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Johnson, Edward Angas (1873–1951)

by J. Escourt Hughes

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

Edward Angas Johnson (1873-1951), by Dimond Studio, c1916

Edward Angas Johnson (1873-1951), by Dimond Studio, c1916

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6324

Edward Angas Johnson (1873-1951), medical practitioner, was born on 15 January 1873 at Angaston, South Australia, second son of James Angas Johnson, accountant and pastoralist, and his wife Catherine, née Williams. His grandmother was Rosetta French Johnson, eldest daughter of George Fife Angas. After education at Whinham College and the Collegiate School of Saint Peter, Johnson studied medicine at the University of Adelaide from 1893. In 1896 a dispute between the government and the honorary medical staff of the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital over an appointment to the nursing staff led to suspension of clinical instruction at the hospital. Johnson and other 'exiled' students had to transfer to either the University of Melbourne or of Sydney. He graduated in Melbourne next year, returned to Adelaide and was admitted to the corresponding degrees (M.B., Ch.B.) at its university.

Johnson was house-surgeon at the Adelaide Children's Hospital before setting out in 1898 for Europe to undertake postgraduate work in pathology and bacteriology at the University of Göttingen (M.D., 1899). He also studied at the universities of Berlin and Strasbourg and at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, and worked in London and at Cambridge. On returning to Australia he found that he disliked private practice and was in 1902 appointed honorary assistant physician to the Adelaide Hospital. In 1909-24 he was honorary physician and in 1926-42 the hospital's honorary sanitary adviser.

In 1903 Johnson sat on the Adelaide City Council; he then resigned to attend the London School of Tropical Medicine. He stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Council in 1905. In 1907 he was again elected to the city council and remained a councillor until 1924 when he resigned to become medical officer of health for Adelaide, an appointment he held until 1938. At the same time he was chairman of the Adelaide Board of Health, a member of the Metropolitan County Board and the Metropolitan Abattoirs Board and represented the government on the Central Board of Health. He was a governor and benefactor of the Botanic Garden and published many papers on the history of plants. He was the South Australian editor for Virchow's (Berlin) Jahresbericht.

Johnson was an opinionated man and this sometimes led to conflict with his colleagues, as when he reported adversely on diphtheria immunization in 1937, but he was respected for having the courage of his convictions. His hobby was collecting curios and historical relics, especially those relating to South Australian history. This remarkable collection and his library were distributed to public institutions before his death. He was commissioned in the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1902 and served until 1920, reaching the rank of major.

Johnson married twice. His first wife Margarethe Friedericke Charlotte Klevesahl, sister-in-law of Charles Rasp, whom he had married in London on 27 September 1900, was German; she died in 1936, leaving a son. On 3 January 1939 he married Dorothy Muriel Brandt who survived him. Johnson died at his Glenelg home on 19 June 1951 and was cremated after an Anglican service.

Select Bibliography

  • Universal Publicity Co., The Official Civic Record of South Australia (Adel, 1936)
  • Honorary Magistrate, May 1920
  • Register (Adelaide), 2 May 1905
  • Mail (Adelaide), 8 Feb 1913
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 4 Nov 1947, 21 June 1951.

Citation details

J. Escourt Hughes, 'Johnson, Edward Angas (1873–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/johnson-edward-angas-6852/text11867, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 26 October 2014.

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

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