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Lumb, Sidney Firth (1893–1988)

by Judith A. Nissen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Sidney Firth Lumb (1893-1988), professor of dentistry, was born on 8 April 1893 at Collingwood, Melbourne, third of four surviving children of Victorian-born parents Thomas Francis Lumb, civil servant, and his wife Phoebe, née McCann.  Sidney attended Melbourne Continuation (High) School and entered the dental faculty at the University of Melbourne in 1912.  Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 21 November 1914, he served in the Middle East with the 1st Australian General Hospital, the 1st Light Horse Regiment and the Imperial Camel Corps Field Ambulance.  He was awarded the Russian Cross of St George for bringing in a wounded man under heavy fire at Bir El Abd, Egypt, in August 1916.  After being commissioned in 1918, he trained as an observer with the Australian Flying Corps.  His AIF appointment terminated in Melbourne in April 1919.

After completing his studies at the University of Melbourne (B.D.Sc., 1919; D.D.Sc., 1932), Lumb practised privately for three years in the Straits Settlements and for two in Melbourne.  Appointed house surgeon at the Melbourne Dental Hospital in 1924, he became superintendent in 1926.  On 13 August 1927 at Balwyn Methodist Church he married Edith (Elizabeth) Mary Wray (d.1951).  He was president (1933) of the Australian Dental Association (Victorian branch), a councillor of the Australian College of Dentistry, and a member of the Metropolitan Hospitals Association.

In April 1938 Lumb was appointed professor of dentistry at the University of Queensland, and next year he became dean of the faculty.  He faced strained finances and tense relations between the Dental Board of Queensland and the Brisbane and South Coast Hospitals Board (which ran the dental hospital).  Moreover, the department of dentistry was located at three separate city sites; a new dental hospital in Turbot Street was not completed until 1941.  Twenty-five years in the post, Lumb oversaw rapid growth in student numbers.  In 1947 the university’s dental degree was recognised by the General Medical Council (Great Britain), and in 1960 was expanded from four to five years.  Described by Elaine Marlay as a 'shrewd judge of men', Lumb was known for his industry, innovation and acerbic wit.

Lumb was appointed an external examiner at the King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore, in 1949.  He was admitted as a fellow in dental surgery of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England (1950) and of Edinburgh (1951).  Locally, he was awarded life membership (1950) of the Queensland branch of the Australian Dental Association.  Retiring from the university in April 1963, he was made professor emeritus.

Although busy with his academic and professional responsibilities Lumb, who asserted that 'hard work never killed anyone', was a member of the dental committee of the Legacy Club of Brisbane, chairman (1948-57) of the Lady Gowrie [q.v.9] Child Centre committee, a Rotarian and a Freemason.  He belonged to the Thirty and the United Services clubs and was president (1952) of the Clayfield Bowls Club; in 1953 the Lumb bowls trophy for ADA members in Queensland was inaugurated.  On 25 March 1959 at St Michael’s and All the Angels Presbyterian Church, New Farm, he married Florence Eve Paterson, née Anderton (d.1975), a divorcee.  In his final years his hearing and eyesight failed.  Survived by the younger daughter of his first marriage, he died on 28 April 1988 at the Freemasons’ Home, Sandgate, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Marlay, A History of Dental Education in Queensland, 1863-1964, 1979
  • M. I. Thomis, A Place of Light & Learning, 1985
  • H. Gregory, Vivant Professores, 1987
  • University of Queensland archives

Citation details

Judith A. Nissen, 'Lumb, Sidney Firth (1893–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lumb-sidney-firth-14170/text25182, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 19 August 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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