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Francis Rawdon Campbell (1798–1877)

from Sydney Morning Herald

On the 19th October last there passed away from among us, at a very advanced age, a gentleman who for the services he rendered to the community in his day and generation, deserves to be held in lasting remembrance—Dr Francis Campbell, who for a long period of years filled the highly responsible position of medical superintendent to the Government Lunatic Asylum at Gladesville, then known as Tarban Creek. Dr Campbell was the son of Archibald Campbell of Montgarswood—a descendant of the London branch of the Campbells of Argyle, who had a small patrimony near Belfast, in Ireland, where the subject of this notice was born. Owing to the troubles connected with the celebrated Irish rebellion of '98 the family crossed over to Scotland, where young Campbell was educated. Owing it is said, to the treatment he received from the domine, Francis Campbell ran away from school and went to sea on board a transport ship, which was engaged in conveying troops to and from Spain during the Peninsular war. While thus engaged he witnessed many awful scenes of suffering among the wounded soldiers and French prisoners, and he has been heard to mention that he distinctly heard the cannonading at the battle of Corunna, where Sir John Moore lost his life. Soon afterwards, however, young Campbell gave up the sea, and commenced studying for the medical profession; he graduated at Glasgow and Aberdeen, and subsequently continued his studies in the hospitals of Paris. As a proof of the efficiency to which he attained, it may be mentioned that he had the most flattering testimonials from Sir Astley Cooper, Dr Marshall Hall, Dr John Howship, and other eminent English physicians and surgeons. Mr Campbell having married in 1829 continued to practise his profession in London for some ten years afterwards, when in the interests of his increasing family he resolved to try his fortune in the then young and rising colony of New South Wales. On the 30th July 1846 he was appointed hononary physician to the Benevolent Asylum, having been proposed by Dr Bland and seconded by Dr A'Beckett. By this time the fame of Dr Campbell was firmly established, both as a physician and as an author. In the latter capacity he was well known to the colonial public under the signatures of "Robin Goodfellow" and "Vox e Deserto" and a contemporary notice in the Sydney Morning Herald speaks of his articles as "remarkable for the varied and vast extent of erudition, knowledge, and ability displayed therein—superior, indeed, in all these respects to any publication that has appeared in the colonial press." Until a comparatively recent period of his life Dr Campbell continued to use his pen on subjects of a classical nature as well as those relating to his profession. He was a distinguished contributor to the Medical Journal, and other colonial publications, and as an author he was held in high esteem by such men as the late N. D. Stenhouse, and the Hon Robert Lowe, as well as other persons of literary eminence in the colony. He has left behind him a translation of Hippocrates, with copious annotations, and a work on "Scurvy," on which he had bestowed much careful thought and labour. About the year 1847, it was found necessary by the Government of this colony to establish a thorough reform in the management of the Lunatic Asylum at Tarban Creek, and out of twenty-five candidates Dr Campbell was chosen to fill the office of superintendent. He commenced his duties on the 1st of January, 1848, and in spite of much opposition on the part of the officers of the institution, as well as the public in general, and with but very small help from the Government of the day, he succeeded in substituting for the old system of coercion and restraint, the more humane and rational plan by which modern science seeks to recall reason to the diseased mind. To Dr Campbell belongs the credit of having been the first man in the southern hemisphere to abolish the chains and the harsh treatment which had hitherto been considered the only means of dealing with a lunatic, and for twenty years he laboured hard in his work, often under great difficulties arising from the want of proper assistance. At length, owing chiefly to ill health arising from his untiring exertions Dr Campball, at the end of the year 1867, retired from his position, and henceforth lived in private up to the time of his death, which took place as above, being in the full possession of all his faculties up to the last and happy in the consciousness of having done all in his power to benefit his follow men, and to alleviate the sufferings of the afflicted. On his retirement from the Asylum, Dr Campbell wrote to the Government a long and exhaustive report on the institution and the proper means and appliances that were required for the successful treatment of the unfortunate inmates. Many of Dr Campbell's recommendations have since been carried out, while other urgent wants which he pointed out have not yet been supplied The report, however, conclusively shows that Dr Campbell dealt with the matter in a large and humane spirit, and that he was fully acquainted with all the improvements of modern science in this direction. The small pension on which he retired was reduced by one half on the failure of the Superannuation Fund, and of course ceased altogether at his death, so that no provision is made for his widow and family.

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Other Obituaries for Francis Rawdon Campbell

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Campbell, Francis Rawdon (1798–1877)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Goodfellow, Robin
  • Vox e Deserto

Belfast, Antrim, Ireland


19 October, 1877 (aged ~ 79)
New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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