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MEDICINE IN AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
Some Forgotten Links A ROTARY ADDRESS ?ROCKHAMPTON. March 28.
Captain F. Rhodes, Associate Editor of ''The Morning Bulletin.' was the speaker at yesterday's Rotary lunch at the Cri terion Hotel, his address taking the form of a review of early medicine and surgery in Australia. In introducing briefly the speaker, Mr \\. S. Church said that their guest was so well known to them that his task as President was very easy.
un completion 01 inc auuiess, me rresiucni caucu upun Mr P. R. T. Wills to propose a vote of thanks to the speaker. Mr Wills paid a high compliment to the versatility of their guest, and the vote of thanks was carried by acclamation.
The address, which was received with marked interest, follows : In making my choice of subjects on which to address you today 1 was in Buenced rather by the fact of so little Being known of the progress of medicine 8nd allied sciences in Australia, (said Captain Rhodes). To the Mid that 1 shall not expose myself U i broadside from the mighty 13. M. A., 1 ivish to make it clear that 1 refer to '.he recorded history of medicine in Aiif tralia ami not to the actual progress Df medicine, which progress, 1 have little doubt kept step fairly well with that elsewhere. Perhaps 1 shall make
my point; clear wuen i leu you uiai while there is in the Australian lin cyclopaedia, issued only about ten years ago, an illustrated article on two-up there is no mention of the progress of medicine, surgery, dentistry oi, except ing in recording individual lives, of doctors generally. The slow develop ment of education, of ecclesiastical bodies, of exploration, of horse racing, and sundry other institutions which have helped to mould the character --t Australian youth, are to be found in that Encyclopaedia in more or less de tail ; but ore searches in vain for any record of the men who fought disease in a new land, very often with in adequate medical supplies and the crud est of surgical appliances. Peculiarly enough the blame for murh of this teems almost as if it might he laid at the door of the merical pro fession for we bear of doctors turning pirate (Cornelis) ; explorer (Bass), and Beckler (with Burke and Wills) ; and historian (Watson), but no doctor ap pears to have bestirred himself to write purely medical history. Perhaps I should qualify that statement by excepting Ur Cyril Bryan, who read a paper on early medical history before the Western Australian Historical Society just about a year ago. I am indebted to him for Bcvtral references, although 1 am pre suming to go somewhat further back than he did. ABORIGINAL MEDICINE. Unm^stionably the first medical or Burg'rf I practice in Australia was ' ;ibo*!;r . al, and although the treatment ?'.'- .-fierally fairly heroic, it seems '-?? ?. hat we are able to gather to ..!?-. Ven also fairly effective against ^ ; which befell aboriginals before a ? 'a' *nt of the white man and the i!.=cfi: he introduced. *.'? --ing to Gribble, the aboriginal . ?????? ?'? ., -metimes combined the func i'Lt ???.' medicine man and rainmaker, ?:; '.i was not always the case. It ???-? .'?:??- ble to have several rainmakers . . f. -tix- but seldom or never was there '.-?? .f '? , ' -r!. business to warrant more tbnn '-r..: .-'., ^jinal doctor hanging out his ih'Tijjic. Much of the treatment was T-iir. ',y :? .ycholo;rial, as for instance, tii? .'.^tor would treat a patient with 3, spear in his thigh by sucking the - wounded man's elbows or ears and spitting out splinters of what he claimed to be bits of spear. Gribble mentions one case where the doctor had sucked and obtained the customary wood splin ters, and then an interfering white doctor came along and extracted a glass t spearhead from the wound. The abo. doctor had merely prospected for wood instead of glass, an error in diagnosis which might happen to anybody ! Another specific was a belt made from the hair of a man's mother-in-law, though the same virtue did not lie in a belt made from the hair of a woman's ' in-laws.' There seems to me that there are aspects of mothers-in-law that the white man has overlooked. But what* ever may be said of aboriginal surgery ?and therapy, it must be conceded for him that he had a very wide knowledge of the food possibilities of Australian flora, and this is especially the case In respect of its preparation for consump tion. For Australian flora is in th? main harsh and unsympathetic, requir ing sometimes involved treatment to change setringency to palatifiility, and iterility into generous nourishment.
