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Biographical entry Talbot, Leonard Smith (1880 - 1961)

MRCS and FRCS 1905; MB ChB Otago 1902; DPH Cambridge 1904-5; FRACS foundation 1927.

13 September 1961
ENT surgeon, General practitioner and Ophthalmic surgeon


Leonard Smith Talbot was born in 1880 the fourth son of J. Talbot of Rangitira Valley, one of a well-known farming family in South Canterbury, New Zealand. He was educated at the Timaru Boys' High School and Temuka District High School, and graduated MB ChB from Otago Medical School, Dunedin in 1902. In his final year he was awarded the Lindo Fergusson Prize for the most outstanding student in eye, ear, nose, and throat studies. After a year as a house surgeon at Timaru Hospital, Talbot travelled to England where he gained the Diploma in Public Health at Cambridge and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. On his return to Timaru in 1906 he went into general practice with Dr Gabites as his partner.

He married Emma Cooper of Temuka in 1907. In 1913 he went again to London to make a special study of eye, ear, nose and throat conditions. Early in 1915 he returned to Timaru as a specialist, and carried on this practice until his retirement in 1958, fifty-five years after qualifying.

When his brother, Arthur Newton Talbot, was killed in the first world war, Talbot renamed one of his sons, already christened by other names, 'Arthur Newton'. He had been a prominent mountaineer, whose name is also recorded by the Grave-Talbot Pass on the Milford Trace, 'the world's wonder walk' which leads past the Sutherland Falls to Lake Te Anau in the extreme southwest of the South Island.

Early in his specialist career he saw the potentialities of Lake Tekapo as a health resort, and worked unceasingly for the development of the area. Noting its beneficial effect on his patients he became a foundation member and chairman for many years of the Lake Tekapo Planning Commission.

In the second world war Talbot went with the 8th Brigade of the 2nd NZEF to the Pacific in 1940 and helped to establish hospitals in Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands. He returned to New Zealand with the rank of Major. In 1945 at the request of the Director-General of Medical Services for the New Zealand Military Forces Talbot carried out a special investigation of epidemic eye disease in Fiji, in company with Lieutenant- Colonel W J Hope-Robertson of Wellington; their work earned high commendation.

He was a foundation member of the South Canterbury Branch of the British Medical Association, and had the distinction of being invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons when it was founded in 1927. He was eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist at the Timaru Hospital from 1926 to 1946. He made study visits to Vienna and the United Kingdom in 1923 and 1932.

A lover of trees and of his garden, Talbot was a member of the South Canterbury Tree Planting Association, and a prime mover in preserving "Gully Bush" which is now known as the Waitohi Scenic Reserve. He was a member of the South Canterbury Historical Society, Timaru Rotary Club, South Canterbury Returned Services Association, Royal Overseas League, and the Readers' play-reading group. For many years he was a parent representative on the Timaru High School Board of Governors, and throughout his life he was a member of St Mary's Anglican Church.

Talbot died on 13 September 1961, aged eighty-one, and was survived by his wife with their daughter and two sons, one of whom - A N Talbot - became an ophthalmic surgeon at 19 Robe Street, New Plymouth in the North Island.

Sources used to compile this entry: [A A W Reed. Shovel, sword and scalpel: a Record of Service of the Medical United of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, 1945 pages 16 and 44; The Timaru Herald, 14 September 1961; information specially gathered for this memoir by A C Hayton FRCP, FRACP from Dr A N Talbot, New Plymouth and Mr D E Drake, Timaru].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England