MAITLAND, Sir Herbert Lethington (1868-1923)

MAITLAND, Sir Herbert Lethington (1868-1923)
son of Duncan M. Maitland, surveyor, was born at Tumut, New South Wales, on 12 November 1868. He was educated at Newington College and the university of Sydney, where he graduated M.B., Ch.M., in 1892. He was appointed to the resident staff of the Sydney hospital and served for more than two years both as house-surgeon and house-physician. He started practice in 1894 in Elizabeth-street, Sydney, three years later was appointed honorary assistant surgeon at the Sydney hospital, and gained much valuable experience. He was appointed honorary surgeon in 1902 and was largely instrumental in the improvement of the hospital facilities. The hospital became a clinical school for the university in 1908 and Maitland was made clinical lecturer. He was much interested in the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association, was a member of the council from 1904 to 1915, and president 1911-12. When the South Sydney hospital was founded he became honorary surgeon and held the same position at the Royal Hospital for Women, and the Coast hospital. During the 1914-18 war Maitland was attached to the military forces at Randwick hospital and did very valuable work. He had a severe attack of influenza in 1919, but apparently completely recovered from the effects of it. In 1920 a lecture hall was built at the Sydney hospital which was called the Maitland lecture hall, and contained a tablet inscribed "Erected in Recognition of the Services to this Hospital as Surgeon and Lecturer by Sir Herbert Lethington Maitland 1920". In 1921 he became senior surgeon of this hospital and though working hard he was seldom tired, and showed no signs of weakness of health. However, on 23 May 1923, after a few minutes illness, he died at his rooms before medical assistance could reach him. He married in 1898, Mabel Agnes, daughter of Samuel Cook, who survived him with two sons. He was knighted in 1915.
Maitland was an athlete in his youth and played first grade Rugby football. He was of a kindly disposition, solicitous for his patients, and had many friends. As a clinical lecturer he was clear in his exposition and eminently practical and instructive. His work for Sydney hospital was of great value as was also his experience when dealing with war-wrecked soldiers. As a surgeon he had great dexterity and manipulative skill, and when an emergency arose could always find the safest way of dealing with it. It was stated at the time of his death that he had operated on 4000 cases of appendicitis without losing a patient. His experience was purely Australian; he was the first graduate from an Australian university to receive an honorary surgical appointment at a Sydney hospital, and he never sought to enlarge his experience by visiting Europe. He also wrote little and his reputation was practically confined to his own country. A paper contributed to the Australasian Medical Gazette in 1906 on his method of extirpating malignant growths in the neck led, however, to his being invited to contribute an article on this operation to J. F. Binnie's Manual of Operative Surgery. In Australia he was recognized as an authority in surgery and a master of surgical technique. A memorial to his memory was founded by subscription at the Sydney hospital.
The Medical journal of Australia, 23 June 1923, 7 June 1924; The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1923; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1923.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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