospital and also in private practice. In his introduction the author points out the importance of the temperature of the breath which he feels will be 'of far greater value than the examination of the temperature of the surface of the body'.


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