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The Cowlishaw Collection is a large collection of books on medicine and related subjects, containing many early, classic and rare editions. It was purchased in 1943 from the Estate of Dr Leslie Cowlishaw, a physician and bibliophile in Sydney. The Collection is housed in the Council Room, in purpose-built bookcases donated by the Faculty of Anaesthetists.
To honour the memories of Leslie Cowlishaw and Professor Russell, and to promote greater knowledge of medical history, the College holds the Cowlishaw Symposium every two years. Speakers are invited to present papers on topics drawn from the books in the Cowlishaw Collection. A feature of the symposium is the Kenneth Fitzpatrick Russell Memorial Lecture, on a subject related to anatomy and/or medical history. Established in 1996, the symposium is now one of the important events in the College's calendar. The last Cowlishaw Symposium was held in the Hughes Room at RACS in Melbourne on Saturday, 13 October 2018.
About Leslie Cowlishaw - Leslie Cowlishaw (1877-1943) was a physician, medical historian and book collector. He was born into a wealthy Sydney family and, by the time he entered the medical school in the University of Sydney, he had already undertaken two trips to England and Europe. A third trip was made following his graduation in 1906, and it was at this time that he began seriously to collect books.
In 1908 he set up practice in Cooma (NSW) and married the following year. In 1914 he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and served as medical officer on Gallipoli and in Egypt with the 12th Light Horse Regiment. He was evacuated to England in 1915, where he met Sir William Osler, who greatly encouraged him to expand and strengthen his library, and named him "the bibliophile from the bush". Back in Australia, he set up a new practice at Lindfield, where he (and his books) remained for the rest of his life.
On his death, in 1943, his collection was offered to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, but in the middle of the war they were unable to accept it. News of Cowlishaw's collection came to the attention of Kenneth F. Russell (later to become Professor of Anatomy and Medical History in the University of Melbourne), who contacted the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The College President, Sir Alan Newton, immediately agreed to the purchase of the collection in its entirety. In 1945 the Cowlishaw Collection was established in the library of the College, but it is now a separate collection. It is one of the finest collections of historical medical books in Australasia.
Professor Russell's catalogue (PDF 4.37MB) of the historical books in the Cowlishaw Collection and the Gordon Craig Library (1979) is now available.
The Monsters of Ambroise Paré - A Book in the Cowlishaw Collection
For further information on the Cowlishaw Collection, contact the RACS Curator.
Leonard Murphy Collection
Leonard James Thomas was born in 1914 and educated at University of Melbourne. Having chosen Urology as a career, he applied for the Gordon Craig Travelling Scholarship in Surgery of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. When he was awarded this scholarship, he travelled extensively during 1948 and 1949 in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
He became a Member of the Urological Society of Australasia in 1948, President of that society in 1958 and 1959, and elected a Fellow of the society in 1972. He was consultant urologist to the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital from 1958, consultant urologist to the Royal Australian Air Force from 1946 and visiting urologist to the Repatriation Department from 1957.
Early in his medical career he developed a passionate and enduring interest in the history of medicine and became an internationally recognized authority on Leonardo Da Vinci. He wrote many articles in these fields and, over many years, worked on the production of a history of Urology. The, book entitled The History of Urology, was published in 1972 to widespread acclaim. Leonard was later awarded an honorary M.D. from Melbourne University for this work.
Leonard married Beatrice Henderson in 1940 and for 54 years they shared a lively interest in art, literature, music and, particularly, a love of gardening.
Extract of Eulogy, G Joyce (1994)
View a list of books (PDF 60 KB) in the Leonard Murphy Collection by title.
For further information on the Leonard Murphy Collection, contact the RACS Curator.
The College possesses an impressive collection of portraits, dating from the 18th Century onwards. In the main, those represented have been closely associated with the College, especially the presidents. But there are many other portraits of those who have earned a place in the history of medicine.