PRIEST DOCTORS. Just what medical or surgical author ity there was on board the ships uf Mcndana which fared forth from C'al'ao on April ft, I.V.I.), to settle the lands he had discovered 27 years eurlier — now known as Santa Cruz group — 1 am uu ahle to say. Hut it is more than likely that it was associated closely with priest-craft, and that omens and por tents plays as important a part as anything in the physical well-being of members of the company. In anycast, we can acquit Torres of disturbing the medical status of any aboriginals he saw in 1606, for he was searching for a large southern continent and not concerning himself about minor matters like medicine. The first suggestion of European medicine in Australia of which I have been able to find a trace, was when men landed from the Pera, under Jun Cartenzoon, on the east side of the Gulf of Carpentaria on May 8, 1623 — or 312 years ago — and, among other activities, gathered some herbs — Jack suggests pigweed. Gathering these herbs was no mere accident. It formed portion of the instructions issued by the Governor of the Dutth East Indies Company, at Batavia, which instructions were dated September 29, 1622. ' Coming to the northern ex tremity and east side of the South Land.' said the instructions, 'you will diligently inquire whether any sandahvood, nutmegs, cloves or other aromatic fruit6 grow there.' This incident fixes definitely the we-=t side of Cape York Peninsula as the place of Australia's first medical refer ence — if so slender a link may be ac cepted as having medical significance. PIRATE DOCTORS. The record now moves forward five years and five months — October 28, 162S. to be exact, when the Dutch East India ship Batavia (Captain pelsart) sailed from Texel, Holland. On board her in the capacity of supercargo, was a man who until recently had been a Har lem apothecary. His name was Jerome Cornelis, and the change in his con dition was much more real than ap parent, for he shipped with the express intention — in conjunction with several ether choice spirits — of taking the Ba tavia, dumping the less desirable or submissive members of the crew, and embarking on a career of piracy. It must be remembered, as indicating the social state of Europe at this time, that they burned 157 witches at Wurtr bur2 between 1627 and 1629. After being at ff-a 7i months, the Batavia was wrecked on Abrolhos rocks on June 4
1C28. But even beinjj wrecked did n«t detach the Harlem apothecary troiu h«t plans, and when foWrt lei't for Ba tavia to bring succour, Cornelia de dared the birth of a republic, elew ali dissenting men, and apportioned the women whether they dissented or not and appointed himself C'oinniander-in Chief. Here we have a man of inedi cine proclaiming the first government Australia ever knew, and only thu* ['elsart — an unimaginative percon — re- turned there is no telling how this little drama might have afTecttd the subse quent history of Australia. As it wa^ Pclsart chopped off the apothecary ruler's hands, and then applied him self to hearing evidence for the defeii'.-e. He seemed unimpressed at its virtue, for he hanped Cornelis and his con federates, and then sailed off to Bata via with the diminished remainder ol the Batavia's castaways, with \vhon- Cornelis proposed to people Australia. Time mover) forward 5!- yeans, and then one morning the Cygnet dropped anchor in Shark's Bay, W.A. Her com mander was William Dampier, a mild pirate in whom was induced such re morse for his past misdeeds as was com patible with the knowledge that his pre decessor had been marooned. He wa« also a keen observer, somewhat of a naturalist, and not a littie of a sur geon, for he buried himself, with the exception of his head, in hot sand to cure himself of 'a dropsy, a distempeT whereof many of our men died/' and: 'I endured it nearly half an hour and then was taken out. 1 sweated considerably while 1 was in the sand and I believe it did me much good for I grew well soon after.' On a later occasion he found himsell 'so distempered that I could scarcely stand,' so he tried unsuccessfully to bleed himself with a blunt pocket-knife If Dampier did not conform with ex amination-room requirements, he at least had more than a smattering of the healing art, and may be included iv Australia's early surgeons. A COMMANDING FIGURE. There ft less doubt about- the next great historical figure, even here again the claim rests rather upon achieve ment than upon examination. Captain James Cook's contribution to medical science ranks among the most important of medical discoveries. It must be remembered that at the time of Cook the statup of surgeons was such that in the Prussian army it fell to their lot to shave their officers; hence it is not remarkable that nobody had conquered scurvy, that dread disease which, during