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The Origins and Early History of the Haematology Society of Australia

These notes were compiled following the discovery, at the time of the ninth Annual General Meeting in Perth in
August 1970, that the minute book for the Annual General Meetings contains no entry before that of the third
Annual General Meeting, which was held in Sydney in 1964. There is however a second minute book for meetings
of the Council of the Society and from this book it is obvious that the first meeting of the formally constituted Council
was at St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, on 9 February 1962.

A minute book for the first and second Annual General Meetings many have been kept and may later be found, in which
case these notes should still have some value, by way of supplement. Nevertheless, none of the early papers and notices
lent to me contain any reference to a general or business meeting of the Society at the time of the first annual meeting in
Melbourne in 1962. On the other hand, 'a Business Meeting of the Haematology Society of Australia was held in Adelaide
on 13 October 1961 at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science. A Constitution was adopted, and the following
were proposed as Councillors:

  • Dr J Bonnin 
  • Dr P Brain 
  • Dr G C de Gruchy 
  • Dr J McLean 
  • Dr W R Pitney 
  • Professor N Robson 
  • Dr J J Sullivan 
  • Dr R Walsh 
The office-bearers elected by the Council were:
  • President: Professor Robson 
  • Vice-President: Dr J McLean 
  • Secretary and Treasurer: Dr G C de Gruchy'. 
A second 'General Business Meeting' was apparently held at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, on 28 August 1963
at the time of the second annual meeting.

The reconstruction of the early history of the Society would not have been possible without the help of a great
many people who have lent notes and papers or have written of their personal recollections Professor de Gruchy
has been most helpful, and unduly modest in his account of the early history. Others who have given valuable help
include Mr J A Bonnin, Professor J V Dacie, Dr JA McLean, Professor W R Pitney, Professor H N Robson, Dr R J Sawers,
Professor R J Walsh and the present Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, Dr J C Biggs. A preliminary draft of these
notes were submitted to the Council of the Society in Canberra on 16 October 1972. The present notes are an expanded
and amended version of that draft, written after some further investigation and in the light of helpful comments by
members of the Society.

It is obvious that the prime mover in founding the Society was Professor de Gruchy. Apart from its general objects, one
of the earliest aims of the Society was to attract a meeting of the International Society of Hematology to Australia. A
further stimulus to the foundation of the Society at the particular time it occurred was given by the prospect of a visit
by Professor Dacie to Australia in 1962, and the first annual meeting was arranged to coincide with that visit.

The earliest record of the origins of the Society is a letter from Professor Robson to Professor (then Dr.) de Gruchy dated
17 November 1960. It refers to 'the proposal which has been mooted that an association of haematologists should be formed'
and enclosed a draft letter to be sent to the College of Physicians. The draft was signed by de Gruchy, Pitney, Walsh and Robson.
It is likely that the letter finally sent on 25 July 1961 was also signed by Dr J A McLean. It asked that the Council of the College
consider 'the holding of a plenary session of the proposed association and the College in Melbourne in 1962. That letter was
headed 'Australasian Haematological Association'. The Honorary Secretary of the College wrote to Professor Robson on
2 August 1961 agreeing to the proposal and noting that Dr G C de Gruchy would be responsible for the arrangements.

Other early records include notes of a discussion on the constitution of the 'Australian Society of Haematology' between
de Gruchy and Walsh, dated 17 March 1961. Even earlier, on 25 January 1961, de Gruchy wrote to Pitney about the
proposed Australian Haematological society. He mentioned 1962 as an appropriate year to have a first meeting, considering
the planned celebrations of the centenary of the Medical School in Melbourne. Reference is made elsewhere in the early records
to 'a draft letter for wider circulation to those interested'. The College of Pathologists of Australia was informed of the proposal
to form 'a Haematology Society of Australia' late in 1961. In a letter dated 11 October 1961, the Honorary Secretary of the
the College welcomed the proposal and agreed that it would be convenient if the Society met immediately following the College
meetings. The name 'Haematology Society of Australia' seems to have been decided upon late in 1961.

The first annual meeting was held at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, on 7 and 8 August 1962, with a plenary session with the
Royal Australasian College of Physicians at the University of Melbourne on the afternoon of 8 August. Sir McFarland Burnett,
Professor J V Dacie and Professor Carl Moore took part in that session. A photocopy of the printed programme will now be
placed in the minute book of the Society.

The second annual meeting I can personally recall. As mentioned above, it was held at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, on
28 August 1963, with a plenary session on Leukaemia with the College of Pathologists held at the Royal Australasian College
of Surgeons on the morning of 29 August. Dr F W Gunz was a guest speaker at that meeting. There was a notable dinner at
the time of the second annual meeting, held in the Hotel Australia during a power strike. The third and later annual meetings
are recorded in the present minute book of the Society.

Professor de Gruchy attended a meeting of the International Society in Mexico City in 1962 when it was agreed that the 1966
International meeting should be held in Australia. This gave a great impetus to the life of the Haematology Society of Australia.
Professor de Gruchy was president of the International Society at that time and the success of the International meeting was
ensured by the splendid work done by so many members, especially those living in Sydney and particularly the joint secretaries
of the International meeting, Professors W R Pitney and R J Walsh.

A G Baike
10 August 1973

HSANZ was pleased to celebrate 60 years with a booklet honouring the careers and achievements of some of our Members, both long-standing and more junior. It is a celebration of collegiality, collaboration and ideas. If you would like a hard copy, please contact the HSANZ office.

Download a PDF copy now.


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