Lives of the fellows

Sidney Valentine (Sir) Sewell

b.14 February 1880 d.13 March 1949
Kt(1945) MB Melb(1905) MD Melb(1910) FRACP(1938) *FRCP(1939)

Sidney Sewell was born in Melbourne, the son of Richard Blamire Sewell and his wife, Emma. He was educated at Caulfield College and was a school teacher for two years before a brilliant undergraduate career at Queen’s College, Melbourne University. The post of senior resident medical officer at Melbourne Hospital was followed by a lectureship in pathology at the University before post-graduate studies in England and on the Continent. He worked for a year with Sir Victor Horsley at University College Hospital, attended clinics at the National Hospital, Queen Square, spent some time with F. W. Mott at Claybury, and saw the researches of Sir James Mackenzie.

In Germany he worked at Wasserman’s laboratory at the time of the introduction of the arsenical 606. On his return home he was appointed physician to out-patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and gave post-graduate lectures on neurology at the University. He was greatly disappointed at being rejected for military service in 1914; he had never been robust since he had a severe infection following appendicitis in his student days, but with characteristic energy he undertook the extra duty of the care of repatriated soldiers with ‘shell-shock’.

Sewell was the perpetual student. He had an early interest in pulmonary tuberculosis and went to Brompton Hospital in 1924 to learn the technique of artificial pneumothorax, and to the Mayo Clinic, to Boston and to New York to study the management and control of tuberculosis. His object was to establish a State Tuberculosis Service in Victoria and this he did, persuading the authorities, despite criticism and unpopularity, to arrange proper financial help for sanatorium-treated patients. With the same zeal he founded the Association of Physicians of Australia with the help of Sir Richard Stawell, and followed this with consultations with the Council of the College that led to the foundation of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1938. He was vice-president, 1938-40, and president, 1940-42. For these services to medicine he was knighted in 1945.

Sewell had no bent for research, but was a gifted teacher of wide knowledge. His hobbies were his home and family, his garden of rare trees and plants, and his farm with its herd of pedigree Guernsey cattle.

In 1908 he married Alice Maud, the sister of Joseph Cunning, a senior surgeon to the Royal Free Hospital, London. They had two sons, both of whom qualified in medicine, and five daughters.

Richard R Trail

* He was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature..."

[Brit.med.J., 1949, 1, 824-5 (p); Dis. Chest, 1949, 16, 379-80; Med.J.Aust., 1949, 1, 666-8.]

(Volume V, page 371)

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