Lives of the fellows

Richard Maxwell Biggins

b.15 October 1907 d.11 January 1977
MB BS Melb(1930) MD(1938) MRCP(1939) MRACP(1940) FRACP(1951) FRCP(1967)

Max Biggins was born in Launceston, Tasmania, the son of Montague Herbert Biggins, publican, and his wife May Biggins (née Tynan). He received his early education at Launceston High School after which he attended De La Salle College, Malvern, Victoria, and Melbourne High School. Following graduation from the University of Melbourne in 1930, he had appointments as resident medical officer successively at St Vincent’s Hospital, the Children’s Hospital, and the Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne. Subsequently he entered general practice in Echuca, a country town in Victoria, situated on the river Murray.

In 1938 he married Mary Lilian Harding, the daughter of John Harding, a farmer and grazier. Together they travelled to England in 1938 in order to develop Max’s ambition to become a consultant physician. He was admitted to membership of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1939 and then returned to Australia, securing appointments as honorary physician to outpatients at St Vincent’s Hospital, which is a clinical school in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Melbourne. As was commonly the case in Australia at that time, he also resumed general practice, this time in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton, while he built up a successful practice as a consultant physician in Collins Street, where most of the specialist practitioners had their consulting rooms at that time. In 1942 he joined the Australian Army Medical Corps and served until 1945, attaining the rank of major.

From his earliest days at St Vincent’s, Max Biggins excelled as a teacher and found great enjoyment in this vocation, extending beyond his rostered sessions at the hospital to additional tutorials where the students were fascinated by his encyclopaedic knowledge. In 1964 he accepted an appointment as dean of the clinical school at St Vincent’s Hospital and in 1966 became an associate dean (clinical) within the Faculty of Medicine.

He was a man of great integrity, noted for his kindly manner in all his conversations with patients, relatives, students and staff. Of all the etimates one heard of him, it was his kindness which was most frequently the subject of comment.

His wife Lilian was a lively, intelligent woman, and their marriage brought great strength and happiness to Max, as did their two children John and Rosemary. Contented at home and in his professional activities, he developed his varied interests with quiet enthusiasm. He was an expert gardener, excelling in the growing of azaleas and camellias, and had a fondness in his garden for English trees. He loved furniture, china and fine music, and gradually acquired a superb collection of original Australian paintings in the traditional style.

When Max was dean of the clinical school at St Vincent’s he established a Dean’s prize as a personal gift, selecting for the award a student who had not only high academic distinction but who had also revealed those qualities most likely to promise the future development of a generous and conscientious physician. After his death his family ensured that the annual award would be continued by establishing the RM Biggins prize in medicine in final year.

JJ Billings

(Volume VII, page 45)

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