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Biographical entry MacMahon, Edward Gerard (1904 - 1987)

CBE 1965; MRCS and FRCS 1930; MB BS Sydney 1926.

4 April 1904
Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia
28 December 1987
General surgeon


Edward Gerard MacMahon was born on 4 April 1904 at Cootamundra, New South Wales, one of the large family of a solicitor. Four of his family became doctors, and his brother John was a senior surgeon at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. Educated at St Patrick's College, Goulburn, and Sydney University, MacMahon graduated in medicine with honours in 1926, and his first posts were a residency at Sydney Hospital and in the University of Sydney pathology department. In 1929 he sailed for London as ship's surgeon on the Orient Line's Orama and during the voyage he was almost tempted by Sir Douglas Manson to join the latter's third Antarctic expedition. He decided, however, to continue his surgical career, obtained his FRCS in 1930, and then worked for two and a half years at the Woolwich War Memorial Hospital, where he came under the influence, and became a close personal friend of Lawrence Abel. He also worked as a clinical assistant at St Mark's Hospital with W B Gabriel.

When he returned to Australia in 1933 to become assistant surgeon at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, he brought with him some ampoules of Evipan, introducing this intravenous barbiturate to anaesthetic practice in Sydney. Shortly afterwards he was appointed as a surgeon to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital and at the Lewisham Hospital, remaining with these institutions until his retirement in 1964.

A skilful and deft surgeon MacMahon soon built up a busy surgical practice with a special interest in the treatment of cancer, and had an uncanny sense of how to keep out of trouble in surgery. In 1952 he was joined in practice by Noel Newton and the two men became a formidable surgical team to whom many other surgeons turned for help. In 1954 he became a member of the New South Wales Medical Board, serving on committees concerned with the management of New South Wales public hospitals. In 1965 he was appointed CBE for services to medicine.

MacMahon was interested in the fine things of life, particularly in painting and antiques, frequently attending antique silver auctions. The well-known Australian painter, Sir William Dobell, became a patient and a close personal friend and painted a portrait of MacMahon in 1959 in an operating theatre gown.

MacMahon had a long and happy retirement with his family; his children were still fairly young, as he had married rather late in life, and they travelled extensively in a specially equipped motor-home. He bought a mews house in London and for several years spent half his time there, attending exhibitions and lectures at the various art galleries and museums.

He died on 28 December 1987 and was survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his six children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1989, 150, 161 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England