• Full Name:
    William Thomas Doyne
  • Role:
  • Occupation/s:
    Civil engineer
    Bridge & Railway designer
  • State:
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:



William Thomas Doyne, a civil engineer and builder of bridges and railways, was appointed to the committee of the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary at the first annual meeting of the Dispensary held on 2 March, 1870. (The Dispensary had commenced operation on 22 November 1869, initially managed by an 'interim committee'.)


Although William was an engineer, his career taking him to England, Belgium, Germany, Wales, Crimea, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia, as well as his native Ireland, he was also interested in matters of health and hygiene.


While in Australia, he wrote several letters to the editors of various newspapers (for example to the Sydney Morning Herald in February 1861 and to Melbourne's newspaper, The Argus in August 1861), about the appalling lack of sanitation in those cities. His letters cited his experience during the Crimean War where he had charge of the Army Works corps. There he had considerable opportunities to test disinfectants and introduced chemical disinfection techniques into the stables, camps and barracks, and hospitals. He also ensured that the transport ships which carried the soldiers and horses were disinfected with a powder, and could vouch for its efficacy. In 1856 he used other methods to treat the sewerage emptying into the river at Southampton. He recommended the use of easily available and cheap methods to purify Melbourne and its surrounds, to 'save hundreds of lives, thousands of cases of illness, large sums of money, and much suffering and loss of labour'. He saw these measures as a short-term solution while longer-term, better solutions were investigated.


In February 1861 William was invited to plan the survey and construction of the Launceston-Deloraine railway in Tasmania. While there, on 14 January 1862 William wrote to the Launceston Examiner, one of several articles which promoted and explained the use of the Turkish Bath in Launceston. At that time he was 'superintending the construction of a bath in Launceston'. He stated that he had the advantage of having been under Dr Brereton's medical care and taking the bath for two months'. (Dr Brereton was one of Sydney's most notable homœopaths at that time.)


Long before his treatment by Dr Brereton and his appointment to the committee of the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary, it appears that his interest and support for homœopathy may have commenced during his time in Crimea. It is likely that there he had contact with Jamaican-born Mary Seacole who had established a hospital/hostellery on the edge of the battlefield, near the railway. Mary used her homœopathic knowledge to successfully treat the sick. William took this interest and knowledge with him when he came to Australia.


Mr Doyne paid a subscription to the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary in February 1870.  Initially he was appointed to the provisional committee of the Dispensary.  He was then appointed to the Committee of Management in November 1870, and subsequently in 1871 and 1872. He paid a subscription in 1873, but was not appointed to the committee.


William Thomas Doyne was the seventh of eleven children born to the Rev. John Doyne and his wife Ellen Armstrong. He was born on 15 April 1823 at Carlow, Ireland. He died at Neptune Street, St Kilda, Victoria on 29 September 1877.



With thanks to Ken McInnes who brought my attention to Mr Doyne's association with the early days of the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary.  His paper titled 'William Thomas Doyne, a pioneer in metal truss bridges - a career shaped by changing, challenging circumstances' details Mr Doyne's remarkable professional activities.


For further information about William Thomas Doyne see the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


©   Barbara Armstrong     


  • Created:
    Sunday, 06 August 2017
  • Last modified:
    Tuesday, 08 August 2017