Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Roland Ravenscroft Wettenhall (1882–1965)

by Bryan Gandevia

This article was published:

Roland Ravenscroft Wettenhall (1882-1965), dermatologist, was born on 13 March 1882 on the family property at Carrs Plains, near Stawell, Victoria, seventh son of Holford Highlord Wettenhall and his wife Mary Burgess, née Dennis. Marcus Edwy was his brother. From Geelong College, Roland went to the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1906) where his career was more distinguished for ability in athletics and lacrosse than for academic achievement.

On graduating, Wettenhall spent a resident period at the Hobart Hospital. Thereafter, except for war service, his medical practice was exclusively in dermatology to which he was introduced and in which he was trained by his cousin Herman Lawrence. Having married Jane Vera Creswick on 6 April 1910 at St George's Anglican Church, Malvern, Wettenhall went to London for further medical experience. With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving as regimental medical officer to the Royal Munster Fusiliers in France and on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean. He returned to Australia in 1916 and transferred to the Australian Army Medical Corps, attaining the rank of major.

Discharged in 1919, Wettenhall obtained honorary dermatological appointments at the Hospital for Sick Children and the Alfred Hospital, although his major work was to be as honorary dermatologist to the Melbourne Hospital in 1922-42. He was also dermatologist to the Repatriation Department and a consultant to the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunal after World War II. A foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (1938), Wettenhall was president of the dermatology section of the Australasian Medical Congress (British Medical Association) in Sydney in 1929. In 1937 he became president of the Victorian branch of the British Association of Dermatology and Syphilology. He was a foundation member of the Dermatological Association of Australia (Australian College of Dermatology) in 1948.

Until his retirement in 1959, Wettenhall's private practice continued to be extensive. His major interests, derived from Lawrence, were related to radium and superficial X-ray therapy which he used for a wide range of conditions; he was also a master of the ancient art of prescription writing. In later years he had some pastoral interests and a property at Mount Martha. Although 'averse to writing', Wettenhall possessed wide historical knowledge and genealogical expertise which was reflected in his presidency (1952-55) of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and election to fellow in 1962, and in his foundation presidency (1941-49) of the Genealogical Society of Victoria. He belonged, as well, to the Royal Australian Historical Society and the Australasian Pioneers' Club, Sydney.

A lover of his garden and of native wildflowers, Roly had a strong sense of family and wide cultural interests. Friendly, philanthropic and generous with his knowledge, he yet could appear autocratic. His wife's death in 1928 intensified his religious practice; he was an elder of the Toorak Presbyterian Church for almost forty years. Survived by two sons, he died at Parkville on 21 July 1965 and was buried in Brighton general cemetery.

One-third of his estate, sworn for probate at £149,509, was shared between Geelong College, St Andrew's Hospital and his local church.

Select Bibliography

  • Victorian Historical Magazine, 36, no 3, Aug 1965
  • Australian Journal of Dermatology, 1968, no 9, p 274
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 July 1965
  • Wettenhall papers (Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Bryan Gandevia, 'Wettenhall, Roland Ravenscroft (1882–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 March, 1882
Carrs Plains, Victoria, Australia


21 July, 1965 (aged 83)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria, 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.