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Biographical entry King, Edgar Samuel John (1900 - 1966)

CMG 1965; MRCS and FRCS 1927; MB BS Melbourne 1923; MD 1926; MS 1930; DSc 1933; FRACS 1930; FRACP 1949.

10 June 1900
Mosgiel, New Zealand
January 1966
General surgeon and Pathologist


Edgar King was born at Mosgiel in New Zealand on 10 June 1900, but went over to Melbourne to the High School and remained for the rest of his life in that city. His undergraduate career was outstanding, and after graduation in 1923, he remained on the junior staff of the Alfred Hospital until he departed for London to work for the Fellowship. He did the Primary course at the Middlesex, and the Final course at Guy's, and passed the examination in 1927.

On his return to Melbourne he was appointed a lecturer in pathology and devoted a great deal of his time to research, and proceeded to win the Jacksonian Prize in 1930 for his essay on the pathology of ovarian cysts; in 1933 on localized rarefying changes in bones; and in 1938 on the surgery of the heart, this third subject being the outcome of his appointment in 1931 as surgeon to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He was a prodigious worker, but that alone could not account for this phenomenal achievement.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 King at once joined the Army Medical Service and was posted to the Middle East where he made a special contribution to the development of chest surgery. Later he returned to Australia and devoted his energies to the organization of the new military hospital of Heidelberg, and when this was well established he completed military duty in New Guinea. On demobilization it was discovered that he had extensive pulmonary disease which necessitated six months treatment in hospital and ultimately the abandonment of his surgical career. In 1947 he became pathologist to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and in 1951 Professor of Pathology in the University of Melbourne, an appointment which he held with great distinction till his retirement shortly before his death in January 1966.

Though he was forced to abandon the practice of surgery he was able to devote himself to pathology with enthusiasm because he regarded it as the foundation of sound surgical treatment, and his administrative ability enabled him to establish a first-rate department in spite of financial stringency. The encouragement he gave to the many excellent young men, clinicians as well as pathologists, who became his assistants, made them his willing slaves, and enhanced the reputation of the department, as well as gaining for many of them their coveted PhDs. He was a superb teacher, at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level.

In addition to his university duties he also undertook to serve on the Council of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, of which he was Treasurer from 1951 to 1958. He was on the editorial committee of the Australian and New Zealand journal of surgery from 1939 to 1959, and its Chairman from 1950 to 1959.

In 1930 he married Leonora Shaw, and thereafter enjoyed the domestic security of a very happy home. His wife and their four daughters survived him. His favourite hobby was stamp-collecting, and he also derived great pleasure from his extensive library which reflected his wide range of interests apart from medicine - education, history, art, science, psychology, and detective fiction. He was the author of some hundred papers on pathology and surgery, and of a textbook of surgical pathology which he began to write while he was a patient in Heidelberg Hospital after the war. In December 1965 his students past and present combined to make up a volume of their papers as a tribute to him on his retirement; and his portrait, painted by William Dargie in 1960, hangs in the University department of pathology.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet 1966, 1, 378; Med J Aust 1966, 2, 87].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England