Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frank McCallum (1890–1946)

by Margot Kerley

This article was published:

Frank McCallum (1890-1946), medical practitioner and public-health administrator, was born on 26 May 1890 at Ararat, Victoria, son of Australian-born parents Alexander McCallum, Wesleyan minister, and his wife Lelia Agnes, née Williams. Educated at the Friends' High School, Hobart, Warrnambool College, Victoria, and Wesley College, Melbourne, Frank entered Queen's College, University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1917; D.P.H., 1921; D.P.A., 1945). On 26 November 1914 he suspended his studies and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; after two months with the 6th Field Ambulance at Gallipoli in 1915, he was invalided home and discharged. He then completed his undergraduate course and in December 1917 was commissioned captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, A.I.F. In 1918 he served with a number of units in France. His appointment terminated on 18 March 1920 in Australia.

On the recommendation of his friend J. H. L. Cumpston, McCallum joined (1920) the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Customs and was posted to Brisbane as a quarantine officer. In 1922 he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship to study public health and epidemiology in the United States of America and Britain. He attended Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and the London School of Tropical Medicine. The Royal College of Physicians, London, and the Royal College of Surgeons, England, jointly awarded him (1925) a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene. Based at the Department of Health's central office in Melbourne from 1924, he was medical secretary to the international Pacific health conference in 1926. His father had officiated on 16 January that year when McCallum married a 26-year-old civil servant Kate Annie Hosking at Queen's College, Parkville. Kate died in 1929; she and Frank had no children. Following a term (1927-29) as director of epidemiology, he was appointed chief medical officer at the Australian High Commission, London, with responsibility for the medical assessment of migrants.

While in Britain, McCallum represented Australia at world health forums and served on the committee of the Office International d'Hygiène Publique, Paris. In 1932 he returned to Melbourne and was promoted senior medical officer in Canberra. He published (either alone or in collaboration with Cumpston) articles on international hygiene, an epidemiological report on an outbreak of smallpox, and histories of smallpox and intestinal infections in Australia. His International Hygiene (Canberra, 1935) was based on lectures he had given over thirteen years at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney.

Deputy-chairman (1943) of the medical survey committee appointed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Services, McCallum was later a member of the medical planning committee. On 19 June 1945 he succeeded Cumpston as director-general of health. Cumpston had written in support of the appointment that McCallum's 'experience—international and national, in tropical medicine, nutrition, public health, and social medical planning—has been exceptionally wide'. McCallum's potential as director-general was cut short by illness. He died of complications of pyelonephritis on 25 September 1946 at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, and was cremated. His colleagues and patients mourned the loss of a steadfast and humane man.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, 23 Nov 1946
  • A1928 items 1020/20, 215/626, CP268/3 item McCallum, F. (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Margot Kerley, 'McCallum, Frank (1890–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 May, 1890
Ararat, Victoria, Australia


25 September, 1946 (aged 56)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.