Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Gordon Hislop (1895–1972)

by R. A. Joske

This article was published:

James Gordon Hislop (1895-1972), physician and politician, was born on 14 August 1895 at Prahran, Melbourne, son of James Hislop, a chemist from Scotland, and his Victorian-born wife Catherine Ann, née Collins. Educated at Scotch College and the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.Sc., 1918), 'Gordy' served in emergency influenza hospitals in Victoria and Tasmania, and in the Children's Hospital, Perth. He travelled to England in 1920 and undertook postgraduate study at the Royal Infirmary, Manchester, Brompton Hospital, London, and the Frimley Sanatorium, Surrey; his interest in chest disease and tuberculosis dated from this time. In 1922 he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (fellow 1949). Hislop returned to Victoria and was employed at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital in 1923.

At All Saints Church, St Kilda, on 8 December 1925 he married with Anglican rites Netta Millicent Searll; she accompanied him to Perth where he was medical superintendent (1924-27) of the Children's Hospital. In 1927 he entered private practice as a consultant physician. An honorary physician to in-patients at (Royal) Perth Hospital in 1929-49, Hislop represented the medical staff on the board of management in 1941-48. He was also a fellow (1938) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and a member of its State committee in 1946-66. During World War II he was attached to the Civil Defence Council of Western Australia; he was honorary director (1942-46) of emergency medical services, and executive-officer and deputy-chairman of the medical co-ordination committee. In 1950-55 he was an honorary physician at Fremantle Hospital.

Hislop's main medical interests were chest disease (on which he contributed articles to the Medical Journal of Australia) and medical education. Active on the editorial committee which published Clinical Reports, he was a member (from 1931) and chairman (1959) of the British Medical Association's standing postgraduate committee in Perth. In addition, he was a section vice-president at the Australasian medical congresses in Adelaide (1937) and Perth (1947). A keen advocate of the establishment of a medical school at the university, he became first chairman of its postgraduate medical education committee in 1959. He was, as well, a governor (1963) and life governor (1966) of the Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine.

Elected to the Legislative Council as a Nationalist member for Metropolitan Province in 1941, Hislop was returned as a Liberal in 1946 and remained in parliament until he retired on 21 May 1971. His major concerns were in matters of health—the pasteurization of milk, the qualification and registration of nurses and ambulance officers, workers' compensation, miners' silicosis, and problems of the aged—and in the mechanisms of local government, town planning, electoral reform and Commonwealth-State relations. His greatest disappointment was the repeated failure of his bills to liberalize the abortion laws.

Hislop was flamboyant and dramatic in both his political and medical activities. 'Measured meandering sentences' characterized his rounds of the wards and he was described as 'a Roman emperor in meticulous pin-stripe'. His patients loved him and he was tireless in their interests. He enjoyed reading from his extensive library, gardening and playing bowls, and was a dedicated Rotarian. Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died on 4 May 1972 at Claremont and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Munk's Roll, Royal College of Physicians, vol 6 (Lond, 1982)
  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1 (Syd, 1988)
  • P. Firkins, A History of the Rotary Club of Perth, 1927-1987 (Perth, 1987)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 1923, 2, p 514, 1924, 1, pp 282, 527, 1924, 2, p 185, 1925, 1, p 51
  • Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine, Annual Report, 1960-69
  • Western Australian Graduate Medical Bulletin, 1972, p 72
  • Royal Perth Hospital Archives
  • University of Melbourne archives.

Citation details

R. A. Joske, 'Hislop, James Gordon (1895–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 5 March 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]


14 August, 1895
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


4 May, 1972 (aged 76)
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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