BANCROFT, Joseph (1836-1894)

BANCROFT, Joseph (1836-1894)
was born at Manchester in 1836. He studied medicine and took his medical degree at St Andrews university in 1859 and later became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He practised at Nottingham until 1864, but finding the English climate too severe, emigrated to Queensland and arrived in Brisbane in that year. After a short holiday he began to practise in a residential quarter of Brisbane, and soon became esteemed as a physician and surgeon. In 1867 he was appointed resident surgeon at the Brisbane General Hospital and held this position for three years. He resumed practice in 1870, found himself in much demand, but contrived to do a good deal of research. He was the discoverer of the medical properties of Duboisia myoporoides, which was afterwards largely used in ophthalmic surgery. In 1872 he investigated the properties of pituri, another of the Duboisias, and discovered its nicotine contents. In 1877 he visited the East, Europe and Africa, ostensibly on holiday, but he could not refrain from studying diseases peculiar to each country. After his return Bancroft carried on a large practice and, in addition to his scientific research on medical problems, developed his interest in economic botany. He made many experiments in his endeavours to obtain a rust-proof wheat, showed great interest in viticulture and oyster culture, studied the diseases of the banana and sugar cane, and invented a preparation of pemmican or desiccated beef. The medical properties of numerous native plants were investigated; he prepared a pamphlet, Contribution to Pharmacy from Queensland, for the colonial and Indian exhibition held in London in 1886, and just before his death he was one of a sub-committee appointed by the Medical Society of Queensland to assist in the revision of the British Pharmacopoeia He made important researches in leprosy and became well known through his studies in filaria disease; he was the first to discover the mature parasite Filaria bancrofti. Of a kindly and genial disposition Bancroft was a leading scientist of his period in Queensland. He was at various times vice-president of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, president of the Queensland Medical Board, of the Royal Society of Queensland, and the Medical Society of Queensland. He died suddenly at Brisbane on 16 June 1894 and was survived by his wife, a daughter, and a son, Dr Thomas L. Bancroft (1860-1933), who also did valuable scientific work.
The Brisbane Courier, 18 June 1894; The British Medical Journal, August 1894; F. M. Burnet, The Medical Journal of Australia, 22 August 1942; Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. LXVIII, p. V.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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