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Magnus, Everett Randall (1907–1967)

by Rachel Grahame

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Everett Randall Magnus (1907-1967), dentist, was born on 6 January 1907 at Burwood, Sydney, elder of twins and only son of Frank Douglas Magnus, a medical practitioner from New York, and his native-born wife Robinetta Millicent, née Allan. After graduating in dentistry in the United States of America (like his brother Everett Randall), Frank rose to be a prominent oral surgeon. Young Everett attended Sydney Grammar School where he played cricket ('a fair left hand bowler'), captained the shooting team and became a prefect. At the University of Sydney (B.D.S., 1930; D.D.Sc., 1936), he was president of the dental undergraduates' association, and graduated with honours and the A. J. Arnott prize for general anaesthesia and clinical surgery. He began practice at Guyra and served as a board-member (1931-32) of the Armidale and New England Hospital.

Having decided to specialize in oral surgery, Magnus took up a post at the United Dental Hospital of Sydney. In 1934 he was appointed an honorary dental surgeon and clinical instructor in periodontia. His doctoral thesis was entitled 'Some observations on acute osteomyelitis of the mandible'. At the Presbyterian Church, Armidale, on 4 June 1935 he married Dulcie May Hutton, a 24-year-old music teacher. He opened consulting rooms in Macquarie Street, Sydney, in 1937, and practised as an oral surgeon. From March 1938 he was an honorary dental surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital until he accepted a consultancy in January 1967.

Throughout his life Magnus contributed to his profession and the wider community, following the examples set by his father and uncle. He was honorary secretary (1937-41), vice-president (1947-49) and president (1950-51) of the Australian Dental Association; he also chaired (1951-56) the New South Wales branch's defence committee. He sat on the Dental Board of New South Wales (from 1951), represented his profession on the Poisons Advisory Committee (1953-67) and was president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Oral Surgeons (in the 1960s). Magnus demonstrated his expertise in 1944 when he was called as a witness in the re-opened 'Pyjama Girl' case. His evidence helped to correct an error in the dental description of the murdered victim Linda Agostini, leading to the arrest and conviction of her husband Antonio Agostini.

In numerous addresses to new graduates of dentistry, Magnus argued that, if high standards were to be maintained and advanced, dentists should continue to study throughout their professional lives. As president of the Australian Dental Association, he lectured in country towns on new developments in his field. His generous prologue to the 1958 Annie Praed oration showed that he was ahead of many of his generation in recognizing women as equals in the profession. In 1962 he was appointed O.B.E.

Magnus suffered from diabetes, but did not allow it to affect his life. His practice filled his days, and his evenings were often taken up with meetings. What spare time he had was spent playing bowls, or fishing, or at Royal Sydney Golf Club. He was highly regarded for his characteristic gentleness, ethical practice, and consideration for his fellow practitioners. Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died of a lung abscess on 4 December 1967 at his Double Bay home and was cremated with Anglican rites. It was a sad irony that press comment on his death stressed his part in the notorious 'Pyjama Girl' case, almost to the exclusion of all his other public service.

Select Bibliography

  • R. W. Halliday, A History of Dentistry in New South Wales 1788 to 1945, A. O. Watson ed (Syd, 1977)
  • R. Coleman, The Pyjama Girl (Melb, 1978)
  • Sydneian, no 234, July 1919, no 260, Apr 1926, no 360, July 1968
  • Australian Dental Journal, vol 3, no 4, Aug 1958, p 253, vol 7, no 4, Aug 1962, p 345, vol 13, no 1, Feb 1968, p 102
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 1962, 6 Dec 1967.

Citation details

Rachel Grahame, 'Magnus, Everett Randall (1907–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/magnus-everett-randall-11034/text19543, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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