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Sir Henry Simpson Newland (1873–1969)

by Neville Hicks and Elisabeth Leopold

This article was published:

Henry Simpson Newland (1873-1969), by unknown photographer, 1932

Henry Simpson Newland (1873-1969), by unknown photographer, 1932

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6071

Sir Henry Simpson Newland (1873-1969), surgeon, was born on 24 November 1873 at Kensington, Adelaide, eldest son of Simpson Newland and his wife Jane Isabella, née Layton. His early years were spent at Marra station on the Darling River, New South Wales, but in 1876 the family moved to Adelaide. Educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Newland studied medicine at the University of Adelaide and graduated, sharing top place, in 1896. In 1902 he was awarded the university's first master of surgery degree.

From 1898 to 1902 Newland undertook postgraduate studies at London Hospital (M.R.C.S. (Eng), L.R.C.P. (Lond), 1898; F.R.C.S. (Eng), 1900); he was surgical registrar in 1901. He observed paediatric surgery at Great Ormond Street and was senior house surgeon for six months at the Poplar Hospital for Accidents. He visited European capitals to observe leading surgeons, commenting sharply upon some. In early 1902 he returned to Adelaide, where he joined the lucrative general practice of Dr R. H. Marten, gaining, incidentally, the benefit of Marten's interest in neuro-surgery. In 1908, following visits to England, Paris and the United States of America, including three months in 'the inspiring atmosphere' of Johns Hopkins medical school, he decided to limit his work to surgery. On 14 July 1910, in his old school's chapel, Newland married Ellen Mary Lindon.

Newland was a surgeon in the heroic tradition. As with many other surgeons, his skills were enhanced by World War I during which he did remarkable work in transforming battered faces. He served with the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt, Lemnos, Gallipoli and France, gaining experience of military surgery at Ypres and Passchendaele. He was lieutenant-colonel commanding the Australian section of Queen Mary Hospital, Sidcup, where pioneer work in plastic surgery was carried out. In 1918 he represented the Australian Army Medical Corps at the Inter-Allied Surgical Conference, Paris. Later he wrote the section on facio-maxillary injuries in volume 3 of the Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services (1943). Newland was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in dispatches in 1917; he was appointed C.B.E. in 1919.

He gave extensive honorary service to the (Royal) Adelaide and Adelaide Children's hospitals, was consultant surgeon to the Repatriation General Hospital, and held surgical lecturing appointments in the university's medical school in 1912-38. Although his work was soundly prepared, and he was dedicated and enthusiastic, he was an unexceptional lecturer. Best remembered as a great plastic surgeon, he also pioneered thoracic and neuro-surgery.

Newland was an energetic medico-politician in both the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the British (later Australian) Medical Association. A founder of the R.A.C.S., he was its president from 1929 to 1934. He was also president of the South Australian branch of the B.M.A. in 1919-21, president of the federal council (1934-49) and a vice-president of the B.M.A. (London) in 1932-65. He received gold medals for service from the A.M.A. (1949) and the B.M.A. (1955). Newland pushed voluntary health insurance and the 'freedom of choice' ideology in medical payment systems: a founding shareholder of the Mutual Hospital Association, he was chairman of directors for sixteen years. His leadership of the B.M.A. in the 1940s was decisive in defeating the Chifley government's proposals for a national health service.

Newland followed the voluntary service tradition of Adelaide Club men. He helped to found St Mark's, the Anglican university residential college, and chaired its council in 1927-54. He was a chairman of directors of the Australasian Medical Publishing Co. Ltd, federal president of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, a founder of the South Australian Tuberculosis Association Inc., and an original director of Santos Ltd. In 1941 he became president of the pro-conscriptionist War Service League. He had been knighted in 1928.

In his youth Newland had rowed; he took up bowls at 91. He loved old books and antique silver. Austere, courteous, and conservative in dress, he could be dictatorial; but in later years he showed tolerance for the actions and opinions of younger generations. He suffered from deafness for many years.

Newland died on 13 November 1969 and, after a service at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Walkerville, was cremated. His wife, son and two daughters survived him. Portraits hang in the A.M.A., St Mark's College and the Adelaide Club, Adelaide, and in the R.A.C.S., Melbourne, and Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Grenfell Price, A History of St Mark's College (Adel, 1967)
  • J. E. Hughes, A History of the Royal Adelaide Hospital (Adel, 1967)
  • J. E. Hughes, Newland, Sir Henry Simpson 1873-1969 (Adel, 1967)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 18 Jan 1958, 31 Oct 1964, 25 Apr 1970
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 15 Nov 1969
  • Newland family papers (State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

Neville Hicks and Elisabeth Leopold, 'Newland, Sir Henry Simpson (1873–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Henry Simpson Newland (1873-1969), by unknown photographer, 1932

Henry Simpson Newland (1873-1969), by unknown photographer, 1932

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 6071

Life Summary [details]


24 November, 1873
Kensington, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


13 November, 1969 (aged 95)

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.