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Biographical entry Verco, Sir Joseph Cooke (1851 - 1933)

KB 1919; MRCS 19 Novem¬ber 1874; FRCS 13 December 1877; MB London 1875; MD 1876; BS 1877; LRCP 1875.

1 August 1851
Fullarton, South Australia, Australia
30 July 1933
General practitioner and Physician


Born on 1 August 1851 at Fullarton, South Australia, the third son of James Crabb Verco, who emigrated from Cornwall to Adelaide about 1838. He was educated during 1862-67 at J L Young's Academy then in Stephen's Place and afterwards transferred to Freeman Street. The latter part of his education was carried out at St Peter's College. He entered the Civil Service as a clerk in the Railway Clearing House depart¬ment on leaving school, and came to England in 1870. Here he passed the matriculation examination of London University in June 1870, and the preliminary scientific examination in the following year. He then entered as a medical student at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1872, after winning the entrance scholarship. He acted as house physician and obstetric assistant, and returned to Adelaide in 1878. He sailed from Plymouth as surgeon superintendent of the barque Clyde (1,140 tons) and of her 377 emigrants on 26 January 1878, and reached Adelaide on 23 April. On his arrival he registered at the Medical Board of South Australia on 24 May 1878, and immediately began to practise as a general practitioner in Victoria Square, advertising his arrival by means of a red lamp and an unusually large name-plate, on which were displayed his various degrees. He is described at this time as being 5 ft 7½ in in height, with a long flowing beard, which reached half way down his waistcoat, deliberate in manner, speech, and gait. He soon became honorary physician to the Adelaide Hospital and honorary medical officer to the newly founded Adelaide Children's Hospital, a post he resigned in 1890. From 1885 to 1919 he was chief medical officer to the South Australian branch of the Australian Mutual Provident Society.

The University of Adelaide was founded in 1885, and in 1887 Verco was appointed lecturer on medicine jointly with Dr Davies Thomas, and was sole lecturer from 1888 to 1915. He was also dean of the Faculty of Medicine in 1889 and again in 1921-22, and was largely responsible for carrying out the details connected with the foundation of the dental school and hospital. In 1887 he was chosen as president of the first Intercolonial Medical Congress of Australia, and in this year he had an attack of typhoid fever. He gave up general practice on his recovery, and became the first purely consultant physician in the colony, when he declined to take cases of midwifery in 1891. At the Adelaide Hospital he was honorary medical officer in 1880, honorary physician 1882-1912 with the peculiar privilege of operating upon hydatids, and consulting physician in 1912. During the war he returned to work in the hospital. He was president of the Royal Society of South Australia 1903-21, and was created a Knight Bachelor in 1919. He married on 13 April 1911 Mary Isabella, daughter of Samuel Mills of Adelaide, and died on 30 July 1933; there were no children of the marriage.

Verco came of an uncompromising nonconformist stock, and in his earlier years excited some amount of ill-feeling, perhaps partly actuated by jealousy of his higher professional attainments. He was a skilled stenographer. His lectures were delivered so slowly that students could take them down verbatim and thus dispense with a textbook. He was a leading conchologist, his collection in the National Museum being probably the best in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 31 July 1933, p 7b; Med J Austral 1933, 2, 196 and p 390, with portrait; Lancet, 1933, 2, 386; Brit med J 1933, 2, 317 and 548 obituary notice by A A Lendon, MD, of North Adelaide; St Bart's Hosp J 1933, 40, 227].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England