Many are by well-known artists, including Judy Cassab, Murray Griffin, Robert Hannaford, Ivor Hele, George Lambert, Sir John Longstaff and Joshua Smith. Among the portraits are those of:
- Sir Hugh Devine, one of the founders of the College, and President 1939-1941 (W.B. McInnes)
- Sir Thomas Dunhill, Surgeon to King George V, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II (James Gunn)
- Sir Edward ("Weary") Dunlop, surgeon on the Burma railway (Jill Shalless)
- Lord Lister, inventor of antiseptic surgery (F. Hodge after W.W. Ouless)
- Farquhar McCrae, first surgeon in Victoria (Georgiana McCrae)
- Hamilton Russell, one of the founders of the College (George Lambert)
- Sir George Syme, one of the founders of the College, and first President 1927-1929 (John Longstaff)
- Frederic Wood Jones, anatomist and anthropologist (W.B. McInnes).
A fully illustrated catalogue, Portraits at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, by A.W. Beasley, is available from the College.
For further information on the Portrait Collection, contact the RACS Curator.
The College has built up a substantial collection of surgical instruments, dating mainly from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Some of these carry important associations, such as a set of scalpels used by Lord Lister. The collection contains both general and specialized sets of instruments. In addition, there are tools and apparatus associated with surgery, such as a Lister Carbolic Spray.
For further information on the collection of surgical instruments, contact the RACS Curator.
Cases of facial and jaw injuries were common during World War I and in 1917 a specialist hospital was established in the grounds of the Frognal Estate at Sidcup in Kent. Between 1917 and 1921 around 8,000 soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were treated at the hospital. Each of these countries offered their own surgical team and the Australian section was run by Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Newland, a future President of the College. Henry Pickerill who became a Fellow in 1930, headed the New Zealand section.
The collection contains watercolour illustrations by Daryl Lindsay, patient records including photographs and facial casts (in College Museum).
Lindsay watercolours (WARNING: Graphic content)
For further information on the Sidcup Collection, contact the RACS Archivist.
Complementing the Sidcup Collection is material from Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon, Sir Benjamin Rank. Dating from the 1930s, the collection includes albums and documentary material from the Heidelberg Military Hospital. After World War 2 Sir Benjamin Rank worked mostly at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and he was President of the College from 1966 to 1968.
For further information on the Heidelberg Collection, contact the RACS Archivist.
Case Books of WH Brown of Colac
William H. Brown was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (MRCS). In the 19th Century this was a Conjoint Diploma paired with a Licentiate from the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP). He came to Colac in the early 1890s and his three bound casebooks date from 1899-1920. They contain some loose papers - including letters, pathology reports and photographs, and provide evidence of the diverse skills of the country surgeon in the early 20th Century.
For further information on the case books, contact the RACS Archivist.
In 1926 one of the College founders, Sir Louis Barnett visited the man they called the 'doyen of hydatid parasitologists', Félix Dévé. Soon after this encounter, Barnett aided by New Zealand and Australian surgeons, set up the Hydatid registry. The Registry covers the period 1927-1950 and documents 2,058 cases of hydatids in Australia and New Zealand.
For further information on the Hyatid Registry, contact the RACS Archivist.
Cowlishaw collection of Glass lantern slides
Leslie Cowlishaw saw the history of medicine as part of a broader history within the social and economic underpinnings of a particular time period. Although the collection focuses on the influence and achievements of the great figures of medical history, hospitals, universities and cities vie with ancient civilisations such as Sumeria, Assyria and Crete. There are also slides reflecting indigenous cultures, particularly those of America and Australia and examples of Arab, Jewish and Icelandic medicine and culture. Philosophers, diarists, inventors, collectors and artists all form part of Cowlishaw's world.
For further information on the Cowlishaw collection of glass lantern slides, contact the RACS Archivist.
Archibald Watson's surgical notebooks
Fluent in six languages and a man who routinely flouted convention, Archibald Watson was a colourful and controversial character. He was Professor of Anatomy at Adelaide University for 34 years and his surgical notebooks date from 1882-1926. Apart from providing valuable insights into the development of surgical practice, they also catalogue the direction of surgery in the early 20th Century.
For further information on Archibald Watson's surgical notebooks, contact the RACS Archivist.
There is a rich variety of material that the College has acquired through gift, donation and bequest, and especially by presentation. The collection includes furniture, sculpture, ceramics, glass, silverware and pewter, as well as photographs and works of art on paper.