Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Traugott Bernhard Zwar (1876–1947)

by Benjamin K. Rank

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Traugott Bernhard Zwar (1876-1947), surgeon, was born on 20 June 1876 at Stockwell, South Australia, son of John Zwar, homoeopathic doctor, and his wife Anna, née Kaiser, Lutherans who had left Saxony in 1849. Albert and Henry Zwar were his cousins. Educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Bernard commenced medical studies at the University of Adelaide; after the temporary closure of the clinical school in 1898, he continued his course at the University of Melbourne (M.B., 1899; Ch.B., 1901; M.D., 1902) where he graduated with first-class honours and the exhibition in medicine.

After serving as senior resident surgeon at the Melbourne Hospital (1900-01) and resident medical officer at the Austin Hospital (1901-04), Zwar travelled to England and Germany for postgraduate study. Returning to the University of Melbourne, he graduated M.S. (1908), joined the staff of St Vincent's Hospital as honorary anaesthetist and became surgeon to out-patients; from 1911 he worked in the latter capacity at the Melbourne Hospital. In private practice he shared rooms in Collins Street and worked in close association with Dr Leslie Scott Latham, brother of (Sir) John Latham.

A captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps from 1912, Zwar was appointed major in the Australian Imperial Force in October 1914 and allotted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital. He tended the wounded at the Gallipoli landing and later served in Egypt. Invalided home in February 1916, on 4 May at Hawthorn he married with Presbyterian forms Essy Craig, a nurse.

At the Melbourne Hospital, Zwar was honorary surgeon to in-patients from 1919 and honorary consulting surgeon from 1935; he was also a member of the committee of management from 1925 and president in 1937-45. He won acceptance for and implemented the move of the hospital to its site in Parkville. Lecturer in surgery at the university in 1924-35, he was elected to its council in 1935 and served as deputy chancellor in 1943-44.

In the wider medical community Zwar undertook myriad responsiblities. A councillor (1922-37) of the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association, he was president in 1929. He served, as well, as president of the Melbourne Medical Association (1922-23), and as chairman of the Nurses' Board of Victoria (1924-27) and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Research in Pathology and Medicine (1937-47). A founder of the College of Surgeons of Australasia (1927), he belonged to the Medical Board of Victoria, the advisory committee of the Repatriation Commission, and the Anti-Cancer Council. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1941.

Gruff, sincere and lovable, 'Zeddie'—as he was affectionately nicknamed—was a keen golf, tennis and bridge player, an active member of the Wallaby Club and a voracious reader. He created a beautiful garden at his Malvern home. Although students joked about his quaint, formal and rather stiff ways, colleagues respected his honesty and purpose, straightforwardness and loyalty. Survived by his wife and son, Zwar died at his home on 16 January 1947 and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £15,633; his portrait by Charles Wheeler is held by the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Kenny (ed), The Founders of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (Melb, 1984)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 26 Apr 1947.

Citation details

Benjamin K. Rank, 'Zwar, Traugott Bernhard (1876–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 29 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]


20 June, 1876
Stockwell, South Australia, Australia


16 January, 1947 (aged 70)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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