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Claudia Portia Burton- Bradley (1909–1967)

by Anne O'Brien

This article was published:

Claudia Portia Burton- Bradley (1909-1967), orthopaedist, was born on 28 November 1909 at Richmond, New South Wales, only daughter of native-born parents Alan Godfrey Burton Bradley, farmer, and his wife Ruby Malvina, née Drayton. Alan was the youngest child of Henry Burton Bradley. At 11 Claudia was diagnosed as having diabetes. She spent a year in the Coast Hospital, Little Bay, becoming one of the first diabetics in the world to receive insulin; for the rest of her life she was to inject herself daily with insulin. She attended Cleveland Street Intermediate High School, matriculated in 1928 and—styling herself Burton-Bradley—enrolled as an evening student in pharmacy and in arts at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1940; M.B., B.S., 1943). Apprenticed to a pharmacist in King Street, she qualified in 1930 and was pharmacist at Western Suburbs Hospital (1933-38). She had 'always wanted to study medicine' and supported herself while completing her degrees.

A 'tallish, slender young woman of kindly disposition and conspicuous clarity of mind and diction', Dr Burton-Bradley was a resident medical officer at Royal North Shore Hospital in 1944, then a senior resident at the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children. She also conducted clinics with the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children where she met Audrie and Neil McLeod, founders of the Spastic Centre of New South Wales. Claudia was appointed its first medical director in January 1945. Next year she also became honorary clinical assistant in physiotherapy at Royal North Shore Hospital and in 1947 honorary assistant orthopaedic surgeon to the Rachel Forster Hospital. She lived with her family at Five Dock until she married a 48-year-old widower Joel Austen Phillips on 20 July 1945 at the Court House, Manly. He was a retired company director; they lived together at Mosman with his two daughters. Claudia continued to use her own name professionally.

Pioneering cerebral palsy research in Australia, she wrote three major articles based on her observation of children at the Spastic Centre: 'Infantile Cerebral Palsy' and 'The Spastic Child' (Medical Journal of Australia, March 1949, June 1957), and 'Clinical Features of Children Suffering from Neurological Sequelae of Rh Iso-Sensitization' (Australasian Annals of Medicine, August 1956). She kept in touch with international specialists and in 1951 spent three months in the United States of America where she worked with W. M. Phelps at Baltimore. In like manner, she often invited overseas visitors to Mosman. Her treatment included surgery and bracing, as well as a team approach to habilitation that involved physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists. Burton-Bradley's medical reports for the Spastic Centre stressed the potential of cerebral palsy sufferers to lead useful and independent lives, and she encouraged bright children to go on to university. She began one paper, delivered to the State branch of the British Medical Association in 1956, with a plea for the 'maintenance of dignity in relation to these children as fellow beings'.

A 'private sort of person' who had a 'commanding' stature, Burton-Bradley was active in the Australian Orthopaedic and the Australian Paediatric associations; she was, as well, an honorary fellow of the Australian College of Speech Therapists and honorary consultant to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. With Mrs Audrie McLeod, she formed the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association in 1952—Claudia chaired its medical and educational committee. She was later made an honorary member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and chair of its programme committee. In addition, she sat on the editorial board of Excerpta Medica.

All this Burton-Bradley achieved despite a diabetic condition which worsened as she reached middle age. She retired as director of the Spastic Centre in 1962, but continued as its director of research and development for two years. A member of the Diabetic Association of New South Wales, she was sometime acting-president. Paradoxically, her poor health was her stimulus: she felt that the timely discovery of insulin had extended her life and she determined to do something worth while with it; but she also feared that her life would be short which made her energetically committed to her work. A world expert in her field, Claudia Burton-Bradley was appointed M.B.E. in 1966. Survived by her husband and stepdaughters, she died of a coronary occlusion on 5 October 1967 at her Cremorne home and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • The Spastic Centre Story (Syd, 1948)
  • Australian Cerebral Palsy Association Incorporated, Proceedings of the Sixth Medical and Educational Conference (Syd, 1961)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 30 Mar 1968
  • Woman's Day, 30 July 1951
  • Australian Paediatric Journal, 4, no 3, Sept 1968
  • Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children, Annual Report, 1968
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anne O'Brien, 'Bradley, Claudia Portia Burton- (1909–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 14 June 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Burton-Bradley, Claudia
  • Phillips, Claudia

28 November, 1909
Richmond, New South Wales, Australia


5 October, 1967 (aged 57)
Cremorne, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.