the first 20 years in the 16th century, carried off 10,000 sea men. Much of Cook's trouble arose out of refitting at Batavia, a hot-bed of disease where, in the words of Cook: 'People talk of death with as much indifference as if they were in a camp : and when an acquaintance is said to be dead, the common reply is 'Well, he owed me nothing'; or 'I must get my mouey of his executors.' ' Then on 'November 5, 1770, Cook wrote the epitaph of Dr. W. B. Monk house, who 'fell, the first sacrifice to this fatal country.' And so was re corded the passing of the first qualified member of the medical profession to set foot on the mainland of Australia,. Surgeon William Parry was appointed by Cook -o his place. The ultimate result or mortality of that voyage, dur ing which Cook explored the east coast of Australia, was the loss of 30 out ot 85 — or 35.3 per cent — of the men who set out with him. It was this death roll which caused Cook to apply himself to defeating the ecourge. His real discovery lay in not taking the deathroll for granted, but in turning his attention instead to so im prove the dietary scale of his men that on his next voyage he lost only one out of a total complement of 118. Cook's drug shop was the forest in Dusky
Bay, NX, and on March 28, 1773, he issued the following order: 'Whereae scurvey grass, sellery and other vegittiblea are to be touiid In most uncultivated countries, especi ally in N.Z., and when boiled with wheat or oatmeal with a proper quan tity of portable broth, tuukus a very whol'jsoine and nourishing diet, and has been found to be of great use against all scorbutic complaints which the crews of H.M. sloope Keso lution and Adventure must in bonu degree have contracted after so long a continuance at sea, you an.- there fore hereby required and directed whenever vegetables are to be got, to cause a sufficient quantity to boil'd with the usual allowance of wheat o) oatmeal and portable broth every morning for the company of H.M. sloops under your command, as well on meat days as on banyan days, and to continue the same as long as vegitables are to be got until further order. Afterwards you are to con tinue to boil wheat or oatmeal foi breakfast on Mondnys, as directed b} my oruer on the 6th of December last but you are to discontinue to serve the additional half-allowance of spirit or wine mentioned in the said order.' Banyan — or banian — days were thoa on which no meat was issued to ship's crews. But Cook drew further on the natural drug store at Dusky Sound, and found ingredients in the foliage of the spruce (rimu), and tea-tree (manuka) trees with which to brew a beer that was 'very palatable and esteemed by every one.' It is a peculiar fact that only the other day the most eminent of Austra lia's tropicn) doctors were in conference at Townsville considering, in respect of the people of Western Queensland, the evils of food deficiency just as Cook studied them 162 years ago. From this simple fact it might appear that while much has been learnt in that interval, much has also been forgotten. Cook had no extensive orchards from which to draw his remedies; no railways, aero planes, telegraph or lightning-like wire less to help him distribute his specifics; where we have all of these boons, and still have the deficiency diseases against which Cook fought. And now we are brought to the stage where medical considerations became re sponsible for the occupation of Australia by Britain and the following excerpt from a letter dated August 10, 1786. may make clear my meaning. It was from 'The Jx-rds Commissioners of the Admiralty' to their brother Lords Com missioners of the Treasury ' The several gaols and places for the confinement of felons in this kingdom being in so cramped a state that the greatest danger is to be ap proached not only from their escape but from infectious distemper's which may hourly be expected to break out among them, His Majesty (Geoige III.), desirous of preventing by every possible means, the ill consequences ^ which might happen' from these causes, has been pleased to signify to me his Royal command that measures should be pursued for sending out of the kingdom such of the convicts as are under sentence of transportation.' Hie Majesty had already found that Africa was too unhealthy, 'even for con victs and, the letter went on to say, he had 'thought it advisab'j to fix upon Rotany Bay, situated on the coast of X.S.W., as a place likely to answer the purpose.' Perhaps nothing could so well indicate on what 1 azy information His Majesty bad based that decision as this further excerpt: 'perhaps 200 females, which Your Lordships will see from the sketch of the plan for forming this new settle ment herewith transmitted, are likely to be procured from places in its neighbourhood as companions for the men.'»
