Smith

  • Full Name:
    Dr Gerard Henry Smith
  • Role:
    Homœopathic Practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Registered Medical Practitioner, Surgeon, Health Officer, Lecturer
  • State:
    Tasmania
    England
    New Zealand
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:
    1903

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)

 

[1854 - 1931]

 

Gerard Henry Smith was born on 2 May 1854 at Kidbrooke, near Blackheath, Kent, son of silversmith Stephen Smith and Mary Sophia Greaves. According to England's 1871 census he was a scholar living with his parents at Kidbrooke.

 

Gerard gained his medical qualifications (M.R.C.S. Eng, L.S.A.) in 1876. He may have been inspired to study medicine because of the influence of his uncle, Sir Thomas Smith, who was made a surgeon to Queen Victoria and then King Edward VII. According to Gerard, he assisted his uncle in his work and originally studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital where his uncle operated. Gerard also studied in Paris and Geneva. According to Gerard, he was closely connected with the Great Ormond Street Hospital for diseases of children, stating that diseases of children were his specialty.

 

In 1878 Gerard was listed as being at Glenarm House, High Road, Upper Clapton. According to England's 1881 census he was a surgeon living at The Acacias, Upper Clapton, Hackney. In 1879 he married Emily Aline Newton (1855 - 1928) and eventually they had four children - three boys and one girl - all born in the Clapton area.

 

Dr Smith formed a partnership with Thomas Vere Nicoll (who had graduated in 1877) as Surgeons and General Medical Practitioners, and by 1887 they were practising at the Acacias, Upper Clapton and at Glenarm House.

 

Although Dr Smith had received standard medical training as an allopath, around 1885 (ten years after qualifying as a medical practitioner) he took on the principles of homœopathy. Thereafter he wrote many articles and participated in the world homœopathic scene, including contributing a paper to the 1893 World Congress of Homœopathic Physicians and Surgeons. The 1897 edition of American Homeopathist (Vol. 23) contained an article from Dr Smith titled "Early Diagnosis of Spinal Caries". At that time he was listed as being Orthopaedic Surgeon at the London Homœopathic Hospital. His partnership with Thomas Nicoll was dissolved by mutual consent in 1887. It would be interesting to know if the reason was Dr Smith's homœopathic leanings.

 

In 1891 Dr Smith was living with his family at Craigholm, High Road, Upper Clapton. He later reported that during his time in Hackney he had acted on the sanitary aid committee, at times of special need on account of serious epidemics, by the request of the then health officer. This experience was to prove useful when he became the health officer for Hobart, Tasmania in 1903.

 

Dr Smith became well-known for his interests in the use of technology in medicine. By 1894 he was renowned for his writing about the use of electricity as a therapeutic tool and as a diagnostic agent. In 1896 he was a councillor of England's Victoria Institute and provided input to a talk about the Roentgen rays, showing illustrations of the laws of light and the effects of the rays. He was an original member of the London Roentgen Society and a pioneer in medical x-ray work, being in charge of such a machine at the London Homœopathic Hospital.

 

On 10 October 1900 Dr Smith arrived in Sydney aboard the "Macquarie". He had travelled as the ship's surgeon. This may have been the start of his travels to the Southern Hemisphere, leaving his wife and children behind in London. In July 1902 he travelled from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand, where he took on the practice of a local doctor who was ill. In January 1903 he moved to Hawera in New Zealand, where he acted as locum tenens for a doctor who wished to return to England for a period. He remained there until he applied for, and obtained, a position in Hobart, Tasmania.

 

On 17 October 1903 he arrived in Hobart aboard the "Oonah". On the 27th of the same month Hobart's City Council announced that, after examining the credentials of three candidates for the position of Health Officer for the City, they had decided to appoint Dr Smith, "a recent arrival in Tasmania from London". As part of the announcement they mentioned Dr Smith's prior experience in assisting the Health Officer of Hackney. However, the Central Board (on the casting vote of the medical chairman) refused to confirm the appointment, which they requested that the City Council cancel. The chief objection was that Dr Smith was a homœopath and that the other doctors in the city would not consult with him because of this, thus endangering the city.

 

However, Dr Smith had strong supporters on the City Council in the form of Alderman Gould and Alderman Crouch, the latter person stating that Dr Smith was the best candidate because he was a duly qualified medical practitioner and because of his prior experience in public health activities in England. Because of these facts, there were no reasonable reasons for the Board refusing to confirm Dr Smith's appointment. According to newspaper reports of the time, Mr Crouch characterised the opposition to Dr Smith "as coming from a sort of trades unionism on the part of those who should know better - the medical fraternity who were allopaths". "The best man had been selected and the aldermen should not be trampled on by men whose ideas were not up to date". The Committee voted that they had selected a fully qualified man, that the Central Board had not furnished sufficient reason for refusing to confirm the appointment, and that they should defy the Central Board which had no legal authority to override the choice of local health officer.

 

Therefore, Dr Smith took up his position as health officer and worked on such issues as better housing for the poor, and improved drainage and sewerage for the city.

 

At the fourth annual meeting of the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital in 1904 Dr Smith was appointed as one of the four honorary medical officers. In the following year he announced that he had commenced private practice in Hobart.

 

In addition to his medical work, he formed the Tasmanian Field Naturalists' Club and was its first chairman. He was a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania and was recognised as an expert in Egyptian archaeology, giving many talks on the topic. He was also an active parishioner of the Church of England, and worked with the Temperance Society in Tasmania.

 

According to later reports, Dr Smith had bought his first bicycle in 1870 and became one of England's first cycling champions. However, in 1905 he injured himself while riding a bicycle in Macquarie Street, receiving many cuts and suffering from concussion. He was treated at the Homœopathic Hospital.

 

At the beginning of 1907 Dr Smith announced his resignation as City Health Officer, and his intention to return to England. Prior to his departure he gave a lecture at the National Council of Women of Tasmania on the topic of Infancy and Childhood.

 

By January 1908 Dr Smith was once again practising in New Zealand, initially in Auckland. He was then asked to go to Gisborne, New Zealand, to take over the practice of a local doctor for a year, finishing at the end of January 1909. In June 1909 he was once again surgeon on a ship which was travelling to Wellington.

 

The U.K. Medical Directory for 1911 listed Dr Smith as being at 2 Randolph Gardens, Kilburn. He died in 1931.

 

©   Barbara Armstrong

       www.historyofhomeopathy.com.au

 

  • Created:
    Sunday, 13 July 2014
  • Last modified:
    Monday, 08 December 2014