Ernest Edward Dunlop was born on 12 July 1907 at Wangaratta, Victoria. He began his medical studies at the Victorian College of Pharmacy, winning the Gold Medal in 1927 and 1928. Having, however, decided on a career in surgery, he graduated Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Melbourne in 1934, and Master of Surgery in 1937. During his undergraduate days he acquired the nickname "Weary" and showed himself to be an outstanding sportsman, especially in rugby union and boxing. He went to England to study for his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1938.

On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and served in Palestine, Greece and Crete in 1940 and 1941. Transferred to the Far East, he was appointed C.O. of No.1 Allied General Hospital in Java, Indonesia, only three weeks before the Dutch surrender. Having fallen into enemy hands, he was sent to various prisoner of war camps in Java, Malaya and finally Thailand, where he joined thousands of allied prisoners on the infamous Burma Railway. Here his qualities of stoicism and doggedness enabled him to operate tirelessly on sick and injured men with the most primitive of tools and in the crudest of facilities, and to protect his men from the worst excesses of their captors' brutality.

After the war he returned to Australia, teaching anatomy and pathology at the University of Melbourne (1946-1949) and taking up numerous hospital posts at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the (Royal) Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Clinic. He gained his Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in 1947.

His courageous and determined dedication to the care of wounded, sick and dying patients, his fortitude and resourcefulness in the midst of appalling conditions in the Japanese labour camps became the stuff of legend. He was described as "a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering". Mentioned in despatches during the course of the war, he was appointed OBE in 1947. Many other distinctions followed. He was created CMG in 1965, KStJ in 1982, AC in 1987, and he received numerous honorary awards from governments and institutions around the world. He was named Australian of the Year in 1977.

His experiences on the Burma Railway made him a devoted worker in the cause of peace. In the wider medical community, he was involved with Red Cross, the Anti-Cancer Council and the Victorian Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. He was Chairman of the Australian-Asian Association from 1965, was active in the Colombo Plan, Legacy and ever concerned with the welfare of ex-prisoners of war.

In 1987 the Weary Dunlop Boon Pong Exchange Fellowship was instituted to honour him and the memory of Boon Pong, the brave river trader who supplied him secretly with food and medicines to help relieve the sufferings of the allied prisoners.

Professionally he could be described as a general surgeon with a preference for the thorax and abdomen. Among his surgical mentors he numbered Sir Alan Newton, Sir Victor Hurley, Sir William Upjohn and Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor. Sir Thomas Dunhill was his role model.

"Weary" Dunlop died of pneumonia on 2 July 1993.


  • The name of the lectureship shall be The Sir Edward ("Weary") Dunlop Memorial Lecture.
  • The object of the lectureship is to acknowledge Sir Edward's unique achievement as a symbol of strength, fortitude and hope for the future that inspired the men who were his patients and brothers-in-arms while prisoners of war of the Japanese in the infamous death camps of the Second World War, particularly in Singapore and Thailand. It is fitting that, after the war, Sir Edward should devote so much of his time to healing the wounds of international strife and forging links of friendship within South-East Asia, and particularly between Australia and Japan.
  • The lectureship should emphasise the twin virtues of hope in adversity, and friendship and forgiveness between victor and vanquished.
  • The lecture will be given at such places and at such intervals as Council may from time to time determine. It would be appropriate that it should be given under the aegis of Section(s) of History and/or Military Surgery.
  • The Section(s) of History and/or Military Surgery shall make the choice of lecturer, confirmed by Council, but the Section(s) may delegate the right of selection of subject to the lecturer.
  • The objectives set out in items 2 and 3 should be followed with a wide variety of interpretation.
  • The award shall take the form of a bronze medal.

Sir Edward (Weary) Dunlop Memorial Lecturers

2021 - Colonel Brett Courtenay - Weary’s Legacy – Medical Leadership 
2019 - Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop and Thai Surgery - Lieutenant General Nopadol Wora-Urai 
2018 - Associate Professor Cliff Pollard - The Australian Casualty Clearing Stations on the Western Front 1918
2017 - Colonel Associate Professor Susan Neuhaus - Women, war and the RACS

2016 - Colonel Viki Andersons - In the 'EYE' of the beholder
2015 - Major Michael Tyquin - Gallipoli
2014 - Peter Sharwood - Medical Leadership. The legacy of history.
2013 - Major General Associate Professor Alan Hawley - When a little means a lot; the medicine of the vulnerable
2012 - Major General Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld - Weary's Legacy: From Hellfire Pass to Afghanistan and beyond
2011 - Tim Keenan - In praise of rugby: the ruminations of a developing world surgeon
2010 - Robert Pearce - Beware the smell of geranium - fear and progress in NBC warfare
2009 - Professor John Pearn - A Higher Ethic - Sanctuary and Caritas for Victims of War
2008 - Brigadier Robert Atkinson - A Bridge Too Far - Never
2007 - A Wyn Beasley  - Reconciliation
2006 - Major General Nopadol Wora-Urai - From Friendship to Academic Relationship
2005 - HE Lt-General J. Sanderson AC - The Emerging World Order - A Clash of Cultures or a Culture of Co-operation
2004 - I. Loefler Africa - Surgery in an Unstable Environment
2003 - Grace Warren - Returned with Thanks - Lessons from the Third World to the First
2002 - Vice-Admiral D.J. Shackleton - Terra Australia and Naval Gazing
2000 - Professor A.K.C. Li - A Surgeon for All Seasons