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Herbert Roy Sear (1886–1962)

by Audrey Tate

This article was published:

Herbert Roy Sear (1886-1962), radiologist, was born on 16 February 1886 at Medindie, Adelaide, second son of Walter George Sear, draper, and his wife Harriett, née Jones. The family moved to Sydney in 1897. Educated at Sydney Grammar School and at the University of Sydney (M.B. Hons, 1910) where he won a Blue for boxing, Roy worked as a junior resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown. In 1912 he was appointed resident radiologist at the hospital, in a period before formal radiological qualifications had been established. He later became senior radiologist and head of the department at R.P.A.H., and honorary radiologist at other Sydney hospitals. As a captain in the (Australian) Army Medical Corps, Militia, he played a major part in setting up the radiology department of the 4th Australian General Hospital, Randwick, during World War I.

On 20 May 1918 Sear was appointed temporary major, Australian Imperial Force. He served in England with the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, before returning to Sydney where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 15 July 1919. At St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Rockhampton, Queensland, on 3 September that year he married Dorothy Muriel, a medical practitioner and daughter of F. H. V. Voss. From 1912 Sear had assisted the radiologist Herschel Harris; made a partner, he took over the practice when Harris died in 1920. He carried out both diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy, and, in association with a number of surgeons, treated thyrotoxicosis.

In 1935 Sear was elected president of the radiology section of the British Medical Association's congress, held in Hobart. That year he helped to establish the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiology. When the association became the College of Radiologists (Australia and New Zealand) in 1949, he was made a foundation fellow; he was to be president (1951-52) and a life member (from 1957) of the renamed College of Radiologists of Australasia. He was also a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (1938) and of the Faculty of Radiologists, Britain (1939), and an honorary member (1939) of the Australian Orthopaedic Association. The University of Sydney had awarded him a diploma in radiology in 1938.

Despite chronic heart disease—the legacy of rheumatic fever in childhood—Sear earned worldwide recognition as a radiologist, particularly for his work on bone diseases and congenital abnormalities of the skeleton. In London in 1952 he delivered the Skinner lecture to the Faculty of Radiologists of Great Britain: he spoke on congenital bone dystrophies and their correlation. As a young man he had attended evening-classes at Julian Ashton's Sydney Art School under Ashton and Elioth Gruner: diagrams thus became an important feature of his lectures, adding to his reputation as a gifted teacher.

A 'thorough gentleman', invariably courteous and punctual, Sear brought to radiology high ideals, a sense of duty and a 'staunch code of conduct'. He enjoyed golf, gardening and philately. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, he died on 24 November 1962 at Rose Bay and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1 (Syd, 1988)
  • J. Ryan et al, Australasian Radiology (Syd, 1996)
  • A. Tate, Shadows and Substance (Syd, 1999)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 27 Apr 1963, p 635
  • Journal of the College of Radiologists of Australasia, 7, 1963, p 7.

Citation details

Audrey Tate, 'Sear, Herbert Roy (1886–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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