Interred in the same gravesite as his
parents George Syme (q.v.)
and Susanna née Goodier is George Adlington who went on to become a
world-famed surgeon. Born at Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, England on 13
July 1859, Syme came to Melbourne with his parents and was educated at
Wesley College before attending University of Melbourne in 1876 (M.B.,
1881; B.Ch., 1882; M.S., 1888); in London he studied at King’s
College Hospital (M.R.C.S., 1884; F.R.C.S., 1885) under the
renowned Joseph Lister. On his return to Melbourne in 1887, Syme
steadily worked his way through the profession and went on to become one of
the most respected and influential surgeons of his era with a world-wide
reputation; in 1893 he performed the first successful removal of an
intra-cranial meningioma in Australia. He also practised general and
abdominal surgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, neurosurgery and
orthopaedics. A man of honesty and integrity, highly intelligent, but
of dour expression, he was known as ‘Silent Syme’ for his quiet and reserved
nature. From 1887 to 1919, Syme taught a generation of students during
his time with the Melbourne Hospital as honorary surgeon; from the earliest
days of his career until the time of his death, he was associated with the
hospital as student, resident, surgeon, consultant surgeon and president of
the board of management. In the Great War, he was appointed chief of
the surgical staff with No. 1 Australian General Hospital in October 1914
and went on to serve as consulting surgeon to the British hospital ship
Gascon where he was present at the landing and responsible for the
returning shipload of seriously wounded soldiers; it was through performing
his surgical duties that Syme contracted a career threatening injury to his
hand and was invalided to England. He returned to Australia early 1916
but continued with both the St. Kilda Road Base Hospital and the Caulfield
Military Hospital until his appointment was terminated in December 1916 with
the rank of colonel. President of the Victorian branch of the British
Medial Association (1908, 1919) and chairman of the federal council
(1922-29), the crowning achievement for Syme came in 1927 when he was
appointed first president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
Residing at Chesterfield - 4 Mayfield Avenue, Malvern he died from
cerebral haemorrhage on 19 April 1929 survived by his wife Mabel née
Berry (1864-1931) whom he married on 10 May 1899. A contemporary during his time
at Melbourne University, Sir James Barrett (Melbourne General
Cemetery) acknowledged Syme as “a splendid, methodical, accurate student,
and a great worker” while his great friend Sir Richard Stawell (1864-1935)
said: “Though in the future the medical profession here may forget his name
and not remember his work and science, the influence of his character and
personality, of his honest-mindedness, and truthfulness, can never pass
(above) Sir George Syme
(Reproduced with kind permission of the
Royal Austraslian College
ADB Volume 12 1891-1939 (Smy-Z).
The Argus 20, 22 April 1929 & 13 May 1929.
The Herald 20 April 1929.
The Age 20 April 1929.
AWM “Biographical Cards for the Official
History 1914-18”, AWM140.
Allen, H. (ed), “University of Melbourne
Record of Active Service 1914-18” (1926).
Research provided by the Royal Australasian
College of Surgeons archive.
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