Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edye, Sir Benjamin Thomas (1884–1962)

by Douglas Miller

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Sir Benjamin Thomas Edye (1884-1962), surgeon, was born on 17 July 1884 at Orange, New South Wales, second son of native-born parents Andrew Edye, saddler, and his wife Harriet Jane, née Anderson. Educated at Orange, he was apprenticed to a pharmacist Alexander Durno in Sydney. In 1905 Edye completed pharmacy at the University of Sydney, winning a gold medal, then studied medicine, graduating M.B. with first-class honours and the university medal in 1910, and Ch.M. in 1913.

Appointed resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1911, he became senior medical officer in 1912 and next year demonstrated pathology at the university. In 1914 he went to England for further studies and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1915. Unable to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in London, from June he served as a captain at the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France, under Sir Alexander MacCormick until December 1917, then with the 56th Division and later with the 41st Casualty Clearing Station. In 1918 he returned to Australia to enlist but the war ended. On 28 June 1919 at Kogarah, Sydney, he married Jessie McLean (d.1948).

From 1920 Edye was honorary assistant surgeon (honorary surgeon from 1928) at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, demonstrated anatomy at the university and until 1929 assisted MacCormick in private practice at a salary of £350; he learnt much from the latter whom he held in the highest regard. In 1923 he became honorary assistant surgeon at St Vincent's when it became a teaching hospital. Next year he achieved senior status, but resigned in 1928 to become acting professor of surgery at the university until 1930. In the 1930s he developed a large consultant practice. When MacCormick retired, Edye became surgical consultant at the St George, Manly and Ryde hospitals. Later he developed the surgical unit at the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children. In 1936 he visited Europe and the United States of America where he studied thoracic and plastic surgery.

During World War II, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Edye was senior visiting surgical consultant at the 113th Military Hospital, Concord. After the war he pioneered heart surgery and became an honorary consultant at the Royal North Shore Hospital, where much early work in this field was performed. A council-member of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association, he was president in 1938-39, and was a founder and council-member in 1949-59 of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. In 1945-58 he was president of the New South Wales Medical Defence Union Ltd. A gifted and skilful surgeon, he worked until the end of his life, despite increasing physical infirmities. Appointed C.B.E. in 1957, he was knighted next year.

As a young man Edye enjoyed rifleshooting, but later took up golf and eventually bowls; he was a member of Royal Sydney Golf Club, and also of the Union Club. He regularly attended concerts and became enthusiastic about ballet through his daughter. Sincere and earnest, with simple tastes and high standards, he was conservative in his political outlook. He was rather slender in build with clean-cut features, and was noted for his courtesy and interest in people, and for his resulting lack of regard for the passage of time and punctuality.

Sir Benjamin died on 12 October 1962 in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by a son and two daughters of his first marriage, and by his second wife Catherine Maclean Menzies, née Macdonald, a widow whom he had married at St Mark's Church, Darling Point, on 13 April 1955. His estate was valued for probate at £122,338.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 31 Aug 1963.

Citation details

Douglas Miller, 'Edye, Sir Benjamin Thomas (1884–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/edye-sir-benjamin-thomas-6098/text10263, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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