Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moore, William (Jerry) (1859–1927)

by Benjamin K. Rank

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

William (Jerry) Moore (1859-1927), surgeon, was born on 30 July 1859 at Western Suburbs (Milton), Brisbane, third son of William Moore, gardener and later Baptist minister from Somerset, England, and his Welsh wife Margaret, née Hitchings. Entering the University of Melbourne in 1878 from Brisbane Grammar School with the nickname 'Jerry' and a high scholastic record, he graduated M.B. in 1882 and B.S. in 1883, dux of his year. He was house surgeon at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital in 1883-84 and afterwards demonstrator in anatomy at the university. Following his marriage on 29 April 1884 at Hotham Hill to Grace Emily Poole, governess and Baptist clergyman's daughter, he resumed his studies to become the first recipient of the University of Melbourne's M.S. degree, conferred in 1885 at the same ceremony as his M.D.

'Jerry' Moore was appointed surgeon for skin diseases at the Melbourne Hospital in 1885 and in 1887 out-patient surgeon. Commencing private practice in Spring Street, in 1890 he took over the Collins Street practice of E. M. James, a senior hospital colleague and a timely and benevolent patron. He continued at the Melbourne Hospital, as surgeon on the full staff from 1902, until 1910 when he became consulting surgeon; he was also honorary surgeon to St Vincent's Hospital in 1899-1906, a member of the committee of the Austin Hospital in 1895-1907 and one of the few surgeons to run his own private hospital, Milton House, in Flinders Lane.

The amount and variety of surgery which Moore undertook was prodigious and his results, published in pamphlets and in numerous contributions to the Intercolonial Medical Journal of Australia, outstanding. By 1908 his reputation was such that Melbourne Punch termed him 'the perfect surgeon'. He was pre-eminent in two directions: he led in the application of Listerism to abdominal surgery, demonstrating new standards of lower mortality rates; and he had a special interest and skill in reconstructive surgery on which he published one of the earliest books, Plastic Surgery, in 1899. His work in this field at the 11th Australian General Hospital during and after World War I was far advanced for his time.

Moore's greatest contribution to the Melbourne Hospital was his abolition of the system of hospital appointment by public canvass and vote. Successively promoting the appointment of allies to the hospital board—he was a member himself in 1904-25—he achieved his objective in 1910 with the establishment of the independent electoral college system of appointments. In 1886 he had been a strong advocate for moving the Melbourne Hospital from Lonsdale Street to its present Parkville site, but was outvoted. He was also critical of the charge levied on patients, believing the hospital should remain a charitable institution for the underprivileged.

As a student Moore helped to found the Medical Students' Society and later served on the councils of the Medical Society of Victoria and the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association. In 1889-93 he co-edited the Australian Medical Journal with (Sir) George Syme. He was, nevertheless, a loner in professional circles, always self-reliant, outspoken on matters of principle and intolerant of other viewpoints. His isolation was exacerbated when in 1906 he was charged with unprofessional conduct by a colleague whose patient Moore had visited for a 'friendly chat'. An investigation involving the parent B.M.A. continued until 1911, making the case a cause célèbre. Though ultimately exonerated, Moore withdrew from the centre of medical affairs; he did not rejoin the B.M.A. until 1926.

Apart from surgery, sport (cricket, tennis and cycling) and the Church were said to be Moore's only interests. Captain of the university cricket team in the 1880s and later club president, he subsequently had his own team, The Medicos. As a dedicated Baptist, he initiated the founding of Carey Baptist Grammar School where his name remains on a foundation stone and in Moore House. A non-drinker and non-smoker, completely humourless and with an unattractive voice, he was the object of some ridicule by the medical student body. He had, however, the lifelong respect of many of Melbourne's leading physicians and surgeons, (Sir) Richard Stawell in particular recording that Moore 'imbued a new spirit into hospital work … in Melbourne'.

Moore died suddenly at Fitzroy on 8 September 1927 before he could take his seat on the first credentials committee of the College of Surgeons of Australasia to which he had been elected a foundation fellow earlier in the year. Buried in Box Hill cemetery, he was survived by his wife, four daughters and a son.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • K. S. Inglis, Hospital and Community (Melb, 1958)
  • B. K. Rank, Jerry Moore and Some of His Contemporaries (Melb, 1975)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, Dec 1927
  • Punch (Melbourne), 18 June 1908.

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Citation details

Benjamin K. Rank, 'Moore, William (Jerry) (1859–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-william-jerry-7643/text13363, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 9 December 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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