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Paul, Sir Charles Norman (1883–1959)

by Ann M. Mitchell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Sir Charles Norman Paul (1883-1959), dermatologist and hospital president, was born on 26 March 1883 at Camperdown, Sydney, fifth of six sons of John Paul, Danish-born ship-chandler, and his wife Helen, née Carmichael, of Sydney. Norman was educated at Sydney Grammar School and spent some years in his father's business before entering the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1910). After a few months at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, he spent most of 1911-12 studying in Vienna and London.

Returning to Sydney, he entered consultant practice. He married Louie Millicent Morell on 7 March 1914 at Cowra. In September he was appointed assistant dermatologist at Sydney Hospital, working with Dr Langloh Johnston who was a pioneer with radium techniques. Paul was promoted in 1928 and retired from the medical staff in December 1945. He was also first dermatologist and head of department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (1917-32) and Royal North Shore Hospital of Sydney (1917-21), and served the Renwick Hospital for Infants (1916-22).

In 1918 Paul published The Influence of Sunlight in the Production of Cancer of the Skin, which was based on his Sydney Hospital experience and filled a gap in the medical literature; it was superseded in 1933 by Cutaneous Neoplasms. These manuals established Paul's international reputation but decades were to pass before fair-skinned Australians learned to heed his warnings against 'reckless exposure to sunlight'.

In 1927 Paul was prime mover and founding secretary, and in the 1930s president, of the State branch of the British Association of Dermatology. He was accorded the rare distinction of honorary membership of the parent body in 1953. Knighted in 1938, he was a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians that year.

In November-December 1938 Sir Norman was appointed to the board of directors of Sydney Hospital and promptly elected president. The senior vice-president, H. N. Giblin, referred to his 'special qualifications' for office. He was also vice-chairman of the Hospitals Commission in 1941-44. Paul was admired for his devoted public service but his unwillingness to consider viewpoints other than his own ensured that he was not widely liked. His reputation as an administrator suffered as the fortunes of the hospital declined.

Paul was never willing to give up the hospital presence on Macquarie Street; however, in 1953 the board took over the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, but the agreement that Sydney Hospital would move entirely to Randwick and become the main teaching hospital for the new University of New South Wales fell through in 1961. At the same time he was unsympathetic to the ambitions of non-clinical scientists in the contentious debate in the hospital's pathology institute over the merits of 'fundamental' versus 'clinical' research. Nevertheless his fellow directors established an annual visiting professorship in his name to honour his twentieth year as president.

Paul's private life centred around his home at Vaucluse. Interests included his dogs, motoring and billiards at which he had excelled in his youth. He belonged to the Australian, Royal Sydney Golf and Royal Automobile clubs, and was State vice-president of the St John Ambulance Association in 1944-58. Childless, he died, following a stroke, at his home on 25 May 1959 and was cremated. His estate, valued for probate at over £135,000, was left to his wife and relations.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Journal of Dermatology, 5, no 1, 1959, p 75
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 29 Aug 1959, p 299, 541
  • Historical Records of Australian Science, 6, no 2, Dec 1985, p 115
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Jan 1938, 26 May 1959
  • Sydney Hospital, minute books of the honorary medical staff, House Committee and Board of Directors, 1914-59 (Sydney Hospital).

Citation details

Ann M. Mitchell, 'Paul, Sir Charles Norman (1883–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/paul-sir-charles-norman-7986/text13911, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 27 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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