Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Morgan, Francis Patrick (1906 - 1988)

MRCS and FRCS 1932; FRACS 1938; MB BS Melbourne 1929; LRCP 1932.

17 February 1906
Melbourne, Australia
23 February 1988


Francis Patrick Morgan was born in Melbourne on 17 February 1906 to Patrick Morgan, a road building and civil engineering contractor, and his wife Catherine, née McGrath. He received a sound Catholic education under the Christian Brothers and went to St Vincent's, Melbourne, to qualify in 1929.

He studied at the London Hospital in 1932 for the Conjoint which was required before taking the FRCS and it was here that he was inspired by a lecture given on the pituitary by Hugh Cairns. After obtaining the FRCS he spent six months as a house surgeon at Great Ormond Street.

In 1934 he returned to the London and Hugh Cairns' secretary, Nora Quartermaine, sent him to the operating theatre where - considering that he had neither credentials nor introduction - he found his reception encouraging. Cairns accepted him provided that he read the prescribed reading list and spent three months studying under Gordon Holmes at Queen Square. Here Douglas Northfield was the first assistant and Joe Pennybacker was the registrar and became Morgan's lifelong friend. During his time he attended the clinics of Walshe, Kinnier Wilson and McDonald Critchley. His fellow students included Hugo Krayenbuhl of Zurich and Hans Kolbeke of Berlin. Fraenkel records the interminable operations of those days in which the Cushing method was followed in minutest detail.

During this time Frank and Douglas Miller bought a second-hand Singer and drove to Edinburgh to see Norman Dott who was much slicker and quicker. Frank made friends with the ward sisters.

In January 1936 Cairns invited Frank to stay with his family in St John's Wood for six months to assist in his private practice and collect what he needed to set up the unit on his return to Melbourne. The duties of the assistant included carrying the patient up two flights of stairs (there being no lift). Barbara Cairns made him very much one of the family. Dorothy Russell the neuropathologist assisted Frank by giving him a complete set of reference material to take with him and insisted that he took a Zeiss binocular microscope back with him.

With an introduction to Cairns' wartime colleague, Andrew Brenan, at St Vincent's, Frank returned to Melbourne as neurological surgeon in 1936. There he carried on the Cushing tradition and became a founder member of the Neurological Society of Australasia. Like his master, Cairns, he was renowned for his meticulous technique and tireless performance.

He wrote on methods of treating cerebrospinal rhinorrhoea, hypertension as a sympton of an intracranial tumour, and with his colleague Tom King, the orthopaedic surgeon (whose son was to succeed Northfield as neurosurgeon at the London), on the late result of removing the medial epicondyle for traumatic ulnar neuritis and common causes of low back pain.

Frank Morgan served as honorary neurosurgeon at St Vincent's for thirty years until he stepped aside to become assistant neurosurgeon in 1966, although he continued to operate until the age of 79. During this time he served as chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee and the Electoral College and a member of the Advisory Council. In 1939 he married Mary (Mollie) Brosnan by whom he had two sons and three daughters, two of the children becoming doctors.

He died on 23 February 1988 aged 82, survived by his family, apart from a daughter who predeceased him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1989, 151, 482; Fraenkel, G J Hugh Cairns, Oxford University Press, 1991].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England