Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Inglis McLaren (1882–1957)

by Frank Engel

This article was published:

Charles Inglis McLaren (1882-1957), psychiatrist and missionary, was born on 23 August 1882 in Tokyo, younger son of Samuel Gilfillan McLaren and his wife Marjory Millar, née Bruce. He was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, and Ormond College, University of Melbourne (M.B., 1906; B.S., 1907; M.D., 1910). In 1907-08 he was resident medical officer at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital and next year worked at the Children's Hospital. From schooldays he was active in the Australasian Student Christian Union and the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions; as Australasian chairman of the latter, in 1910 he toured Australian and New Zealand universities and colleges.

On 22 August 1911 at Alma Road Presbyterian Church, St Kilda, McLaren married Jessie Reeve, a missionary's daughter and travelling secretary of the Christian Union. In September, as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, they sailed for Korea where McLaren was assistant superintendent and in 1915-22 superintendent of Paton Memorial Hospital, Chinju. In 1917, following the death of his brother Samuel Bruce, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving as medical officer to the Chinese Labour Battalion, France. In 1922-39 he was professor of neurology and psychological medicine, Union Christian Medical College, Severance Hospital (later medical faculty, Yonsei University), Seoul, undertaking postgraduate study in Vienna in 1929. He worked again at Chinju Hospital in 1940-41.

Furloughs provided opportunity to revisit Melbourne. In July 1927 McLaren lectured there on the relationship between body and mind, publishing his paper in the Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, 1928. In introducing him (Sir) Richard Stawell referred to his 'great intellectual ability … exceptionally fine character, steadfast and earnest … high purpose in life … [and] exceedingly pleasant temperament'. In 1934 McLaren lectured for the Melbourne University Student Christian Movement and delivered the Beattie Smith Lecture on Insanity, taking as his subject the interpretation and treatment of psychoneurosis and psychoses (published in the Medical Journal of Australia, 1936). In 1941 he wrote 'The Principle of Health' as the Sir Richard Stawell oration. He contributed to British, Chinese and Japanese medical journals and discussed the Japanese Shinto shrine issue in religious journals.

During the 1930s McLaren argued against Japan's enforcement of emperor-worship. On Japan's entry into World War II he was imprisoned for eleven weeks, interned and later repatriated to Melbourne, arriving in November 1942. He gave talks throughout Australia for the Army Education Service and to church audiences on Japan and Korea and on the basis of peace being reconciliation. In 1943-44 he published Preface to Peace with Japan, Eleven Weeks in a Japanese Prison Cell and They Kept the Faith. Chairman-editor of a Presbyterian report on communism and the church, he also wrote Christianity, Communism and the World Situation (Melbourne, 1952).

In 1949 McLaren stood as an Independent for the Federal seat of Melbourne against the minister for immigration Arthur Calwell in protest at 'the provocative, and dangerous administration' of the White Australia policy; he expressed his views in The Christian Faith and the White Australia Policy. He was first chairman of Friends of Vellore, a Victorian support group for the medical college and hospital in South India. In 1951 he organized the John Fisher Williams Memorial Foundation in memory of the Melbourne psychiatrist.

Tall and trim, McLaren had as his most striking aspects alert, attractive eyes and a disarming smile. He was a man of compassion, courage and ceaseless intellectual activity, a pioneer of psychiatry and a lifelong explorer of the New Testament. He was revising a manuscript on the life of Jesus when he died at Kew on 9 October 1957. He was buried in Box Hill cemetery, survived by his wife and daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • E. W. New, A Doctor in Korea (Syd, 1958)
  • K. Fitzpatrick, PLC Melbourne (Melb, 1975)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 21 Dec 1957
  • Australian Student Christian Movement, Australasian Intercollegian, 1910, 1911
  • C. I. McLaren's personal ‘Medical and General Record’ (typescript, privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Frank Engel, 'McLaren, Charles Inglis (1882–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


23 August, 1882
Tokyo, Japan


9 October, 1957 (aged 75)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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