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Badham, Charles (1884–1943)

by Robert A. B. Holland

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Charles Badham (1884-1943), medical practitioner and public health officer, was born on 15 March 1884 at Armidale, New South Wales, son of English-born parents Charles Lennard Cobet Badham, clerk of petty sessions, and his wife Wilhelmina, née Baynes, and grandson of Professor Charles Badham. After his schooling, young Charles spent some time in commerce before studying pharmacy at the University of Sydney. Having gained his diploma in 1907, with the gold medal of the Pharmacy Board, he enrolled in science, graduating (B.Sc., 1913) with first-class honours and the university medal in biology and becoming the John Coutts postgraduate scholar in zoology. On 22 January 1914 at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, he married Kate Miriam 'Birdie' Brodziak, a demonstrator in zoology.

Badham then studied medicine (M.B., Ch.M., 1917). As an undergraduate he demonstrated in biology and zoology and lectured in veterinary pharmacy at the university and in botany at Sydney Technical College. Graduating with honours, he served as a resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. On 15 February 1918 he was appointed captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force. He served with the 5th Field Ambulance in France and after the Armistice made further studies of biology at University College, London, and elsewhere in England.

In September 1919 Badham returned to Australia where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 9 October. He practised at Kendall and Laurieton on the north coast of New South Wales where for a time he travelled by horse and buggy. While there he wrote up descriptions of two parasitic worms in children. In 1921 he joined the microbiological laboratory of the Department of Public Health and two years later became the first medical officer for industrial hygiene, a position established at the request of the Arbitration Court. In 1926 the university granted him a diploma in public health. With H. B. Taylor, assistant government analyst, he showed that there was normally some lead excretion in the urine of Sydney residents and established the level. Lead was then the main industrial poison and Badham worked for regulations for its control, which were gazetted in 1928. He also reported on a sugar dust explosion, occupational dermatitis in rubber works and ventilation in wine cellars.

Badham's most significant research was on dust diseases of the lungs of workers in coal-mines and in sandstone tunnels, for which he received international recognition. He developed methods of dust sampling and did pathology examinations of miners' lungs and also animal experiments on the effect of injected and inhaled dusts. He and Taylor developed a method of analysis of lung tissue for silica and carbon, and he distinguished between coal workers' pneumoconiosis and the differing, but frequently associated, silicosis. Badham played an important role in introducing compensation for workers with dusted lungs in New South Wales. He was associate editor of the Journal of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology.

Enthusiastic about his work, Badham was respected and trusted by workers and employers. Early in World War II he gave evidence in support of some Australians who, he felt, had been unjustly interned. He had an extensive literary knowledge and an interest in art. In his later years he suffered from a cardiac complaint but, apart from taking leave in 1942, remained working. He died of chronic nephritis on 6 August 1943 in hospital at North Sydney and was cremated. As he was an atheist there was no religious service. His wife and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 2 Oct 1943, p 287
  • private information.

Citation details

Robert A. B. Holland, 'Badham, Charles (1884–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/badham-charles-12779/text23035, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 22 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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