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John Cadell (Jack) Windeyer (1875–1951)

by Rodney P. Shearman

This article was published:

John Cadell (Jack) Windeyer (1875-1951), obstetrician, was born on 27 November 1875 at Raymond Terrace, New South Wales, second son of John Windeyer, an English-born farmer, and his native-born wife Isabella Mowbray, née Cadell, and grandson of Archibald Windeyer. Jack was educated at The King's School, Parramatta, and the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1899; M.D., 1926).

After working at Sydney Hospital as resident medical officer, he went overseas with his friend (Sir) George Wilson. They trained together in obstetrics and gynaecology at University College Hospital, London, the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, and in Vienna. In 1901 Windeyer qualified as licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, London, and member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England. Returning to Australia that year, he worked in the pathology department of Sydney Hospital, specializing in the pathology of the female genital tract. At St James's Church, Turramurra, he married Aileen Spencer Evans on 17 October 1911 with Anglican rites.

Appointed honorary assistant surgeon in 1904 to the Royal Hospital for Women, Paddington, and senior surgeon in 1919, Windeyer maintained an association with this institution throughout his career. In 1909 he persuaded Professor (Sir) Thomas Anderson Stuart that clinical (bedside) teaching in obstetrics was an essential extension of didactic lectures. At Paddington in 1912 he began an ante-natal clinic, the longest surviving continuous clinic in Australia. He recognized the special needs of new-born infants and in 1926 established the position of honorary neo-natal paediatrician (filled by Margaret Harper) at the Royal Hospital when such a post was a singular exception rather than the rule.

Teaching was an integral part of Windeyer's life: he was examiner in gynaecology for the university (1915-20), and an acting lecturer (1918), lecturer (1920-25) and foundation professor of obstetrics from 1925. His slogan was always 'to try and make childbirth safer for the mother'. As dean of the faculty of medicine (1930-31 and 1939), he was ex officio a fellow of the university senate and a director of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; he was also a member of the university cancer research committee.

Windeyer wrote widely on clinical subjects related to obstetrics and gynaecology. His best known publication was the pamphlet, Methods of Ante-Natal Abdominal Palpation (1926), which had formed the basis of his doctoral thesis: under the title Diagnostic Methods, it ran to six editions.

A foundation fellow of the (Royal) Australasian College of Surgeons (1927), he was elected a foundation fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, in 1929 and chaired its dominion reference committee which was established in Australia in 1932. Windeyer presided over the obstetrics and gynaecology section at several national meetings of the British Medical Association. He was a committee-member (1918-29) and honorary consulting physician (from 1923) of the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies; he served on the Nurses' Registration Board (1925-41), the editorial committee of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery (1928-48), the obstetric research committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (1937-41), the Medical Board and the New South Wales Post-Graduate Committee in Medicine; he was chairman of the medical appointments advisory committee of the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales, a trustee of the King George V Memorial Fund (for maternal and infant welfare) and a member of the special medical committee investigating maternal mortality in 1939.

An impressive and likeable man, 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, with dark (later grey) hair, Windeyer was known as the 'Grand old man of the Royal'. His manner was firm rather than aggressive. He shook his large head during lectures just as he did in conversation. To Bruce Mayes, his successor, as to others, it was 'inconceivable' that Windeyer could be known by any other sobriquet than 'Daddy'.

After retiring from his chair in 1941, Windeyer gave more time to his hobbies of gardening and fishing. A keen tennis player well into his sixties, he belonged to the Union and University clubs. Survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, he died of a coronary occlusion on 15 August 1951 at Wahroonga and was cremated. Of his children, Ella and John graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • P. N. Walker-Taylor (ed), Senior Year Book, University of Sydney Medical School (Syd, 1926)
  • J. Peel, The Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 1929-1969 (Lond, 1976)
  • I. A. McDonald et al, Super Ardua (Melb, 1981)
  • J. A. Young et al (eds), Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine (Syd, 1984)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 19 Jan, 16, 23 Feb 1952, pp 24, 239, 272
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Rodney P. Shearman, 'Windeyer, John Cadell (Jack) (1875–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 May 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]


27 November, 1875
Raymond Terrace, New South Wales, Australia


15 August, 1951 (aged 75)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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