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Bryan Hudson (1923–1997)

by H. W. G. Baker

This article was published online in 2021

Bryan Hudson, c.1965 [detail]

Bryan Hudson, c.1965 [detail]

State Library of Victoria, 49347344

Bryan Hudson (1923—1997), endocrinologist, researcher, and medical administrator, was born on 13 November 1923 in Melbourne, only surviving child of (Sir) Edward Herbert Hudson, barrister and later Supreme Court judge, and his wife Jean Marshall, née Wright, both Victorian-born. Educated at Camberwell East Elementary School and Geelong Church of England Grammar School (1935–40), Bryan studied medicine at the University of Melbourne (MB BS, 1946; MD, 1949; PhD, 1958). Graduating in 1946, he won scholarships for his residency at the Alfred Hospital. On 28 February 1947 he married Norma Margaret Mitchell, a nurse, at the Toorak Presbyterian Church.

It was then usual for specialist doctors to spend time in Britain, but Hudson was among the first to undertake both local and North American training. He studied at Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago (1949–50), and as a Nuffield Foundation scholar at St Mary’s Hospital, London (1950–51). Returning to Melbourne in 1952, he was a research fellow at the Baker Medical Research Institute, completing his doctorate part time on adrenal and pituitary hormones using cane toads. From 1956 he was a physician in the Alfred Hospital diabetes and metabolic unit. Winning a Fulbright scholarship, he studied steroid chemistry at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, in 1958 and 1959. Meanwhile, he held commissions in the Citizen Military (1948–54) and Citizen Naval (1955–79) forces, rising to the rank of surgeon lieutenant commander (1961).

Hudson was appointed to the inaugural chair of medicine at Monash University in 1962. For ten years he led a multidisciplinary teaching and research department at Prince Henry’s Hospital and established its Medical Research Centre (later the Prince Henry’s Institute). In 1972 he was appointed a National Health and Medical Research Council senior principal research fellow at the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine, where he became associate director and head of clinical studies. He finished his career as medical director (1983–88) at the Royal Southern Memorial Hospital, Caulfield.

Modern endocrinology developed from the ability to measure hormones. Hudson helped establish assays for steroid and peptide hormones, particularly testosterone and inhibin. He was an international authority on testicular function and performed many studies of androgen physiology, male infertility, and male contraception. An inspiring leader and expert mentor, he attracted local and overseas postgraduate students and senior scientists to work with him. He observed the highest standards of medical practice and scientific rigour. With an open mind, he sought rapport with colleagues and was careful with advice and statements: when in doubt saying, ‘I pass!’ (Personal knowledge).

Active in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) (member 1949, fellow 1959), Hudson served on its council and various committees from 1957, and later as president (1982-84). From 1968 he oversaw improvements in the education of physicians, particularly the accreditation of training positions, research requirements, and flexible programs for women. As president he established the biographical Roll of the RACP. Beyond Australia, he was a fellow (1967) of the Royal College of Physicians and held honorary fellowships of similar organisations in the United States of America (1975), Canada (1981), and Singapore (1982).

Hudson was co-founder (1958) and president (1966–68) of the Endocrine Society of Australia (ESA), president (1980–84) of the International Society for Endocrinology, and chair of the Sixth International Congress of Endocrinology in Melbourne in 1980. He was a member (1973-79) of the World Health Organization’s task force for research on male contraception and was the first chairman (1987-89) of the Fertility Society of Australia’s reproductive technology accreditation committee.

Hudson’s physical appearance complemented his dramatic personality: of middling height, bow-tied, and with an ever-present cigarillo, he had a round head with prominent inquisitive eyes and an expressive mouth. He had presence. Besides people and medicine, his loves included classical music, literature, and fine wine. He was president (1986–88) of the Metropolitan Golf Club and delighted in fly fishing the Howqua River and Lake Eucumbene.

Appointed AO in 1985, Hudson was awarded an honorary doctorate of medicine by Monash University in 1993. His health began to deteriorate in the 1980s and he suffered a chronic but undiagnosed progressive illness with humorous stoicism. In 1991 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although an agnostic, he was full of religious quotations, such as ‘I am thrice blessed’ (Personal knowledge). Survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, he died on 3 December 1997 at South Caulfield and was cremated. Two awards were named in his honour: the Bryan Hudson medal, presented annually to the highest-marked RACP examinee, and the ESA’s Hudson award for clinical endocrinology. In 2015 the amalgamated Monash and Prince Henry’s institutes of medical research were renamed the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, recognising his role in their history. The RACP in Sydney and the Hudson Institute each hold portraits.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Baker, Gordon. ‘Physician Led Hormone Research.’ Australian, 19 December 1997, 13
  • Baker, Gordon, Henry G. Burger, and John P. Coghlan. ‘Bryan Hudson AO. MB BS 1946, MD 1949, PhD 1958, FRACP, FRCP(Hon), FACP(Hon), FRCP(Canada), 1923-1997.’ Chiron: Journal of the University of Melbourne Medical Society 4, no. 1 (1998): 50-51
  • Burger, H. G. ‘Bryan Hudson AO, MB BS, MD, PhD, FRCP, FACPHon, FRCPSHon (Canada).’ Medical Journal of Australia 169, no. 1 (1998): 5
  • Coghlan, John P., and Henry G. Burger. ‘Leader in Male Hormone Research.’ Age (Melbourne), 15 December 1997, C2
  • Harding, Philip E. ‘The History of the Endocrine Society of Australia.’ In To Follow Knowledge: A History of Examinations, Continuing Education and Specialist Affiliations of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, edited by Josephine C. Wiseman, 43–49. Sydney: Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 1988
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Winton, Ronald. Why the Pomegranate? A History of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Sydney: Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 1988

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Citation details

H. W. G. Baker, 'Hudson, Bryan (1923–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2021, accessed online 16 June 2024.

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