Access to the College collections may be gained by contacting
the curator on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (view contact details).
The Cowlishaw Collection is a large collection of books on
medicine and related subjects, containing many early, classic and
rare editions. It was purchased in 1943 from the Estate of Dr
Leslie Cowlishaw, a physician and bibliophile in Sydney. The
Collection is housed in the Council Room, in purpose-built
bookcases donated by the Faculty of Anaesthetists.
To honour the memories of Leslie Cowlishaw and Professor
Russell, and to promote greater knowledge of medical history, the
College holds the Cowlishaw Symposium every 2 years. Speakers are
invited to present papers on topics drawn from the books in the
Cowlishaw Collection. A feature of the symposium is the Kenneth
Fitzpatrick Russell Memorial Lecture, on a subject related to
anatomy and/or medical history. Established in 1996, the symposium
is now one of the important events in the College's calendar.
About Leslie Cowlishaw - Leslie Cowlishaw
(1877-1943) was a physician, medical historian and book collector.
He was born into a wealthy Sydney family and, by the time he
entered the medical school in the University of Sydney, he had
already undertaken two trips to England and Europe. A third trip
was made following his graduation in 1906, and it was at this time
that he began seriously to collect books.
In 1908 he set up practice in Cooma (NSW) and married the
following year. In 1914 he enlisted with the Australian Imperial
Force (AIF) and served as medical officer on Gallipoli and in Egypt
with the 12th Light Horse Regiment. He was evacuated to England in
1915, where he met Sir William Osler, who greatly encouraged him to
expand and strengthen his library, and named him "the bibliophile
from the bush". Back in Australia, he set up a new practice at
Lindfield, where he (and his books) remained for the rest of his
On his death, in 1943, his collection was offered to the Royal
Australasian College of Physicians, but in the middle of the war
they were unable to accept it. News of Cowlishaw's collection came
to the attention of Kenneth F. Russell (later to become Professor
of Anatomy and Medical History in the University of Melbourne), who
contacted the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The College
President, Sir Alan Newton, immediately agreed to the purchase of
the collection in its entirety. In 1945 the Cowlishaw Collection
was established in the library of the College, but it is now a
separate collection. It is one of the finest collections of
historical medical books in Australasia.
Russell's catalogue (PDF 4.37MB) of the historical books in the
Cowlishaw Collection and the Gordon Craig Library (1979) is now
Leonard Murphy Collection
Leonard James Thomas was born in 1914 and educated at University
of Melbourne. Having chosen Urology as a career, he applied for the
Gordon Craig Travelling Scholarship in Surgery of the Royal
Australasian College of Surgeons. When he was awarded this
scholarship, he travelled extensively during 1948 and 1949 in the
United Kingdom and in the United States.
He became a Member of the Urological Society of Australasia in
1948, President of that society in 1958 and 1959, and elected a
fellow of the society in 1972. He was consultant urologist to the
Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital from 1958, consultant urologist to
the Royal Australian Air Force from 1946 and visiting urologist to
the Repatriation Department from 1957.
Early in his medical career he developed a passionate and
enduring interest in the history of medicine and became an
internationally recognized authority on Leonardo Da Vinci. He wrote
many articles in these fields and, over many years, worked on the
production of a history of Urology. The, book entitled The History
of Urology, was published in 1972 to widespread acclaim. Leonard
was later awarded an honorary M.D. from Melbourne University for
Leonard married Beatrice Henderson in 1940 and for 54 years they
shared a lively interest in art, literature, music and,
particularly, a love of gardening.
Extract of Eulogy, G Joyce (1994)
View a list of books (PDF 60 KB) in the Leonard Murphy
Collection by title.
The College possesses an impressive collection of portraits,
dating from the 18th century onwards. In the main, those
represented have been closely associated with the College,
especially the presidents. But there are many other portraits of
those who have earned a place in the history of medicine.
Many are by well-known artists, including Judy Cassab, Murray
Griffin, Robert Hannaford, Ivor Hele, George Lambert, Sir John
Longstaff and Joshua Smith. Among the portraits are those of:
- Sir Hugh Devine, one of the founders of the College, and
President 1939-1941 (W.B. McInnes)
- Sir Thomas Dunhill, Surgeon to King George V, King George VI,
and Queen Elizabeth II (James Gunn)
- Sir Edward ("Weary") Dunlop, surgeon on the Burma railway (Jill
- Lord Lister, inventor of antiseptic surgery (F. Hodge after
- Farquhar McCrae, first surgeon in Victoria (Georgiana
- Hamilton Russell, one of the founders of the College (George
- Sir George Syme, one of the founders of the College, and first
President 1927-1929 (John Longstaff)
- Frederic Wood Jones, anatomist and anthropologist (W.B.
A fully illustrated catalogue, Portraits at the Royal Australasian
College of Surgeons, by A.W. Beasley, is available from
The College has built up a substantial collection of surgical
instruments, dating mainly from the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Some of these carry important associations, such as a
set of scalpels used by Lord Lister. The collection contains both
general and specialized sets of instruments. In addition, there are
tools and apparatus associated with surgery, such as a Lister
In the College collections there is a rich variety of material
that the College has acquired through gift, donation and bequest,
and especially by presentation. This includes furniture, sculpture,
ceramics, glass, silverware and pewter, as well as photographs and
works of art on paper.
Open House Melbourne 2016
The College is again opening its doors to the general
public as part of the Open House Melbourne
weekend. A number of buildings not normally open to the
public will be participating. If you would like to be
involved or volunteer as a tour guide we would like to hear from
For further information please contact the
The Cowlishaw Symposium is held every two years to honour the
memories of Dr Leslie Cowlishaw and Professor Ken Russell, and to
encourage research into the Collection.
Read the 11th Cowlishaw
Symposium 2016 Abstracts and Biographical notes (PDF
For further information contact the College
The Heritage Group
The Heritage Group held their first function on Friday 8 April
2011. This group has been established to support the ongoing work
of conservation and preservation of the College's Collections.
Different items from the College Collection will be presented by a
South Australian Medical Heritage Society
The South Australian Medical Heritage Society was founded in
1983. The original objective was to establish a medical museum in
which to display instruments, apparatus and equipment relevant to
the medical history of South Australia. But due to financial and
other constraints this did not eventuate.
However, an opportunity came through the development of digital
media to create a virtual museum. Even though the real objects are
scattered across a range of locations, they are brought together as
a collection on the Society's website. Each object is imaged, with
accompanying description and background information. The website is
an active one, receiving 45,609 hits in 2015.
The Society also arranges a number of meetings throughout the
year, at which talks are given on themes relating to South
Australian medical heritage.
Telephone: +61 3 9276 7447