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Murray, Hugh Lathrop (1869–1929)

from British Medical Journal

The news of Dr. Hugh Lathrop Murray's death, on March 17th, in his sixtieth year, at his home near Melbourne, will be received with deep regret by his friends in this country and elsewhere. He was born at Ararat, Victoria, the second son of Kynaston Lathrop Murray, a former commissioner of the Victorian railways, and was educated at Queen's College, St. Kilda, Melbourne, and at Melbourne University. In his school and college days he was a very fine all-round athlete. While an undergraduate he won championships at swimming and putting the weight, and played lacrosse for Victoria against South Australia, New South Wales, and a visiting team from Canada. At 21 he threw the lacrosse ball 163 yards 2 feet, which remained the world's record until it was beaten by the present holder, his brother Cecil.

Hugh Murray studied the later subjects of the medical curriculum at Edinburgh, where he obtained the triple qualification in 1892. He was then appointed resident physician to the late Dr. Andrew Smart at the Royal Edinburgh infirmary, and in 1894 acted as medical superintendent of the Edinburgh Provident Dispensary. He obtained the diplomas of F.R.C.S.Ed. and M.R.C.P.Ed. in 1894, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1904.

On returning to Australia in 1895 he settled in East Malvern, a residential suburb of Melbourne, where he built up an extensive and successful general practice, and at the same time began to specialize in the then greatly developing fields of medical electricity and x-ray work. He was examining medical officer to the Victorian railways from 1898 to 1903, and in the latter year published an ophthalmological paper in the inter-colonial Medical Journal, embodying his experience and suggesting improvements in the tests for acuity of vision and hearing among railway employees. In 1901 he received the appointment of honorary medical electrician and lecturer on medical electricity at the Melbourne Hospital. At that time the department was housed in a single room, and run by him and an assistant attending on two afternoons weekly. Under Hugh Murray's regime, and due almost entirely to his efforts; it gradually developed into the present magnificent department of physiotherapy, occupying one complete wing of the hospital, having a staff of twelve assistants, and dealing with an average of 400 patients weekly. About 1909 the x-ray department was placed under a separate head, Murray having contracted an exposure dermatitis, which, although a constant source of annoyance, fortunately remained stationary, and his appointment on the staff was specially altered in name to that of honorary medical officer in charge of the department, whose growth under his supervision will be a lasting memorial of his fine record of service for the hospital and the community of Melbourne.

Hugh Murray's professional and social activities, however, sought wider fields. He was the founder of the Australian Massage Association, and under his leadership the Victorian Branch succeeded, after repeated attempts, in inducing the State Parliament to pass a Massage Registration Act, regulating the practice of physiotherapy, and requiring the registration of all those engaged therein, including masseurs, physical culturists, medical electricians, and ultra-violet ray administrators. He was chairman of the Massage Registration Board from the passing of this Act until the end of 1928, in which year he published in the Medical Journal of  Australia a notable paper based on his experience and life-work, and entitled "A plea for physiotherapy." During the war he served in 1916 as regimental medical officer with Australian battalions in Egypt, and in France with the 2nd Australian Division, and in 1917 in England, where, as captain A.A.M.C., he organised and was in charge of the department of medical electricity at No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital.  On his return to Melbourne he was promoted to major, and finally to lieutenant-colonel, A.A.M.C., medical officer in charge of the physiotherapy department of No. 11 General Hospital; Melbourne, where he carried on his x-ray work till 1921, and successfully treated many cases requiring muscle re-education.  During his years of war service his practice had suffered, and his efforts to re-establish it on his return- undoubtedly had a good deal to do with the sudden  break-up of his health in 1923.

Hugh Murray always looked back on his student and hospital days in Edinburgh as among the happiest of his life, and no notice of his career would be complete without a picture of him as he then was in the prime of early manhood. He was a man of splendid physique, standing well over 6 ft., with the muscularity and the strength and also the activity and grace of movement of the all-round athlete, with handsome aquiline features and dark curly hair and moustache, and with the happy smiling eyes and cheerful voice that always bespoke the warmth and sincerity of the camaraderie and humanity of his nature. Among his many and quite exceptional endowments of body and mind, which he utilized well and faithfully, he will always be specially remembered by his old friends for the delightful experience and treats which he gave to them by his glorious singing. He was a really gifted singer, and was much in request in the Edinburgh days at public concerts and private social functions.

His eldest son is Dr. Hugh M. L. Murray, now working at University College, London; and his second son is Flying Officer Lee Murray, R.A.F, who with his wife recently flew in his Moth aeroplane from Peshawar to Camooweall, Queensland, en route to Melbourne.

Original publication

  • British Medical Journal, 1 June 1929, pp 1020-21

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Additional Resources

Citation details

'Murray, Hugh Lathrop (1869–1929)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/murray-hugh-lathrop-23132/text32384, accessed 25 April 2019.

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