Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Max Markus Herz (1876–1948)

by Joan Clarke

This article was published:

Max Markus Herz (1876-1948), orthopaedic surgeon, was born on 17 February 1876 at Bochum, Westphalia, Germany, son of Jewish parents Hermann Herz, lacemaker, and his wife Anna, née Blumlein. He was educated at Barmen gymnasium and studied medicine at the University of Munich, while doing his compulsory military service; he graduated in 1898 with the distinction of magna cum laude and received the state examination certificate, Munich, in 1899. He worked at the Schanz orthopaedic clinic at Dresden and in Vienna studied under Professor Adolf Lorenz, famous for his treatment of club-feet. While assisting Professor Albert Hoffa in Berlin in 1902, Herz was asked by a patient to visit New Zealand.

Passing through Melbourne in 1903, he was invited to demonstrate Lorenz's techniques at the Hospital for Sick Children. At Ashburton and Christchurch, New Zealand, he attracted much publicity and many patients. On 28 February 1905 at Christchurch he married an Australian, Jane Ethel Cohen, cousin of A. W. Hyman. Next year Herz moved to Auckland and practised as an orthopaedic surgeon. His successful work was widely publicized, generating some resentment among more conservative practitioners. In 1908 he published New Zealand (Berlin), an account of the dominion's flora, fauna and people; it was eventually translated into fourteen languages and an English edition appeared in 1912. It received a mixed reception from the press: some New Zealanders were offended at his comments on their lack of culture and humour.

After visiting Germany, Herz in 1910 settled in Sydney where he practised at Macquarie Street and joined the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association. He contributed to medical journals and was Sydney correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt. He became honorary surgeon for the State Children Relief Board and, in 1911-12, the outpatients' department of St Vincent's Hospital.

On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 Herz was naturalized, but the B.M.A. expelled him. In July 1915, less than a month after the birth of his only child, he was interned as an enemy alien at Holsworthy, near Liverpool, and from 1916 at Trial Bay, despite his offer of his medical skills to the Commonwealth government. His request in 1916 to be repatriated to Germany as a member of the German Army Medical Corps was refused. When the war ended he was denaturalized and his deportation recommended, but after insistent requests from patients and others, the prime minister W. M. Hughes intervened and he was released in April 1920. The federal committee of the B.M.A. continued to urge the government to deport him.

Avoided by other doctors and unwelcome at public hospitals, in 1921 Herz opened his own private hospital, the Odin (later Bona Dea), at Rushcutters Bay. He worked quietly alone, successfully treating many crippled Australians, often without charge. Many of his medical contemporaries considered him too radical and too anxious to operate, especially on patients with poliomyelitis. In defence he often appeared stiff-necked and brusque but was at all times outspoken. Most patients, staff and friends found him good-humoured, witty and compassionate. His greatest rapport was with children. Short and balding, with brown eyes, he wore thick glasses. Keenly interested in the arts and music, he entertained many visiting musicians at his Darling Point home; he always had a dog—usually an Irish setter.

Survived by his wife and daughter, Herz died of hypertensive heart disease on 17 December 1948 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was valued for probate at £11,004. Through bigotry, much of his knowledge and his operating technique died with him. In 1980 Dr William J. Cumming, in a paper delivered to the Australian Orthopaedic Association, acknowledged Herz as the first fully trained orthopaedic surgeon to practise in Australia and New Zealand.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Clarke, Dr. Max Herz, Surgeon Extraordinary (Syd, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 30 Apr, 14 Sept 1920
  • Medical Journal of Australia, Dec 1919
  • Chirurg (Berlin), 1 Jan 1929
  • Argus, 17 Apr 1903
  • Canterbury Times (Christchurch, New Zealand), 19 Aug, 16 Sept, 9 Dec 1903, 10 July 1904
  • Auckland Star (New Zealand), 14 July 1906
  • New Zealand Herald, 8 Aug 1906
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 3 Feb 1912
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 9 Mar, 23 Nov 1929, 29 Aug 1936
  • naturalisation file, Al 36/2296, and PM's Dept CRS, A457, item 406/3, and defence file MP 367, C 567/3/2913, 3695 and 4611 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Joan Clarke, 'Herz, Max Markus (1876–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 February, 1876
Bochum, Westphalia, Germany


17 December, 1948 (aged 72)

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