Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Clive Farran-Ridge (1886–1962)

by Geoff Browne

This article was published:

Clive Farran-Ridge (1886-1962), psychiatrist and pathologist, was born on 16 November 1886 at Woollahra, Sydney, eldest son of Richard Charles Ridge, grazier, and his wife Helen Margaret, née Farran. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, he graduated from the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1908; M.B., 1915; Ch.M., 1917). Ridge (who later styled his surname Farran-Ridge) served as a captain (from 1915) in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I and continued his medical career in England, obtaining a diploma of psychological medicine (1921) from the University of London. In 1925, while an assistant medical officer at Stafford County hospital, he co-authored a paper about the positive effects of insulin-induced coma on the control of psychotic behaviour. The case report failed 'by a hair's breadth' to draw out the full implications of the treatment, and it was not until 1933 that Manfred Sakel of Vienna initiated coma-insulin therapy.

Returning to Australia, Farran-Ridge joined the Victorian Lunacy Department on 8 January 1929 and succeeded R. S. Ellery as pathologist in 1931. Six years later Farran-Ridge introduced Sakel's treatment at the Mont Park Mental Hospital. Stressing the importance of research, he initiated an extraordinary number of projects into aspects of biological psychiatry. He investigated the blood bromide levels of manic depressives, female sex hormones, and the cerebrospinal fluids and serum of patients undergoing malarial treatment for neuro-syphilis; he examined the urine, blood sugars and cholesterol of epileptics; and he devised an experimental treatment with sulphosin for dementia praecox. In addition, he maintained his efforts against the persistent outbreaks of infectious diseases in mental hospitals and continued to conduct post-mortem examinations. To assist him in these undertakings he had a laboratory staff of only two technicians. John Cade commented that 'it is almost impossible to understand how so much routine and research work could have originated therein'.

Tall and solidly built, Farran-Ridge was 'held in some awe' by his colleagues 'not only because of his dignity and reserve, but also for his felicitous turn of phrase'; he was 'obsessive' in the precise use of words. His magisterial personality was the subject of many tales. (William) Beattie Smith lecturer (1932) at the University of Melbourne, he was a founding fellow (1938) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Wherever he went, he was a passionate horticulturist, planting vast numbers of trees and organizing vegetable gardens to improve patients' diets. Cade saw him as one 'whose restless imagination defeated his persistence . . . he had too many irons in the fire' and 'missed fame by a whisker'.

Although Farran-Ridge was anxious to resume clinical practice in 1940, he continued to superintend mental hospitals at Beechworth (1940-42), Ararat (1942-46) and Ballarat (1947-51). Tired and disillusioned, he retired in 1951. By then he believed that most of the ideals he valued in medical care were 'in the present state of the country . . . obviously unattainable'. Farran-Ridge died on 7 June 1962 at Mont Park and was cremated. He was survived by his wife Edith, née Braham, whom he had married on 5 October 1928 at St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney. Clive's brother Thornleigh (1894-1938), known as Tom Farranridge, was a brilliant and popular teaching surgeon in Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1, 1938-75 (Syd, 1988)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, Nov 1938, p 927, May 1973, p 1057.

Citation details

Geoff Browne, 'Farran-Ridge, Clive (1886–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 February 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]

Alternative Names
  • Ridge, Clive Farran

16 November, 1886
Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


7 June, 1962 (aged 75)
Mont Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia