Bryan Gandevia, respiratory physician and medical historian, died in September 2006 at Wentworth Falls in his beloved Blue Mountains. He was born in Melbourne, the son of Dr Eric Gandevia, an anaesthetist, and Vera Brooking Gandevia, a nurse. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and the University of Melbourne, he graduated MBBS (Hons) in 1948. Having completed his residency year at Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), he enlisted in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, serving with the rank of Captain, later Major, in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan, and as Regimental Medical Officer to the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Korea.
During the latter posting, the young medical officer was interviewed by an Australian journalist, and spoke about the freezing weather, and the lack of warm winter clothing. This provoked the headline 'Australian's freeze in Korea: medico tells'. The then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, is alleged to have said 'Sack that bloody medical officer'. He survived this episode.
During his term with the BCOF in Japan, he married fellow Melbourne medical graduate, Captain Dorothy Murphy, who was the first woman appointed to the medical corps to go to Japan with the BCOF. The wedding was a rushed affair as Bryan was sent to Korea. On returning to Melbourne, he remained in the CMF for some years.
Reappointed to RMH, from 1951 to 1954 he had postgraduate appointments in pathology, clinical medicine and clinical studies supervision. He obtained his MRACP and MD. His next move was to London where, from 1954 to 1957, he had research fellowship appointments at the Brompton Hospital for Diseases of the Chest and at Hammersmith Postgraduate Medical School.
He was also able to spend time in the Wellcome Institute on a grant from the Australian Medical Association. Back in Melbourne he spent the next 5 years in private practice as a consultant physician. He shared rooms with his friend and colleague, the obstetrician/gynaecologist and medical historian, Frank Forster, in Lonsdale Street.
In 1963, he moved with the family to Sydney to take up his appointment as Associate Professor of Medicine, University of New South Wales (UNSW), and Chairman of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Prince Henry/Prince of Wales Hospitals. He was part of a team which managed to turn the infectious diseases hospital into a centre of excellence. He was elected FRACP in 1963. He was also involved in industrial health surveys. He retained these appointments until his retirement in 1985. He then set up a private practice in Randwick, which he continued until June 1998. Asbestosis-related disease was an important interest in his career. He was involved in research and much medico-legal work.
Bryan was the third of four generations of doctors. His grandfather, Neville Bamanji Gandevia (1856 to 1930) came from Persia in 1889 and practised as a GP in country Victoria and in Melbourne. His father, Eric (1891 to 1958) was an anaesthetist. His elder son, Simon, is Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW.
Bryan published widely on clinical subjects, particularly respiratory medicine and occupational health, and on a variety of historical topics. His output was prodigious. Papers, book chapters, book reviews, poetry and entries for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. One of his critical successes is Tears often shed: child health and welfare in Australia from 1788 (1978). His influence on the development of medical history in Australia was profound. His interest in the subject began when he was a medical student, and his first paper was published in the student journal Speculum in 1947.
In 1956, he published An Annotated Bibliography of the History of Medicine in Australia, which, with the assistance of librarians Alison Holster and Sheila Simpson, was expanded into An Annotated Bibliography of the History of Medicine and Health in Australia (1984).
He was Chairman of the editorial board of Bibliography of Australian Medicine and Health Services to 1950 (3 Vols, 1988), a joint project of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Department of Health and Community Services. This is a catalogue of all Australian monographic publications in the field of medicine and health published from 1790 to 1950, which extended and expanded Sir Edward Ford's Bibliography of Australian Medicine 1790 to 1900 (1976). In 1988, he was awarded the College Medal by the RACP.
He played a key role in the founding of an Australian Society of the History of Medicine. Groups of interested people already existed in various states and papers on medical history appeared in various publications, such as the Medical Journal of Australia and the journals of Colleges such as the RACP.
Several national conferences were held, but on 25 November 1986, at the Third National Conference on Medical History and Health in Australia, the Australian Society of the History of Medicine was established. Bryan was elected President. Unlike some of the older groups, with doctors-only membership, membership of the new society was open 'to all interested in the history of medicine.' The Society flourished, and in 2005 the name was changed to the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine to embrace trans-Tasman colleagues.
The New South Wales Society of the History of Medicine was founded in 1989, with Professor Randall Albury as the inaugural president. Bryan was one of the founders, and drafted its constitution. Bryan's enthusiasm for books and libraries led to the improvement of the coverage of medical history in many libraries. Under a shared scheme, medical libraries agreed to buy new historical material on particular topics relevant to their institutions.
One of the institutions he served with great distinction was the Australian War Memorial, being a member of its Board of Trustees (later, Council) from 1967 to 1983. It was for his work at the Memorial that he was awarded the AM in 1985.
Dorothy died in 1994 after being hospitalised following a stroke and Brian spent his last years in the Bodington Hospital Aged Care Facility, built on the site of the Bodington Hospital, formerly a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients.
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