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Gault, Edward Woodall (Ted) (1903–1982)

by Suzanne Parry

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Edward Woodall (Ted) Gault (1903-1982), medical practitioner and medical missionary, was born on 15 March 1903 at Carlton, Melbourne, second of three children of Edward Leslie Gault, a medical practitioner from Manchester, England, and his Victorian-born wife Gertrude, née Woodall. Ted was raised in a devout Methodist home: his father was a founding member of the Laymen’s Missionary Movement (1909) as well as the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (1926). After his mother’s death in 1906, Gault and his sisters were cared for by her cousin, Dora Swanton, who later married their father. Educated at Wesley College, Ted enrolled at the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1925; MB, BS, 1928; MD, 1931, MS, 1934), gaining a rowing Blue, living for several years in Queen’s College and becoming an active member (president, 1926) of the Australian Student Christian Movement. He completed his internship at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital, where he was appointed house surgeon, registrar and, in 1929, resident medical officer.

At the Congregational Church, Killara, Sydney, on 22 February 1932 Gault married Edna Isabel Baylis (1904-1992), also a medical practitioner, whom he had met through the ASCM while she was a student at the University of Sydney (MB, BS, 1929). They were both committed to medical missionary work in India but a downturn in family finances delayed their planned departure; in the meantime, they established a general practice at Surrey Hills, Melbourne, and pursued specialist training; he also taught at the university to supplement their savings and in 1935 was admitted a fellow of the RACS. In October 1937 they sailed with their two children for Azamgarh, northern India, where Gault was to work as medical superintendent for the Methodist Missionary Society of Australasia’s Christian Hospital for Women. His elder sister, Adelaide Gertrude Gault (1899-1977), had founded this hospital in 1923 and had been its first doctor; the strain of work there had forced her back to Melbourne in 1924.

Gault’s appointment broke the practice of using only women doctors and gradually the hospital was expanded to include male patients. He created a laboratory, greatly improved the hospital’s surgical department, supervised a building program that extended bed capacity, and routinely visited outlying villages to preach and provide medical care. In the process, he learnt Urdu—the first of several Indian languages in which he became fluent—and developed a keen awareness of the challenges of taking `the healing ministry’ across religious and traditional boundaries.

In 1943 Gault became eligible for furlough: the family travelled first to Britain, where he sought treatment for a recurrent depressive illness, and then to Melbourne, where he advocated changes to the White Australia policy to allow limited migration from India and began preparing for his next appointment. He had been named foundation professor of pathology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, southern India, which was being converted from a women’s to a co-educational medical training college. Under Gault’s leadership from 1944 to 1962, the pathology department was recognised as a training institution for doctors completing postgraduate studies at the University of Madras. He was largely responsible for raising funds to support this development, partly through the Friends of Vellore groups that he had set up throughout Australia. Staff and students valued not only the extensive medical knowledge but the warmth and understanding of their high-principled, compassionate professor. In 196061 he served as president of the Indian Association of Pathologists; in 1973 the chair in pathology at Vellore was named in his honour.

Returning to Australia, Gault and his wife established a home and garden at Warrandyte. He began work (1962-68) for the RACS, providing courses and advice (particularly in pathology) to postgraduate students, initiated a registry of soft tissue tumours, and curated a museum for the college. In 1969-73 he held a part-time appointment as senior demonstrator in pathology at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg; he was later commissioned with Alan Lucas to write its centennial history—A Century of Compassion (1982). Tall, fair and lightly built, with an enduring enthusiasm for athletics and sport, Gault was zealous and yet often whimsical in temperament; he continued, however, to wrestle with worsening depressive episodes. Ted Gault died on 13 October 1982 at Heidelberg and was cremated. He was survived by his wife and their son and daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Winton, An Amazing Man (1987)
  • B. McLaughlin, A Very Amazing Life (1993)
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 18 Oct 1937, p 11, 13 Nov 1943, p 25
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 5 Feb 1983, p 144, 6 Sept 1993, p 343.

Citation details

Suzanne Parry, 'Gault, Edward Woodall (Ted) (1903–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gault-edward-woodall-ted-12527/text22543, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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