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Christie, George Swanson (1917–1980)

by John V. Hurley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

George Swanson Christie (1917-1980), professor of pathology, was born on 9 April 1917 at Flemington, Melbourne, only child of George Christie, a painter from Scotland, and his native-born wife Anna Christina, née Swanson. Raised as a Presbyterian, young George was educated at Scotch College, Hawthorn, and at Ormond College, University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1941; M.D., 1949).

After a shortened period as resident medical officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, on 9 July 1942 Christie began full-time duty as a captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps, Citizen Military Forces. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 2 February 1943 and was based in Australia. Embarking for New Guinea on 12 May 1944, he served with the 17th Field Ambulance on Bougainville from September and had short attachments to other units. On 5 November 1946 he was placed on the Reserve of Officers. As a temporary major, in 1955-64 he was deputy assistant director-general of medical services, C.M.F.

Having returned to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Christie trained as a surgeon and became a fellow (1948) of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Influenced by E. S. J. King, he switched his interest to pathology and in 1948 was appointed assistant-pathologist. He joined the University of Melbourne's department of pathology as senior lecturer in 1951 and later that year went to England as a Nuffield dominion travelling fellow in medicine. During eighteen months in (Sir) Roy Cameron's department in University College Hospital Medical School, London, he acquired an abiding interest in experimental pathology, and, in collaboration with J. D. Judah, made pioneering studies into biochemical aspects of liver injury.

In 1953 Christie resumed his work at the University of Melbourne and in 1955 was promoted associate-professor. At Scotch College chapel on 20 August that year he married a secretary Stella Elizabeth Newey. After two productive years as professor of pathology at the University of Queensland, in 1966 he succeeded King as professor at Melbourne. There, in collaboration with a succession of research students, Christie continued his studies of liver injury, especially the effects of several plant toxins that were important in agriculture. He was a foundation member of and an active participant in the Australian Society for Experimental Pathology; its annual lecture was to be named in his honour.

Christie's powerful spectacles and squat, somewhat unathletic, appearance disguised considerable strength and an enormous capacity for hard work. A perfectionist and master of detail, he closely supervised all aspects of his department and found it difficult to delegate even routine matters. His administrative load severely limited his time for original work, but he maintained an active role in research until shortly before his death and published numerous papers in scientific journals. He had a high reputation as a teacher, morbid anatomist and research worker, and devoted much time and effort to his colleagues and to their welfare.

Apart from a happy family life and a delight in tinkering, especially with his cherished Austin 10 motorcar, Christie had few interests outside his profession. Suffering from lymphoma with thrombocytopenia, he died on 19 October 1980 at Parkville and was cremated; his wife and two daughters survived him. A portrait of Christie is held by the University of Queensland; another, by his friend and colleague Professor Elsdon Storey, is in the department of pathology, University of Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, The Melbourne School of Pathology (Melb, 1962)
  • K. F. Russell, The Melbourne Medical School 1862-1962 (Melb, 1977)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, 1955, p 131, 1966, p 6, 1980, p 15
  • University of Queensland Gazette, 59, 1965, p 6
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 1980, p 647
  • Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne minutes, Mar 1981
  • private information.

Citation details

John V. Hurley, 'Christie, George Swanson (1917–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/christie-george-swanson-9744/text17211, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 16 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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