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Arthur George Stening Cooper (1899–1986)

by Bruce Kynaston

This article was published:

Arthur George Stening Cooper (1899-1986), radiologist, was born on 28 November 1899 at Mosman, Sydney, only child of Henry Kingsbury Cooper, a woolbroker’s clerk from South Australia, and his Sydney-born wife Harriet Priscilla, née Stening. After attending Sydney Grammar School, Arthur studied medicine at the University of Sydney (MB, Ch.M., 1923), where he represented Wesley College in rifle-shooting. He travelled to Britain and in 1923-24 was a house surgeon and physician at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester. On 30 October 1924 at St Peter’s Church of England, Belsize Park, Hampstead, London, he married Marguerite Henry (d.1982).

Back in New South Wales, Cooper worked (1925-37) as a general practitioner at Denman, in the Hunter Valley. He was interested in X-rays and, after two years of postgraduate study at the Royal Cancer Hospital, London, was awarded (1938) a diploma in medical radiology by the University of London. He was radiologist at New Plymouth Hospital, New Zealand, until 1940, when he was appointed radiological supervisor at (Royal) Brisbane Hospital. His offer to join the Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, was not accepted and in 1941 he was commissioned honorary captain in the Reserve of Officers. With one registrar, he experienced long days, especially early in 1942, with units of Allied forces requiring radiological services. In 1944, through contacts in the United States Army, he obtained radioactive phosphorus and reputedly was the first in Australia to use this material. That year he became full-time radiotherapist-in-charge of the new Queensland Radium Institute, and in 1946 was made director.

Under Cooper, the institute gained the respect of colleagues in Australia and overseas. Annual reports disclosed outcomes of therapy as measured by percentages of cancer patients surviving five years. Quiet, determined and thoughtful, Cooper led his staff by example and created a happy, though very busy, team. He treated his patients with kindness and courtesy, as well as with skill, setting the standard at that which he would wish to experience if he were a patient. In 1961 he helped to found the Queensland Cancer Fund; he was a trustee (1965-85), and a member of its anti-cancer council (1962-67) and its medical and scientific advisory committee (1962-66). In 1965 the fund named a hospital for country patients at Hamilton, Brisbane, after him. He was appointed CBE in 1963.

Cooper served (1951-66) on the radio therapy advisory committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. A foundation fellow of the (Royal) College of Radiologists of Australasia, he was elected president (1965-66) and became a life member in 1971. He was an honorary member of the Japan Radiological Society. After retiring as director of QRI in 1965 he continued in private practice for ten years. A keen gardener, he also played tennis until his retirement and then took up bowls. He enjoyed fishing and relaxing at his beach house by Currimundi Lake on the Sunshine Coast. Survived by his two daughters and son, he died on 14 March 1986 at Brookfield, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • H. R. Woolcock and M. J. Thearle, A History of the Queensland Cancer Fund (1991)
  • Australasian Radiology, vol 30, no 4, 1986, p 294
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 17 Nov 1986, p 545
  • personal information.

Citation details

Bruce Kynaston, 'Cooper, Arthur George Stening (1899–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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