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Rogers, Richard Sanders (1861–1942)

by Joyce Gibberd

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

Richard Sanders Rogers (1861-1942), by Falk, 1932

Richard Sanders Rogers (1861-1942), by Falk, 1932

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6175

Richard Sanders Rogers (1861-1942), orchidologist and physician, was born on 2 December 1861 in Adelaide, son of Joseph Rogers, mason and contractor, and his wife Ann Childers, née Williams. He was educated at Pulteney Street School and the University of Adelaide (BA, 1882). After teaching at Prince Alfred College, he attended the University of Edinburgh (MB, 1887). On 3 August 1887 in Edinburgh he married Jean Scott Paterson. Returning home, Rogers practised medicine. Further degrees were conferred on him by Edinburgh (MD, 1893) and Adelaide (Ch.M., 1891; MD, 1897; MA, 1897).

He was a consulting physician at the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital from 1897 until his death, and a member of its board in 1896-1922 (deputy-chairman, 1913-21); he was a foundation member in 1938 of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. A member of the South Australian Medical Board in 1910-40, he was president in 1932-38. Rogers was the first superintendent (visiting) of Enfield Receiving House (1922-36), superintendent (visiting) of Northfield Mental Hospital (1929-36), and honorary consulting psychiatrist to all State mental institutions (1939-42). He submitted papers to the State government and the Education Gazette on children's health; and his report on the medical inspection of public-school children was published in 1910.

His private practice flourished and he was a notable exponent of mesmeric art from 1894; in 1903-06 he demonstrated his mental telepathy and hypnotic powers to literary societies saying, 'The hypnotism I practised was scientific, not an exhibition of the black art'. He had fine brown piercing eyes and a hypnotist's gentle voice.

In 1901 he had accompanied the South Australian Sixth Contingent to the South African War. In 1914-19, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he directed Adelaide's Keswick Base Hospital. Rogers did 'not wish the public to associate my name with Lord Mayors and politicians'; nevertheless he was president of the board of governors of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery (1929-31), the Justices' Association (1914-15) and of the South Australian Literary Society (1909-11).

He became a world authority on Australasian orchids, describing over eighty Australian species, three from New Zealand, thirty from New Guinea and three new genera, one being from New Zealand. His wife, gifted with the 'orchid eye', accompanied him on his rambles. They traversed South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. Rogers's collection numbered 5200; two have been named after him, Pterostylis rogersii Coleman and Prasophyllum rogersii Rupp. Rosa Fiveash illustrated the living plants he collected, a thirty-year collaboration. A fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia (president, 1920-22), Rogers frequently wrote on orchids in its Transactions. His series on South Australian orchids in Bertie Roach's Children's Hour was reprinted as An Introduction to the Study of South Australian Orchids (1911). In 1922 he described the Orchidaceae in part 1 of John Black's Flora of South Australia. Rogers became a fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1924. He corresponded with orchidologists Herman Rupp, William Nicholls, Cyril White and R. Schlechter; his work was professionally meticulous and he shared his knowledge with younger enthusiasts.

His presidential address to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science's botanical section, 'Some developments in orchidology', in Sydney in 1932, formed the thesis for his D.Sc. degree (1936). Rogers bequeathed his material on orchids to the University of Adelaide, including his translations of Schlechter's Orchids from German New Guinea. The remainder of his collections is in the Adelaide Herbarium. He died on 28 March 1942, survived by his wife, daughter (whom he had disowned following her secret marriage) and son. After Anglican rites, he was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 16 May 1942
  • Mail (Adelaide), 12 Apr 1913
  • L. Scott-Rogers, unpublished biography of his father (Botanic Gardens, Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Joyce Gibberd, 'Rogers, Richard Sanders (1861–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rogers-richard-sanders-8259/text14465, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 3 September 2014.

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

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