Dr Douglas George Renton

Personal Details

Dr Douglas George Renton

09/03/1899 to 02/05/1955

Place of birth: Parkville, Victoria

Nationality: Australian

CRN: 715523

Education and qualifications

General education

Australian public school; University of Melbourne

Primary medical qualification(s)

MB BS, Melbourne, 1922

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)


Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

After two years of hospital appointments in Melbourne, Renton set up in rural practice in Rochester, Victoria in 1924, but returned to Melbourne as an anaesthetist in 1929. He was honorary assistant anaesthetist at the Alfred (1929-30) and Melbourne (1930-40) Hospitals, achieving full honorary status at the Alfred (1930-46) and Austin (1930-38) Hospitals before resigning other appointments to become part-time salaried anaesthetist to the neurosurgical unit at the Alfred Hospital until his death.

Professional interests and activities

Not only was Renton of a generation of anaesthetists who had to teach themselves, he used his mechanical engineering skills to make all of his own equipment, this allowing him to be the first Australian to use carbon dioxide absorption techniques. This work also laid down the standards for valve and absorber design, leading to the provision of advice, first to manufacturers, and later to the military forces. He shared in the design, production and clinical trial of better equipment, and then helped to ensure its supply to the expeditionary forces. Renton had joined the Australian Society at its inception in 1934, and was its President for 1950-1, but his major contribution was the formation of the Australasian Faculty in 1952. He was elected interim Dean at the first meeting, and became the first constitutional Dean in 1953, but his term of office was cut short by his premature death. As well as the UK Fellowship he was awarded the DA(RCP&S) in 1939 and the Australasian Fellowship in 1954.

Other biographical information

Appendicitis in 1924 left him with adhesions which required subsequent major surgry and impaired his health permanently, and his specialization was the result of the then perception that anaesthesia was a career for someone with a disability. Anxiety stemming from the reliance on private practice income (major hospital appointments were essential, but rarely salaried) is thought to have further undermined his health, but his work did much to establish with surgeons the role of the specialist.

Author and Sources

Author: Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: I thank Dr Christine Ball for reviewing this commentary and for help in obtaining information not contained in the formal obituary - see Anaesthesia 1956; 11: 182-5