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Sir Kenneth Beeson (Bob) Noad (1900–1987)

by William H. Wolfenden

This article was published:

Sir Kenneth Beeson (‘Bob’) Noad (1900-1987), physician and neurologist, was born on 25 March 1900 at Maitland, New South Wales, fifth child of James Beeson Noad, carpenter, and his wife Mary Jane, née Alexander, both born in New South Wales.  Educated at East Maitland Boys’ High School, Bob studied medicine at the University of Sydney (MB, 1924; Ch.M., 1924; MD, 1953) and subsequently trained at Sydney Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Women and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.  After he obtained membership of the Royal College of Physicians, London, in 1929, he worked at the Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest, Brompton.

Back in Sydney, Noad was befriended by the physician Alan Holmes à Court, who often left him in charge of his practice when he was overseas.  In 1935 Noad became an assistant physician at Sydney Hospital and on 24 January that year at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, he married Eileen Mary Ryan, a nurse; they had no children.  He rose to the position of senior physician at the hospital.  His other great professional interest was the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, of which he was a foundation fellow (1938).

Appointed as a major, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 22 May 1940, Noad served in the Middle East (1940-42) with several units, including the 2/5th Australian General Hospital, which was sent to Greece in April 1941.  In Papua and New Guinea in 1944-45 he headed the 2/11th AGH’s medical division as a lieutenant colonel.  His AIF appointment terminated in Australia in March 1946.

Noad became a consultant neurologist at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord.  A fellow (1948) of the Royal College of Physicians, London, in 1953 he obtained his doctorate of medicine for his work on the neurological manifestations of scrub typhus (tsutsugamushi fever), which he had started during his war service in New Guinea.  Interested in diseases of the brain, spinal cord and nerves, he helped to develop clinical neurology in Sydney but retained a keen interest in general medicine.  His opinion on difficult cases was sought by many doctors in isolated country towns, which he visited, often in small aeroplanes.  He was the student supervisor at Sydney Hospital for many years.  An excellent teacher, he had the rare ability to focus on the salient features of a clinical problem against the background of confusing detail.

A councillor (1951, 1953-66) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Noad served on the board of censors, as censor-in-chief (1958-62) and as president (1962-64) of the college.  For many years he was on the college committee for South-East Asia and was keen to extend facilities for medical training there.  While president of the college, he helped to organise courses jointly with the University of Singapore through the Colombo Plan.  Guest lecturers were provided and students from South-East Asia were able to take the membership examination in Singapore and then come to Australia for further training.  For this imaginative initiative, which extended Australian medicine and prestige to the South-East Asian region, he was awarded an honorary D.Litt. by the University of Singapore.  In 1970 the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, conferred an honorary fellowship on him.

Noad’s writings on cerebellar atrophy (1941) and on tsutsugamushi fever (1953) appeared in the journal Brain.  An article on the ocular features of carotid artery disease appeared in Transactions of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia (1959).  His articles covered a wide range of topics, including renal stones and hyperparathyroidism, in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery (1940).  He presented lectures for the University of Sydney’s postgraduate committee in medicine, the Hudson-Deck memorial lecture at Sydney Hospital, the Bruce Hunt memorial oration, the Sir Edward Stirling lecture and others.  With a delightful and limpid literary style, he frequently referred to English prose and poetry, reflecting his wide reading and philosophical mind.  He was a charming companion with a good sense of humour and a hearty laugh.

An able pianist, in his earlier years Noad was active on the orchestral committee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.  He was president (1964-68) of the Medico-Legal Society of New South Wales and vice-president (1968-76) of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences (NSW & ACT).  Travelling widely in Australia and abroad, he generously entertained overseas guests in Australia.  He was knighted in 1970.  His memory gradually failed and Sir Kenneth died on 24 May 1987 in his home at Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, survived by his wife; he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Winton, Why the Pomegranate? (1988)
  • W. H. Wolfenden, 'Noad, Sir Kenneth Beeson', in J. C. Wiseman and R. J. Mulhearn (eds), Roll of the Australasian College of Physicians, vol 2 (1994)
  • M. J. Eadie, The Flowering of a Waratah (2000)
  • Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol 20, no 1, 1987, p 199
  • B883, item NX70338 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information
  • personal knowledge

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Citation details

William H. Wolfenden, 'Noad, Sir Kenneth Beeson (Bob) (1900–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 June 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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