Sir John Ramsay (1872-1944)

Launceston General Hospital

Sir John Ramsay (1872 - 1944) Surgeon and Administrator

John Ramsay was born on December 26 1872 in Glasgow. He was the fourth son of John and Margaret Ramsay. In 1878 the family migrated to Melbourne.

A brilliant student, John junior attended Wesley College on a scholarship from Prahran Primary School and in 1893 graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Melbourne with a Beaney scholarship in pathology.

After a year as resident medical officer at the (royal) Melbourne Hospital and some months in Auckland, New Zealand, Ramsay was appointed house surgeon at the Launceston General Hospital, Tasmania. He showed and extraordinary aptitude for surgery and a special interest in X-rays.

Ramsay was one of a small group of doctors in Australia that helped in the development of the new surgery which followed the discoveries of Lister. This was remarkable for a small hospital doctor. He was exceptional in having his work recognised as of a comparable standard to larger teaching hospitals on the mainland.

Ramsay was also a gifted administrator and from 1912 he was in private practice at “St Margaret’s”- a hospital which he designed and built himself, and later had consulting-rooms at Nelumie.

Sir John Ramsay’s other career highlights:

  • Resident medical officer, (Royal) Melbourne Hospital 1894
  • Resident medical officer, Auckland 1895
  • He bought back from England one of the first X-ray machines for use at Launceston General Hospital in 1896
  • House surgeon, Launceston General Hospital 1896-1898, Surgeon superintendent 1898-1912
  • In 1906 he performed the first successful resuscitation of the heart by massage in Australia, opening the thorax of a patient who had clinically died during an operation
  • During World War 1 he was a major in charge of surgery at the Hornsey Military Hospital in Launceston
  • Honorary consulting surgeon, Launceston Hospital 1912-1917 and then 1925-1944
  • President, Tasmanian branch, British Medical Association 1925
  • Foundation fellow, (Royal) Australasian College of Surgeons 1927
  • Member of the board of management from 1921, chairman from 1933
  • Chairman, Northern Tasmanian division, St John Ambulance Association for 17 years (commander brother of the order of St John of Jerusalem 1937)
  • Member of the executive of the Medical Council of Tasmania, Crippled Children’s Association, Anti-Cancer Campaign, and Red Cross Club
  • First chairman, Equity Trustees Co. of Tasmania and the Goliath Portland Cement Company
  • Director of board, Kiwi Polish Company

The Sir John Ramsay Memorial Library at the Launceston General Hospital was established in his memory in 1944.

If you wish to learn a little more about the Ramsay's go to James and Diana Ramsay Foundation website