The official who was responsible fof making estimates of the cost of the pro posed settlement seized upon this item and estimated 'For women to be procured from the neighbouring islands, suppose 200 at I allowance— 100 rations.' '* FIRST RESIDENT DOCTOR. And now we come to Australia's first resident medical officer— or surgeon a« he was then called — to which post John White, of H.&1.S. Irresistible, was recommended, to Under-Secretary Evan Nepean, by Admiral A. S- Hammond on October 16, i78B. Such was the power # of the admiral's recommendation that eight days later— October 24. or 19 months before the historic first fleet cleared The Needles into the English Channel in all the calm serenity and heauty of an English summer morning on May 13, 1787— White was appointed surgeon to the settlement it was pro posed to establish at Botany Bay at a sala'ry of £182 10s. per annum, or 10s. per day. A feature noticeable equally with the power of Admiral Hammond's recommendation was the modesty of the pay. Surgeon John White, whose name should be in every Australian school bonk, was assisted by William Balmain, whose name, given to a Sydney suburb, is on the lips 6f hundreds of thousands of people daily, though perhaps not a half of one per cent of them give it any significance other than as that of \oca\\ty. White sailed on board the transport Charlotte, but did not confine his attentions to her company. He paid a round of calls while .the first fleet was in mid ocean, and so we have our first R.M.O. going on his errand of mercy per boat, aud we get an insight into life o« shipboard at that time. One visit was to the transport Alexander u investigate a sudden outbreak of illness there among marines and convicts which illness White found ' was wholly occasioned by the bilge water, which had bj some means or other risen to so great a height that the pannels of the cabin and the but tons of the clothes of the officers, were turned nearly black Ly the noxious gas. When the hatches were taken off, the stench was so powerful that it was scarcely possible to stand over them.' Hardy seamen, accustomed so it would appear to stenches which would blister paint work and dissolve buttons, were not affected. On the occasion of visit ing the Fishburn 'to see the boatswain, who, on the first night of the New Year, having probably drunk more grog than he ought and the ship labouring much, had fallen from the topsail yard. . . . 'White speculated on what would be the plight of ships on their homeward voyape in view of only one of them — tho Lady Penrhyn — havinj a surgeon on board. The reply came when the two transports, Alexander and Friend ship, making their way home via India, lost so many of their crews from scurvy that all the survivors were taken on board the former and the Friendship was scuttled off Borneo on October 28, 1788. Even then, so heavy was the mortality, there was barely a crew for the Alexander. The lessons taught by Cook were already forgotten. The next medical date is January 29, 1788— three days after the First Fleet reached Port Jackson— when the Unt hospital and laboratory were established in Australia. It was merely a tent, and White says, they ' were soon filled with patients afflict ed with true camp dysentery and scurvy. More pitiable objects were perhaps never seen. Not a comfort or convenience could be got for them, besides the very few we had with us.' Truly an appalling prospect for any doctor ! A new, quite unknown country; a colony composed in the main of people whose outlook on life had been blasted, and guarded by a body of '
THE MANOORA, the AdeUid* Steamship Co. Limited's new motor vessel, vrtdth recently arrive* ta Sydney. The vessel will b/en-ae-a in the tour* ist traffic to North Queensland, making her first trip from Brisbane on June 15. ' I' V ?- A ? A
military who caine ultimately to envy the lot of the convict ; and the nearest base many thousands of unsurveyed miles distant. Yet White persisted, and for six years until he left the colony on December 17, 1794, he worked at building up from nothing the medical establishment of Australia. Nor was the quality of assistance all that could be desired, for we have Phillip reporting to Lord Sydney on April 26, 1788, that John Turnpenny Altree, a surgeon volunteer who was put on board the Lady Penrhyn, ' was found to be very unequal to the task.' Some time during February Thomas Jamison, surgeon's first mate on board H.M.S. Sirius, was appointed surgeon's mate at Norfolk Island, from which Le graduated in time to chief surgeon of the colony. Next we have Surgeon White point ing out to Phillip how very essential it waj that supplies of