Dr Alfred Norman Slater

Personal Details

Dr Alfred Norman Slater

13/11/1900 to 05/12/1975

Place of birth: Dunedin

Nationality: New Zealander

CRN: 715601

Education and qualifications

General education

Otago Boys’ High School; Otago Medical School.

Primary medical qualification(s)

MB BCh, University of New Zealand, 1923.

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

FRCSEd, 1933.

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

After qualifying, Slater was house surgeon in Wellington for two years before taking up General Practice in Otaki, moving to Island Bay, Wellington in 1928. This involved performing his own surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, but it was as honorary visting anaesthetist that he was appointed to Wellington Hospital in 1930, later acquiring the FRCSEd while on extended leave. Active in the TA before WW2, he volunteered for service on its outbreak and sailed with the First Echelon as medical officer on a troopship. He joined a Field Ambulance in Egypt until 1942 when the New Zealand division went to Greece where he was the anaesthetist to No 1 General Hospital. During the subsequent retreat from the beaches Slater elected to stay with the wounded and was taken prisoner. Serving as commander and senior surgeon in PoW hospitals he became incapacitated with back problems and was repatriated for surgery in 1943, thereafter deciding to restrict his practice to anaesthesia and being appointed senior anaesthetist to Wellington Hospital on a part time basis. A separate Department of Anaesthetics was created in 1953 with Slater, still part time, as its head, a position he held until he retired in 1961.

Professional interests and activities

After his war-time experiences Slater would not tolerate any nonsense from surgeons on his return to Wellington, and created a furore by being the first anaesthetist there to send accounts directly to his patients instead of to the surgeons. He was one of the small group who established the New Zeland Society after WW2, and was a founding Fellow of the Australasian Faculty in 1952. He served as an elected Board member for many years, becoming an Honorary Fellow in 1974. Beyond anaesthesia he was a member, and later Chairman, of the Board of Management of Bowen Street Hospital in Wellington.

Other biographical information

He was active in tennis, golf, cricket & bowling, and enjoyed fishing for complete relaxation. He loved Bridge and his skill at the ‘finesse’ appears to have aided his success in dealings with his German captors when a PoW!

Author and Sources

Author: Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Obituary comments (NZMJ 11/02/1976: 90-2 and 25/02/1976: 128-9) give a very full account of Slater’s life and career, with particular emphass on his time as a PoW. I thank Dr Basil Hutchinson for reviewing this account and both him and Dr Ted Hughes for providing some additional material.