Dr George Frederick Vernon Anson

Personal Details

CRN: 
715488
Family name: 
Anson
Given name(s): 
George Frederick Vernon
Familiar name: 
Eric
Previous/other family name: 
None
Date of birth: 
22/11/1892
Date of death: 
05/06/1969
Place of birth: 
Wellington, New Zealand
Nationality: 
New Zealand
Other nationality: 
None
Title: 
Dr
Subsequent title: 
None

Education and Qualifications

General education: 

Wanganui Collegiate School, New Zealand; Trinity College, Cambridge where he was demonstrator in both Anatomy and Anaesthesia in 1912; St Thomas’s Hospital, London becoming very interested in anaesthesia and developed an anaesthetic machine which was marketed.

Primary medical qualification(s): 

MRCS LRCP, 1916.

Initial Fellowship and type: 

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship: 
1949
Other qualification(s): 

BA(Hons), Cambridge, 1913 & MA 1968; DA, RCP & S, 1935.

Professional Life and Career

Postgraduate career: 

Anson joined the RNVR as a medical student (an ancestor was the 18th century Lord Anson, the ‘Father of the Royal Navy’) and joined up after graduation in 1916. He served briefly as a Temporary Surgeon before transferring to the seaman branch and, as a Lieutenant commanding the coastal motorboat ‘HMS Thames’ (and subsequently a flotilla), being wounded in action in 1917. Later he received an award from the Navy for contributing to the development of these vessels into motor torpedo boats. He was working as a naval surgeon again at the end of the war, and returned briefly to New Zealand before coming back to the UK to work as a resident anaesthetist in Birmingham. After 18 months he entered private practice and was appointed the first Senior Anaesthetist to the Children’s Hospital as well as Assistant Anaesthetist to the General Hospital. Henry Featherstone invited Anson to join his practice, but colleagues and family in New Zealand persuaded him to return there. The first New Zealander with specific training to practice anaesthesia full time, Anson was Senior Visiting Anaesthetist to Wellington Hospital from 1922 until 1940. Such was the demand for his services that he would fly to Palmerston North for a morning list and back to Wellington for the afternoon! During WW2 he served in the RNZAMC, first in the Middle East and then in the Hospital Ship ‘Oranje’, ending the war as a Lieutenant Colonel and appointed OBE. In 1945 he applied successfully to be the Director of Anaesthetic Services to the public hospitals in Auckland, a post he held until retirement, then returning to part-time private practice until he was 70.

Professional interests and activities: 

In Wellington, Anson was much involved with the NZ branch of the BMA, serving on its Council (1923-30), as Honorary Secretary (1930-35) and President (1935-8). When he started in Auckland after the war most anaesthetics were fairly basic, and were administered by house officers or part-time GP anaesthetists. Anson set about improving the quality of both techniques and staff with the result that training in Auckland became recognised for DA and Fellowship examinations. A New Zealand Society had been proposed in 1939, but the war delayed its formation until 1948 when Anson was elected its first President, a role he filled until 1953. With establishment of the Australasian Faculty he became a Foundation Fellow (alphabetical primacy making him Fellow No 1!), and he was involved with the NZ Committee from 1956 to 1959. Apart from his two Foundation Fellowships Anson received the Orton Medal for ‘Meritorious services to anaesthesia in Australasia’ from the Faculty in 1969, the first New Zealander to receive this award. After his death the NZ Society established the Anson Memorial Foundation to encourage research and education in anaesthesia, and to bring overseas speakers to the country.

Other biographical information: 

In addition to a busy career, Anson had a wide range of interests, many related to shooting and fishing, and he was Honorary Vice-President of the Wellington Kennel Club. He was Chairman of the Wellington Acclimatisation Society in the 1930s and was also interested in hydroponics, adding growing orchids and roses to these horticultural interests in retirement, as well as taking up cabinet-making, photography, cooking and home-brewing.

Author and Sources

Author: 
Prof Tony Wildsmith
Sources and any other comments: 

An obituary appeared after Anson’s death (NZMJ 1969; 70: 128), but the definitive biography was written by Dr Basil Hutchinson (NZMJ 2008; 121: 125-131), and I thank him for his kind assistance with this summary.