sugar, sago, barley, rice, oatmeal, currants, spices, vinegar, portable soup, and tamarinds be ob tained. ' Our situation here,'' he wrote on July 4, 1788, 'living constantly on salt provisions without any possibility of a change, makes them more necessary than perhaps in any quarter of the globed' Here we have another man alive most keenly to the perils of deficiency disease. Five days after the date of White's letter, Governor Phillip laid out the site for the first permanent hospital in Aus tralia. It was a little north of the present alignment of Argyle Street, on the west side of Sydney Cove. Although White asked on July 4 for indispensable medical stores, it was not until September 22 that Andrew Miller, Commissary, signed the order for Cap tain Hunter of H.M.S. Sirius to obtain the bulk of such stores from the Cape of Good Hope. But it was October 2 ere the Siri\_s sailed, and May 8 — or seven months later — ere she returned with medical stores that were ordered ten months earlier. It is probable from this stage on wards that there was a blight infusion of medical assistance from ships of the East India Company that found theii way into Australian waters. For it must cot be overlooked that the penal settlement at Port Jackson — as were the whole of, Australia and New Zealand — was within the area over which that company exercised a jealous trade mono poly, I have not boen able to ascer tain to what extent such medical con tact influenced the situation in Port Jackson, and reference is made at this stage to draw attention to the possi bility of such contact and so enable the matter to be explored later. During April, 1788, several aborigines were found dead in the vicinity of 'the settlement, and while probable rsaso.is for the occurrence were bestirring the minds of officials, several other natives were brought in suffering from smaH pox. The malady raged among abori* ginc6 for the next 45 years until they were either wiped out or else acquired immunity, and, notwithstanding its highly infectious character, probably not more than half a dozen whites con tracted it from them. This occuii*nce provides a striking example of the man ner in which people develop immunity against certain diseases. Although 6mallpox had devaeted Europe, claim ing , victims from the royal families of Britain, Fiance. Germany and Russia its toll running into millions in Russiu alone, yet we have this community of
white people capable of infecting a new community and yet unable to infect each other. Beyond that the germs of the disease came out in either the first fleet or else in the ships of la Perouse— in neither of which was it reported— we have no definite knowledge oi who or what group of patients carried smali pox to Australia. And now came the ships of the second fleet, so-called less from their actually sailing as a fleet then for convenience of designation. The first to arrive— Lady Juliana, on June 3, 1790, and the Justinian on 20th idem— were store ships, both of which were within an ace of shipwreck after making the Austra lian coast, a circumstance which in duced from Phillip: 'Had these two ships been lost, the colony must have suffered very severely indeed .... people are alarmed at thinking that if a single ship fails, they have no re course. . . .'» when writ ng to Under Sec retary Nepean. Then on June 20 the Surprise arrived, followed on (he 2Ctl. by the Scarborough, and by the Nep tune on the 28th. They had on board 739 convicts out of a total who' sailed from England of 1000, so that more than one in four died on the passage and, in the case of the Neptune, which lost 158 out of 502 who Bailed, the lose was nearly one in three! In the word' of Phillip: 'I will not, sir, dwell on the scene of misery which the hospitals and sick tents exhibited when these people were landed, but it would be want oi duty not to say that it was occa sioned by the contractors having crowded too many on board these ships, and from their being too much confined during the passage.' It Ie difficult to picture the problem the arrival of such a contingent of woe and misery would provide for surgeons overworked as to number of patient* and under-supplifcd with the barest medical necessities, nor have I the time in this short address to carry furthei the story. That i*to be regretted. for there are illustrious names to follow up the work performed by Surgeon John White. But I hope that the glimpse I have been able to give of the earliest developments of medicine and surgery organisation in Australia has been suffi cient to indicate that the debt to medi cine under which the present generation rests, dates back to and formed portion of, the very foundations of our national life in Australia. '