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Hansman, Frank Solomon (1896–1972)

by G. T. Franki

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Frank Solomon Hansman (1896-1972), biochemist and pathologist, was born on 19 November 1896 in Sydney, third surviving son of Abraham Hansman, a boot manufacturer from London, and his native-born wife Alice, née Isaacs. Frank's elder brothers died on active service in World War I. Educated at Fort Street Boys' High School and the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1920), he developed an interest in biochemistry while serving as a resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He travelled to London where he studied at St Thomas's Hospital and at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine. In 1924 he qualified as a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

On his return to Sydney, Hansman joined Arthur Tebbutt in a Macquarie Street practice that specialized in pathology and biochemistry. Although Tebbutt was a reserved man, he and the volatile Hansman remained in harmonious practice for thirty years. At the district registrar's office, Mosman, on 19 November 1926 Frank married Tebbutt's sister, Euphemia (Effie) Joyce (d.1970). Hansman was senior honorary biochemist (1928-51) at R.P.A.H. and honorary director of pathology (1928-58) at the Women's Hospital, Crown Street. He was a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1938 and of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia in 1958. His research ranged widely: renal function and disease, calcium and phosphorus metabolism, and, in particular, the effects of alcohol on human performance.

During World War II Hansman was an honorary major, Australian Army Medical Corps, and visiting medical officer, 113th Australian General Hospital, Concord. With Lieutenant Colonel A. L. Dawson (president) and Sir Norman Paul, he was a member (1942) of the board which identified chromium salts in the dye of khaki uniforms as the cause of a form of dermatitis among Australian soldiers serving in the Middle East and New Guinea. He also belonged to the Australian Red Cross Society's National and New South Wales Blood Transfusion committees.

Convinced that alcohol was a major cause of road traffic crashes, in the 1950s Hansman began a campaign for the introduction of police-conducted tests to determine drivers' blood-alcohol levels. At times almost single-handed in his crusade, he addressed public bodies and wrote scientific articles; he was an active committee-member of the Road Safety Council of New South Wales; and he represented the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia on the Australian Road Safety Council and before a Senate select committee. He overcame much opposition, even from members of his own profession. In spirited correspondence in the Medical Journal of Australia he once chided a senior psychiatrist: 'in this important social problem, let us have not ''in vino veritas", but ''in scripto veritas"'. It took a great deal of persuasion and evidence to induce politicians to support breath-testing at a time when many law-abiding citizens did not deem it anti-social to drive after drinking a considerable amount of alcohol.

Following Victoria's lead six years earlier, in 1968 the New South Wales government introduced the legislation that Hansman had long advocated. Police were empowered to require a driver to submit to a breath test after an accident (if a traffic offence had been committed), or if, from the manner of driving, it could be assumed that the driver had consumed alcohol. Driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.08 g (later reduced to 0.05 g) per 100 ml was made an offence. Random breath-testing was introduced in December 1982. The incidence of road accidents dropped significantly. There were 1303 deaths from traffic accidents in the State in 1980 and 581 in 1993. The social behaviour of most citizens altered markedly in regard to drinking and driving.

A smallish, active man, Hansman set high standards and delighted in argument; while he was impulsive and could be abrupt, he was also quietly generous. He had a fluent pen. Happily married, he was a fine host in his waterfront home at Vaucluse. He was chairman of Hansman Pty Ltd and sometimes presented his colleagues with the firm's quality shoes. Ceasing private practice in 1963, he took locum appointments at the Commonwealth Health laboratories at Albury, Rockhampton, Queensland, and Tamworth, New South Wales. On 11 February 1971 at the district registrar's office, Tamworth, he married Betty Joyce Nicholson, a 42-year-old secretary. Survived by his wife, and by the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 23 December 1972 at Tamworth and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Walker, Clinical Problems of War (Canb, 1952)
  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1, 1938-75 (Syd, 1988)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 4 July 1959, p 27, 23 Mar 1963, p 444, 3 Mar 1973, p 460
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June 1950
  • private information.

Citation details

G. T. Franki, 'Hansman, Frank Solomon (1896–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hansman-frank-solomon-10419/text18467, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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