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Thomas Edward Lowe (1908–1990)

by Stephen Due

This article was published:

Thomas Edward Lowe (1908-1990), medical practitioner and scientist, was born on 24 October 1908 at Northcote, Melbourne, eldest of two children of Victorian-born parents (Sir) Charles John Lowe, barrister, and his wife Clara Rhoda, née Dickason.  Tom was educated at Scotch College and the University of Melbourne (MB, BS, 1932; MD, 1934; D.Sc., 1945).  After working as a resident medical officer (1933-34) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, he travelled to London, becoming a medical registrar (1935-36) at St Mary’s Hospital and a member (fellow 1952) of the Royal College of Physicians.

Pursuing an interest in cardiology, Lowe visited medical schools in North America before returning in 1936 to Melbourne where he was appointed an honorary physician at St Vincent’s Hospital.  On 3 February 1938 at St John’s Church of England, Toorak, he married Elizabeth Ayleen Anderson.  Elected a fellow (1938) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, he was a senior demonstrator (lecturer 1939, senior lecturer 1946) in pathology at the University of Melbourne.  Appointed as a major in the Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 1 January 1943, he served in Queensland with the 117th Australian General Hospital and in New Guinea with the 2/8th AGH.  He was demobilised on 20 May 1946.

A Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1948 supported Lowe’s travel to Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America, where he gained further experience in cardiovascular surgery and the use of new technologies, including radioisotopes.  In 1949 he became director of the Alfred Hospital’s clinical research unit and the Baker Medical Research Institute.  With a team of notable investigators, including Paul Fantl (biochemistry of blood coagulation), A. J. Barnett (vascular disease and hypertension) and Winifred Nayler (physiology), he developed the Baker into a major research organisation.  His far-sighted building program (1966-69) gave the institute world-class facilities.

Lowe himself researched the control of body-fluid volume in heart failure, on which he published extensively in the 1950s, and vector electrocardiography.  In the 1960s he published articles with Nayler and others on the isolation of 'kinekard' (a cardioactive fraction of blood plasma) and on the effects of various drugs on myocardial function and regional blood flow.

Beyond the institute, Lowe served on the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (1950-73), the Life Insurance Medical Research Fund council (1959-75), the committee of the National Heart Foundation of Australia (1959-67), and the executive of the Cancer Institute Board (1971-83).  He was president of the Asian-Pacific cardiology congress (1960) and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (1964-65).  A member of the Monash University council (1961-71), he also advised the World Health Organization on cardiovascular diseases.

Appointed CBE (1967), Lowe retired from the Alfred in 1973 and from the institute the following year.  His history of the Baker was published in 1974.  Tall, reserved and scholarly, he had a polite but firm manner and a dry sense of humour.  Widowed in 1982, he married Jean York Henry at St John’s Anglican Church, Toorak, in 1986.  Survived by his wife and the son of his first marriage, he died on 12 June 1990 at Malvern and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Andrew and A. Barnett (eds), In Their Day, 1992
  • Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 2, 1994
  • Alfred Hospital Faces and Places, vol 3, 2004
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 30 September 1985, p 294
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 4 March 1991, p 363
  • private information

Citation details

Stephen Due, 'Lowe, Thomas Edward (1908–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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