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Hewlett, Herbert Maunsell (1872–1957)

by Malcolm McKeown

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Herbert Maunsell Hewlett (1872-1957), radiologist, was born on 13 October 1872 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, younger son of Dr Thomas Hewlett from Berkshire, England, and his Irish-born wife Louisa Jane, née Blackham. Thomas Hewlett had come to Melbourne in 1862 after service in India as an army surgeon and established a large general practice in Nicholson Street, Fitzroy.

Herbert was educated at Alexander Sutherland's Carlton College. After three years of a medical course at the University of Melbourne he completed his degree at the Edinburgh Medical School, graduating with distinctions in all subjects of the final year (M.R.C.P., 1896). He was greatly influenced by his teachers at Edinburgh, particularly the noted paediatrician Dr John Thomson. Hewlett had been keenly interested in reports of Röntgen's discovery of X-rays in November 1895 and closely followed developments in the field.

Hewlett returned to Melbourne in 1896 and joined his father's practice. Late that year he was appointed to the honorary staff of the Children's Hospital. There, because of long-standing interest in electricity and photography he was invited to instal X-ray equipment costing some £25, and thus in 1897 established the first radiology department in a Melbourne public hospital. He served the Children's Hospital for thirty-eight years. For the first fifteen years his duties combined those of honorary physician, surgeon and radiologist. In 1912 he was appointed skiagraphist, from then on confining his interests to radiology. He was also appointed skiagraphist at St Vincent's Hospital from 1911 until 1934.

Hewlett had X-ray equipment at Fitzroy in 1902, and in 1912 established his radiological practice in Collins Street. For some years early in his career he combined superficial therapy with radio-diagnosis. He was a member of the Melbourne Radiological Clinic from 1930 to 1952. He contributed little to the literature, but was regarded as an extremely good radiologist, whose reports based on clinical observation, good knowledge of anatomy and pathology, and sound radiological interpretations were models of their kind. He adopted with enthusiasm advances in technique and equipment. With Dr J. F. Wilkinson he pioneered in Melbourne the radiological investigation of the gastro-intestinal tract.

Hewlett was honoured as a pioneer radiologist by the Antoine Béclère Centre in Paris. He was vice-president of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiologists, fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Radiologists, and honorary fellow of the Faculty of Radiologists, London.

On 23 August 1899 at Christ Church, St Kilda, he had married Caroline Ada Louise (Dollie) Lincoln, and for many years they lived in Melbourne Mansions above his professional rooms. 'Herbie' Hewlett's immaculately dressed and spruce figure was a familiar sight at the Athenaeum Club where he was a member from 1896. He loved racing, played much golf and was a first-class shot. His only child Nancy often accompanied him on his annual fishing excursions to the Tasmanian lakes.

Although, like many workers in the field, Hewlett suffered from the effects of X-ray dermatitis to both hands, he was in active practice until 1953. He died at his Collins Street home of cerebro-vascular disease on 26 July 1957, and was cremated. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Victorian Historical Magazine, 33 (Aug 1962), no 1, p 263
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 14 Sept 1957
  • Herbert Hewlett papers (University of Melbourne Library).

Citation details

Malcolm McKeown, 'Hewlett, Herbert Maunsell (1872–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hewlett-herbert-maunsell-6655/text11281, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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