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Percy Alan Earnshaw (1893–1980)

by M. John Thearle

This article was published:

Percy Alan Earnshaw (1893-1980), paediatrician, was born on 17 October 1893 in Brisbane, eldest son of English-born parents William Earnshaw, schoolmaster, and his wife Kate Louise, née Gaylard. Educated at Maryborough and Brisbane grammar schools, and at the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1916), Percy was a house surgeon (1916) at Sydney Hospital and resident medical officer (1917) at Brisbane General Hospital. On 13 July 1917 he was appointed captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force. Reaching the Western Front in October, he served in the 8th and 14th field ambulances, and as regimental medical officer of several units of the 5th Division. In March 1918 he was gassed. He recuperated in England before resuming duty in France in June. Returning to England in April 1919, he resigned his A.I.F. appointment on 29 May 1920. Earnshaw was a house physician (1919-21) at the Hospital for Sick Children, London, then gained postgraduate experience in paediatrics at the West London Hospital and in Edinburgh. On 27 April 1923 at the parish church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, London, he married a nurse Marian Eileen Blandford.

The couple returned to Brisbane. Earnshaw entered general practice, but essentially confined his work to children. He was honorary physician (1923-31) at the Hospital for Sick Children and honorary medical officer (1923-38) to the State government's Infant Welfare Service. At the Mater Children's Hospital, where he was senior honorary physician (1931-61), the unassuming but methodical 'P.A.' established a reputation as an outstanding clinician; during World War II he was senior paediatrician at the hospital. He was a major on the Reserve of Officers, attached to the Queensland Lines of Communication Area in 1942-44. A member (1946-59) of the advisory board of the Mater Misericordiae hospitals, he was chairman (1958-78) and president (1959-62) of the medical committee of the Queensland section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, and an honorary life member of that institution. From 1951 until 1959 he was clinical lecturer in child health and a member of the board of the faculty of medicine at the University of Queensland.

Earnshaw was a member (1922-77), councillor (1937-38 and 1960-64), president (1961-62), fellow (1966) and honorary life member (1971) of the Queensland branch of the British Medical Association. He was founding president (1949) of its paediatric section and vice-president (1937, 1950 and 1952) of the paediatric section of the Australasian Medical Congress. A member (1931-47) of the University of Queensland's postgraduate medical education committee, he was also a member (1963-75) and chairman (1965-66) of the B.M.A.'s medical fees tribunal. In addition, he was president (1953-54) of the Australian Paediatric Association, a foundation fellow (1938) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and chairman (1962-66) of its State committee. In 1965 he delivered the (E. S.) Jackson lecture to the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association.

Widely esteemed as a pioneer of paediatrics in Queensland, Earnshaw retired from practice in 1961 and was appointed C.B.E. in 1964. He died on 13 January 1980 at Clayfield and was cremated; his wife, son and four daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. H. Pearn, Focus and Innovation (Brisb, 1986)
  • Mater Misericordiae Public Hospital, South Brisb, Annual Report, 1960-61, 1979-80
  • Australian Paediatric Journal, 9, Apr 1973, p 72
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 28 June 1980, p 678
  • P. A. Earnshaw diary, 30 July 1917-18 May 1919 (typescript, State Library of Queensland and Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

M. John Thearle, 'Earnshaw, Percy Alan (1893–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 October, 1893
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


13 January, 1980 (aged 86)
Clayfield, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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