Lives of the fellows

William Murray Ivan Maxwell

b.6 January 1924 d.15 May 2010
MB BS Melbourne(1947) MD MRCP(1954) MRACP(1955) FRCP(1977) FRACP FAMA

William Murray Ivan Maxwell (‘Murray’) was an expert in thoracic diseases and a leading member of the medical fraternity in Australia. Born in Melbourne, he was the son of Ivan Maxwell, a consultant physician who developed an expertise in what was then the new specialty of allergy. Educated at Melbourne Grammar School, he studied medicine at Melbourne University and the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH).

After qualifying, he worked his passage to the UK as a ship’s doctor and did house jobs at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. He passed the MRCP in 1954 and travelled back to Australia.

On his return to Melbourne, he again worked at the RMH for a time, where his growing interest in thoracic medicine was encouraged by Clive Hamilton Fitts [Munk's Roll, Vol.VIII, p.152]. In 1956 he established lung function testing in the hospital, publishing his results as 'The clinical value of lung function tests: a review of 90 cases' (RMH clin rep, 1958, XXVI).

Eventually he moved to the Western General Hospital as an honorary physician and then Prince Henry’s Hospital where he was appointed to a senior position. For seven years he also taught at Trinity College, Melbourne, before moving to Monash University.

From its very early years he was active in the Thoracic Society of Australia; he was their second honorary secretary from 1964 to 1968, and president from 1983 to 1985. During his presidency, the society held a highly successful joint meeting with the British Thoracic Society in Adelaide. In the Australian Medical Association, he was president of the Victorian branch and chairman of their federal assembly.

He had a passion for music and was a fine baritone in his youth, with a penchant for Schubert’s lieder. Other favourite composers were Bach and Wagner, and, in 2004, he shocked the staff of the nursing home in which he lived by telling them that he had bought tickets for Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Adelaide. In spite of being nearly blind and unable to walk, he managed to persuade a member of his hotel staff to wheel him into the concert hall and was in raptures for all 15 hours.

For many years he made a point of taking his family camping at Easter and he also loved watching sport. He was a great organiser of convivial lunches at the Melbourne Club and even planned his own funeral using his trademark sharpened pencil. Fortunately he had three nieces who were musically gifted and able to play the Bach compositions he chose.

When he was studying medicine at Melbourne University he fell in love with Joan Eggleston, a fellow student. They both travelled to London as ship’s doctors and married there in 1951. They had four children.

During the 1990s he began to lose mobility in his legs and lost most of his sight to macular degeneration. When he died he was survived by his sisters, Marianne and Rosemary; children Christopher, Richard Philip and Katherine; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

RCP editor

[Sydney Morning Herald; Thoracic Society News - both accessed 23 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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