• Full Name:
    Dr Wilbur Knibloe Bouton
  • Role:
    Registered practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Homœopath, Physician and surgeon
  • State:
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:
[1855 - 1936]

Wilbur Knibloe Bouton was born in United States of America (probably in Buffalo, New York), son of James Daniel Bouton a clergyman and Harriet Eliza Knibloe. Educated at the Boston University School of Homœopathic Medicine (ChB 1884; MD 1885), Dr Bouton arrived in Melbourne in October 1885. At age 30 he was appointed as the first Resident Medical Officer at the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital from 1885 to 1891, selected because he was considered to be a “pure straight homœopath”. There were thirteen applicants for the position, most of whom were from America.


According to a publication called Waterbury Republican, under the heading of "the reward for pluck and perseverance" Wilbur:


.... wanted to study medicine, but had no money. He learnt the trade of a machinist, then spent two years in learning to be a toolmaker, and by that time had saved enough to take a year at Wilbraham Academy. Then he went to Waterbury and worked at his trade, living in the most frugal way and joining a hose [presumably meaning 'house'] company to secure lodgings without charge. When he had saved money enough he took the three years' medical course at Boston, still following his trade during the vacations. Soon after he graduated from the medical school he went into a competitive examination for a hospital appointment at Melbourne, Australia, and has just received word that he is the successful candidate.


Dr Bouton was the resident surgeon of the hospital until August 1891 when, after a service of six years he left the hospital to start in private practice.


From 1891 until his death in 1936 (13 May), he was the honorary surgeon in the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital. Dr Bouton was elected to membership of the Board of the Hospital in 1894, in 1909 became vice-President, and subsequently in 1918, President until 1936. By then he was so deeply involved in the Hospital that people occasionally referred to the Hospital as “Dr Bouton’s Hospital”.


Dr Bouton was chiefly responsible for attracting many American doctors to the Hospital, via his contacts in Boston and the Boston University School of Homœopathic Medicine.


An article in the July 20 1895 edition of “The Australasian” recorded that: “Dr WK Bouton’s little printed list of “Don’ts for Hospital Nurses” is an all-round lecture in itself, full of useful hints for either amateur or professional nursing.”


He first appeared in the 1886 edition of the Australasian Medical Directory (the official list of registered medical practitioners), and continued being registered, including in the 1915 edition.


The 1892 Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory recorded that Dr Bouton’s premises were on the south side of Collins Street at the top end, on the corner of Collins and Spring Streets (number 7). In the same year he married Mrs Mary Jeannette Muffitt, nee Spenser, who was matron of the hospital in 1886-92.


In 1909 and 1917 there were references in The Argus newspaper to "Dr Bouton's private hospital" in Victoria Parade, Fitzroy.  However, there is no indication of the exact location.


In 1906 Dr Bouton was Honorary Vice-President of the International Homœopathic Congress, American Institute of Homeopathy. In the same year he was Deputy Consul General for the United States in Australia.


Dr Bouton was known for using a bicycle for house calls to his patients.  It was reported that in August 1910, while cycling along St Kilda Road during the evening, in answer to a professional call the front wheel of his bicycle collapsed and he fell heavily. He continued his journey on foot and attended his patient.  Later medical examination showed that Dr Bouton had in fact fractured two ribs.


On 13 May 1936 he died of heart failure at 7 Collins Street, aged 80, just 4 months after his wife died. He was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery, next to his wife. His estate was inherited by his stepdaughter Gertrude Mary, his wife's daughter from a previous marriage to Joseph Henry Muffitt whom she had married in 1875 in Concord, New South Wales.


In July 1936 the Hospital's Committee decided that the name of the main operating theatre of the new hospital would be called the 'The Bouton Theatre' in his honour.


[Note that Dr Bouton’s name is incorrectly spelled in several other sources as “Wilbur Knobble Bourton”.]


See also the entry in Australian Dictionary of Biography.


© Barbara Armstrong


  • Created:
    Monday, 25 May 2009
  • Last modified:
    Sunday, 10 August 2014