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De Gruchy, Gordon Carl (1922–1974)

by Bryan Egan

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

Gordon Carl De Gruchy (1922-1974), physician, was born on 24 February 1922 at Coburg, Melbourne, son of Victorian-born parents Thomas Bernard de Gruchy, chemist, and his wife Norma Christine, née Ehrenstrom. Educated at three Christian Brothers' schools and at Xavier College, Kew, Carl entered the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1944; M.D., 1948) where he was Beaney scholar in 1946. Next year he became a member (later fellow) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. After serving his residence at St Vincent's Hospital, de Gruchy specialized in haematology. From 1949 he worked in Professor J. V. Dacie's department at the Postgraduate Medical School of London. A member (1950, fellow 1966) of the Royal College of Physicians, London, in 1951 he was a Rockefeller fellow in medicine in the United States of America.

Returning to Melbourne in 1952, de Gruchy began a distinguished career, based at St Vincent's and at the university. He was physician to out-patients, university research scholar in haematology and, from 1958, first-assistant to Professor John Hayden in his new department of medicine at St Vincent's Hospital Clinical School. That year de Gruchy published Clinical Haematology in Medical Practice (Oxford). In 1962 he succeeded Hayden in the chair of medicine at St Vincent's.

President (1964-66) of the International Society of Haematology, de Gruchy won early fame for his investigation of haemolytic anaemias, and subsequent renown for the study of glycolytic enzymes in white blood cells and platelets. Most of the work was carried out in the first-rate laboratory he had established at St Vincent's. De Gruchy wrote well, and could judge fairly and explain clearly the research of others. In his department he established an alcoholism clinic which later fell under the hospital's responsibility.

De Gruchy was a good clinician, an excellent teacher and speaker, and an administrator who would have preferred to be engaged in research or treating patients. Burdensome administrative duties, which he met with ability and care, troubled him, as did occasional lapses by colleagues in meeting his demands. His usual charm and cheerfulness would then suffer and he found onerous his later years as professor of medicine. Such difficulties, coupled with his developing a malignant melanoma, made easier his decision to retire from his chair in 1970. He was awarded the Eric Susman prize for medical research in 1971. Although he completed a significant monograph, Drug-Induced Blood Disorders (Oxford, 1975), further achievements were prevented by his illness.

A devout Catholic, de Gruchy was one of the most distinguished graduates of St Vincent's, yet he was unwilling to be identified only as a son of the hospital. In his last year, when he sat for his portrait, courageous and cheerful but haggard and weary, he chose to wear the blue, silk tie of London House, a residential institution in England with which he was associated. He was a reserved man but a sociable host who remained unmarried. De Gruchy died of cancer on 13 October 1974 at his Kew home and was buried in Boroondara cemetery. His portrait by Sir William Dargie is in the board-room of St Vincent's Hospital.

Select Bibliography

  • K. F. Russell, The Melbourne Medical School 1862-1962 (Melb, 1977)
  • Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1, 1938-1975 (Syd, 1988)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, Mar 1962, Mar 1970
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 28 June 1975
  • private information.

Citation details

Bryan Egan, 'De Gruchy, Gordon Carl (1922–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 February 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 13

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