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Voss, Francis Henry Vivian (1860–1940)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Francis Henry Vivian Voss (1860-1940), medical practitioner, was born on 9 August 1860 at Hackney, London, son of Robert Voss, solicitor, and his wife Charlotte, née Smith. Educated at the Church of England Grammar School, Hackney, he gained some experience as an assistant to the family's doctor before passing the University of Cambridge entrance examination and entering London Hospital. There he studied under Dr Hughlings Jackson, Sir Jonathan Hutchinson and other leading medical men. On 11 August 1881 Voss received permission to practise as a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (M.R.C.S., 1882; F.R.C.S., 1885). He served his internship at London Hospital and worked for a year at Whitechapel Infirmary.

Reaching Bowen, Queensland, in November 1885 as locum tenens for Dr Thurston, Voss was additionally employed as government health officer. Next year he moved to Rockhampton where he was assistant immigration agent (in the quarantine area) in 1887, government medical officer (1888-1927) and visiting government surgeon from 1891. Soon after arriving, he established a flourishing practice and attracted two doctors from overseas. The 'Rockhampton triumvirate' ran two private hospitals; Voss improved the only maternity ward, separated it administratively from the Benevolent Asylum and established a training school for nurses. A disciple of Joseph Lister, he was an outstanding medical practitioner, especially in obstetrics and gynaecology. He was considerate to mothers, whether they were married or not; in return, they revered him.

In 1897 Voss bought a large block in Talford Street on which to build a modern private hospital. In the following year he visited the United States of America and England—the first of his three visits—to gather new ideas and purchase equipment. He returned with an X-ray machine, improved sterilizers and detailed plans. The hospital was built in 1900. A pioneer among private practitioners in establishing his own pathology laboratory, Voss became a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1927.

A colleague remembered him as wise, honest and trustworthy, as a veritable godsend in a district stretching five hundred miles (805 km) inland. On call twenty-four hours a day, Voss still found time for private study: he indulged his love of literature in his fine private library, knew the Bible and belonged to the Home Reading Union and the Natural Science Circle. He contributed to local sanitation and educational developments, and was a member and chairman of the Girls' Grammar School Trust, vice-president of the Rockhampton Jockey Club, patron of the cricket association and a Freemason. For many years he was surgeon-captain of local naval volunteers in the Queensland Defence Force and commanded the Rockhampton branch of the Ambulance Corps.

Predeceased in 1926 by his wife Lottie Kerrod, née White, whom he had married at St Paul's Church, Rockhampton, on 11 January 1888, Voss retired to Sydney in 1929. He died at his Bellevue Hill home on 15 February 1940 and was cremated with Anglican rites. Of his two sons and three daughters who survived him, all but one daughter became medical practitioners.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • W. Watson & Sons Ltd, Salute to the X-Ray Pioneers of Australia (Syd, 1946)
  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 13 Apr 1940
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 2 Feb 1929, 16 Feb 1940
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Feb 1940
  • private information.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Voss, Francis Henry Vivian (1860–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/voss-francis-henry-vivian-8934/text15697, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 5 December 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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