Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Eugen Hirschfeld (1866–1946)

by C. A. C. Leggett

This article was published:

Eugen Hirschfeld (1866-1946), medical practitioner, was born on 22 January 1866 at Militsch (Milicz), Silesia, Prussia, son of Julius Hirschfeld, banker, and his wife Joanna, née Lvervey. He studied medicine, passing his testamur physicum at Würzburg, and graduated from Strasburg University in 1887. He took his Staats Examination in 1888 and graduated M.D. in 1889 for research on eye pigmentation.

Hirschfeld arrived in Brisbane in July 1890 and was registered for practice on 7 August. Deeply involved in the medical and scientific world of Brisbane, he became honorary bacteriologist to the Brisbane Hospital and, influenced by the work of Koch, specialized in tuberculosis. He investigated the clinical features of dengue fever in southern Queensland and in 1895, as vice-president, read to the Royal Society of Queensland a pioneering paper on the medical and economic necessity for compulsory inspection of meat. His ideal was to stamp out tuberculosis 'in man and beast'. Naturalized in May 1893, he married Annie Sarah Eliza Saddler at Kew, Melbourne, on 21 April 1897.

A leader of the German community in Queensland, Hirschfeld enrolled himself at the consulate as a German citizen to comply with German regulations and in the belief that dual nationality was possible. In 1906 he was appointed Imperial German Consul in Brisbane and, after consulting Governor Sir William MacGregor, later founded a society for the propagation of German language and culture. Admitted M.D. ad eund. by the University of Queensland in 1911, he became a founding senator of the university and in 1912 represented it at a congress in London of British universities. While overseas he investigated tuberculosis and cancer hospitals for the government as a member of the Queensland Medical Board. In July-November 1914 he was a member of the Legislative Council.

Hirschfeld lived and practised quietly through 1915 but in February 1916 was interned at Enoggera and transferred a week later to Liverpool, New South Wales. Released in August 1917 on account of ill health, he was taken again soon afterwards on the alleged ground that he had falsified medical evidence to secure his release. Following a magisterial investigation and a review by Sir Robert Garran in June 1920, he was deported. He stayed briefly in Germany and Holland, then went to the United States of America and practised until 1926 at Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was finally permitted to return in 1927, partly because of representations from Sir John Monash.

After practising for a time in Wickham Terrace, Hirschfeld purchased station properties at Inglewood and at Yelarbon on the Darling Downs. Applying systematic botanical method, he carried out and published research into pasture improvement, with particular reference to the development of brigalow and belah country because of its drought-resisting capacity. He also investigated the range and potential of Australian native vegetables, especially in relation to Aboriginal nutrition. He died at Bybera, his Yelarbon property, on 18 June 1946 and was buried there. His wife had predeceased him. He was survived by a daughter and three sons, two of whom pursued distinguished medical and academic careers in Queensland.

Hirschfeld was a man of colourful personality, of exceptional gifts and strength of character, who adorned the medical and scientific professions in Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Serle, John Monash: A Biography (Melb, 1982)
  • Queensland Agricultural Journal, Aug 1946
  • Monash papers (National Library of Australia)
  • A 456 W8/4/129, 163, BP 242/1 Q23532, BP 4/1 66/4/891 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

C. A. C. Leggett, 'Hirschfeld, Eugen (1866–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 18 May 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]


22 January, 1866
Milicz, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland


18 June, 1946 (aged 80)
Yelarbon, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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