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James Percival (Jim) Ainslie (1899–1973)

by Helga M. Griffin

This article was published:

James Percival (Jim) Ainslie (1899-1973), surgeon, was born on 14 August 1899 in South Perth, son of James Walter Ainslie, company secretary, and his wife Marion Agnes, née Inglis, both Melbourne born. Educated at the local state school and at the High School, Perth, in 1918 Jim enrolled at the University of Western Australia, taking units of science as prerequisites for medical studies at the University of Melbourne where he entered Trinity College next year. Graduating with first-class honours (M.B., B.S., 1923; M.D., 1924), Ainslie was successively appointed resident medical officer (1923), registrar (1924) and medical superintendent (1925) at Melbourne Hospital. He completed postgraduate studies in surgery in London and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1927. Establishing himself in private practice in Perth, Ainslie was honorary assistant surgeon to out-patients from 1928 and honorary consulting surgeon to in-patients from 1935 at the city's only public hospital. He was appointed a fellow (1929) of the (Royal) Australasian College of Surgeons and won respect from his patients for his skills. On 15 October 1930 he married a medical practitioner Jean Wilmore Clemons at St John's Anglican Church, Launceston, Tasmania.

Having served with the Australian Army Medical Corps Reserve from 1929, Ainslie volunteered for full-time duty in World War II and was stationed with the 110th Australian General Hospital at Hollywood, Perth. After training in neurosurgery in 1948, mainly at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England, he helped to found the Royal Perth Hospital's clinical research unit in 1952 and became director of R.P.H.'s neurosurgery unit next year. As a member (from 1933) of the senate of the University of Western Australia, he played a key role in the long and complex negotiations that led to the establishment of the university's medical school in 1956. A niggling perfectionist and a 'surgeon of the old school' who hated humbug, he brooked no opposition. A former colleague recalled how Ainslie sometimes hurled his instruments on the floor of the operating theatre during his tantrums over mishaps. While formidable and abrasive to subordinates, he was also helpful to those students who sought his advice.

A director (1960-73) of the Western Australian Medical Board, Ainslie served on the board of management of R.P.H. from 1966. He also lectured in the faculty of medicine and, as a foundation member (1970) of the Advisory Medical Council of Australia, proposed standards for postgraduate education in medicine and sat on accreditation committees. His beloved domestic life was sacrificed to prodigiously long working hours. Unhappy with the university convocation election campaign in 1958, Ainslie retired from the senate and next year from the practising staff of the hospital. In 1962 he was appointed C.M.G. Some 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, balding in later life, he had played competitive cricket, continued to be a keen fisherman and turned in his retirement to golf and bowls. He died on 14 January 1973 at Subiaco, and was cremated; his wife, son and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Alexander, Campus at Crawley (Melb, 1963)
  • G. C. Bolton and P. Joske, History of Royal Perth Hospital (Perth, 1982)
  • Royal Perth Hospital, Annual Report, 1973, p 32
  • Medical Journal of Australia , 20 Oct 1973, p 786
  • West Australian, 15 Jan 1973
  • private information.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Helga M. Griffin, 'Ainslie, James Percival (Jim) (1899–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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