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Brown, Arthur Edward (1889–1976)

Arthur Brown, c.1962

Arthur Brown, c.1962

photo supplied by Jonathan Brown

Dr Arthur Edward Brown, who died recently at the age of 86 years, was instrumental in establishing the Colac District Hospital. It was one of his many contributions to medicine and the local community. Dr Brown was never satisfied with the role played by private hospitals in country towns. His dreams of a community hospital in Colac were realized in July 1934, when Australia’s first community hospital incorporating doctors’ consulting rooms was built in the township.

The community also greatly benefitted from Dr Brown’s medical work when he instituted Australia’s first country pathology laboratory at his father’s private hospital, "Derrinook", in Gellibrand Street, Colac. This had the immediate effect of decreasing the incidence of diphtheria and children’s "summer diarrhea". "Derrinook" remains standing today and has been converted into flats.

Dr Brown was born in Maffra on August 24, 1889. His father, Dr W. H. Brown, migrated to Australia from England a few years previously and commenced practice in Colac in 1891. He was educated at Greenvale Private School in the Western District, Melbourne Grammar School and later at the Edinburgh Academy in Scotland. Following this, he attended Christ’s College, Cambridge, and the University College Hospital, London. He graduated with MRCS and LRCP in 1913, and MBBCh Cantab. in 1915. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he immediately joined the British Expeditionary Force as a lieutenant. However, because of his father’s ill health, he returned to Australia. During this trip the ship on which he was travelling was torpedoed twice.

Dr Brown’s first contact with the Colac hospital was in 1916. Later that year he returned to Europe as a captain in the AAMC, and married Mildred Duffield Potter, who was a nurse at the University College Hospital in London. While in France, he specialized in radiology, a branch of medicine which was still in its infancy. Despite strong advice to continue this speciality he returned to Australia in 1919 to join his father’s general practice in Colac. While in France he met a Mr Kieth Doig, who later joined him in a long and happy partnership in Colac.

In 1928, Dr Brown became a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons as a foundation member. He also became a member of the Board of Management of the Colac Hospital, from which he retired in 1958.

Apart from his association with the hospital and his work as a practitioner and surgeon, he was also involved in other community affairs. He was a member of the British Medical Association Victorian branch council from 1942 to 1950; the Commonwealth Survey Committee, which investigated hospitals throughout Australia; and was on the executive of the Anti-Cancer Council and the Editorial Committee of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery. He was also a keen tennis player, and was partly responsible for the establishment of the grass courts in Church Street, Colac.

In July, 1947, Dr Brown was joined in practice by his son, Graham. He retired from general practice in December, 1950. After his retirement, the pathology laboratory at the Colac hospital was named after him in recognition of his original work 30 years before. Dr Brown had more than 26 years of retirement, the first 10 of which he spent travelling overseas with his wife. He died at his home in Colac on July 11, and is survived by his son, four grandchildren, and four great-grand-children.

Original publication

  • Colac Herald (Vic), 4 August 1976, p 6

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Brown, Arthur Edward (1889–1976)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/brown-arthur-edward-13652/text24422, accessed 22 August 2019.

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