WATSON, Archibald (1849-1940)

WATSON, Archibald (1849-1940)
anatomist
born at Tarcutta, New South Wales, on 27 July 1849, was the son of Sydney Grandison Watson, a retired naval officer who became a squatter on the upper Murray. He was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, which he entered in 1861, and when he left some six years later went to the Pacific Islands and successfully engaged in trading. Meeting Baron von Mueller (q.v.) he was advised to take up a scientific career and went to Europe to study medicine. He obtained the degrees of M.D., Gottingen, M.D., Paris, and F.R.C.S., England. After doing post-graduate work at Paris he was for some time demonstrator of anatomy to Professor J. Cantlie at the Charing Cross hospital medical school. In 1883 he went to Egypt as surgeon with Hicks Pasha's Soudan force, and in 1885 became first Elder professor of anatomy at the newly-founded medical school at Adelaide. He taught also pathology, surgical anatomy, and operative surgery. He held this position for 34 years and proved to be a teacher of remarkable personality. During the Boer war he was consulting-surgeon for the Natal field force. When war broke out again in 1914, though 65 years of age, Watson left Australia with the first expeditionary force as a major in the A.A.M.C. and became consulting-surgeon and pathologist to No. 1 A.G.H. at Heliopolis in Egypt. He returned to Australia in 1916. He resigned his university chair at the end of 1919 and for many years spent his time in travelling, visiting places as far apart as Iceland and the Falkland Islands. He journeyed round Australia gathering marine specimens and fishing, and for the last two years of his life lived at Thursday Island. He died on 30 July 1940 having completed his ninety-first year three days before. He was unmarried. A prize in his memory at the university of Adelaide was founded by public subscription in 1935.
Watson was a good linguist with a passion for travelling and a constant thirst for exact knowledge. As a teacher he would clear up the most abstruse problems in language that was vivid and picturesque, illustrating what he was saying with excellent rapid sketches on the blackboard. He did some good early work on hydatid disease, and in surgery "had an unusual appreciation of the anatomical planes of the body and the possibilities they gave of a bloodless approach". Generally he had much influence on surgery in Australia and elsewhere.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 31 July 1940; The Medical Journal of Australia, 12 October 1940; History of Scotch College.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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