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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rivett, Edward William (1894–1962)

by Martha Rutledge

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

This is a shared entry with Amy Christine Rivett

Amy Christine Rivett (1891-1962) and Edward William Rivett (1894-1962), medical practitioners, were born on 28 February 1891 and on 12 July 1894 at Yarrawonga, Victoria, sixth and eighth children of Rev. Albert Rivett, Congregational minister, and his wife Elizabeth Mary Ann, née Cherbury. They were brought up in a gifted family with their siblings. Christine was educated at Sydney Girls' High School and studied medicine at the University of Sydney (M.B., 1915; Ch.M., 1918). Moving to Brisbane, she was superintendent of the Hospital for Sick Children (1915-17) and resident medical officer at Brisbane General (1917) and Lady Bowen (1918) hospitals. From 1919 she practised in Wickham Terrace.

A disciple of Marie Stopes, Christine advocated birth control, and later specialized in gynaecology. As municipal medical officer in charge of the health of licensed prostitutes, she had to inspect brothels. She gained her pilot's licence in 1929 and that year was a foundation member of the Queensland Medical Women's Society. She studied in London and Vienna in 1936.

Edward left Fort Street Public School, Sydney, in 1910. He joined the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd as an engineer then studied medicine at the University of Sydney (M.B., 1920; Ch.M., 1921). He was resident medical officer at Sydney and the Women's hospitals in 1920, and Brisbane General Hospital (1921-22). Registering in Queensland on 11 December 1920, he joined Christine in practice. In Brisbane on 18 February 1925 he married Lorna Clarissa Mary Freeman with Liberal Catholic rites. Soon after, he went to the United States of America, later claiming to have graduated from the Palmer School of Chiropractic, California.

Settling in Sydney in December 1927, Rivett practised in Macquarie Street and next year bought Cabarisha, a house at Castlecrag, designed by Walter Burley Griffin, which he opened as a private maternity hospital and progressively enlarged. He practised as a gynaecologist and obstetrician (reputedly handling 400 confinements a year) but was also an able general surgeon at his private hospital. He was frowned upon by the local branch of the British Medical Association for his pioneering work in treating injuries and disease by spinal manipulation. His work in early ambulation of patients resulted in a lower death rate after operations and quicker healing. A self-effacing man, Edward was beloved by his patients.

Deeply interested in homeopathy, colour therapy and hypnotherapy, he prepared his own herbal medicines until World War II. He was joined in practice by Christine soon after the war and later by his sons; she was unsuccessfully sued for negligence in 1955. Like their sister Mary, Edward and Christine experimented in mental telepathy and extra-sensory perception.

Edward Rivett died of cerebral thrombosis on 25 March 1962 and was cremated with Liberal Catholic rites. His wife and their two sons survived him. Christine died in Sydney on 14 July 1962 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Air Travel News, July 1930
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 May 1936, 19 Aug 1955, 16 July 1962
  • North Shore Advocate, 8 Jan 1986
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Rivett, Edward William (1894–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 11

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