Lives of the fellows

David Alexander Ferguson

b.14 April 1920 d.12 March 2002
AM(1986) MB BS Sydney(1942) MRACP(1955) FRACP(1971) MD(1971) FAFOM(1982) FFOM(1982) FRCP(1988) FRCP Edin(1988)

David Ferguson was widely regarded as the father of occupational health in Australia. He was born in Sydney, the son of Eustace William Ferguson, a public health pathologist, and Jessie Ferguson. After schooling and university in Sydney, he was appointed as a resident medical officer at the Royal North Shore Hospital. During the Second World War he served as a captain in the Australian Imperial Force.

After the war, he returned to the Royal North Shore Hospital as an outpatient physician, before combining a position as a research medical officer at the school of public health and tropical medicine, University of Sydney, with a spell as an outpatient physician at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney.

While based at the school of public health and tropical medicine, Ferguson started lecturing in occupational health (in 1966), and quickly progressed through a series of academic positions until he was appointed as professor of environmental health in 1976. In line with his commitment to occupational health, he was instrumental in persuading the University of Sydney to change the name of his chair to that of occupational and environmental health. In addition to his chair, Ferguson also acted as director of the school of public health and tropical medicine.

In parallel to his academic career, Ferguson was also very active professionally, and was the first censor and later president of the then newly formed Australian College of Occupational Medicine. He also served as president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine.

After retirement, Ferguson was appointed as a consultant to the newly established National Occupational Health and Safety Commission of Australia. In recognition of his contribution to occupational health, he was conferred the title of emeritus professor, University of Sydney, and also had the building housing the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety named after him. He was also awarded state honours in the form of the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1986 “For the service to medicine particularly in the field of occupational and environmental health.” He is survived by his wife, Betty, whom he married in 1942, one son and two daughters.

Wai-On Phoon

[J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2003 33 73]

(Volume XII, page web)

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