Obituary

Murray Linton Verso (MBBS 1940)

1916—2010

Murray Linton Verso, a retired haematologist and respected medical historian, died at St Georges Hospital, Kew, two weeks short of his 94th birthday, one of the last surviving graduates, if not the last, from the MBBS class of 1940.

Born in 1916, in South Grafton, northern New South Wales, Murray was educated in Grafton and Wagga Wagga before entering the University of Melbourne. After graduation, he spent a year as a resident at the Marrickville Hospital in NSW where he met staff nurse, Jean Perry, whom he married in 1942.

In 1941, Murray joined the Australian Army as a commissioned officer serving in various regimental and field ambulance units in Australia and New Guinea. From 1944-46, he served with the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit, describing his role, responsible for the health and hygiene of the local village people and native hospitals in Madang, Lae and Wewak, as one of the most interesting in his career.

His experiences in the tropics awakened him to the importance the laboratory played in medical diagnosis and Murray decided to specialise in pathology. After training and some years with the Commonwealth Health Department, Murray ran a private one-man pathology practice in Preston, before joining the Red Cross in 1955 as Assistant (later Deputy) Director of the Blood Bank, for 27 years.

Murray made a significant contribution to the development of blood transfusion in Victoria. The Red Cross recognised his service to the development of blood transfusion in Australia with its Distinguished Service Award in 1977. His first book, The Evolution of Haemoglobinometry and Essays on the History of Haematology was published in 1981, shortly before his retirement.

In 1956, Murray became one of the 26 founding members of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. He later became an Honorary Fellow of the College. Throughout his career, he maintained an interest in the important issue of quality control in blood transfusion and served on the relevant subcommittee of the RCPA. He was an examiner for the fellowship of the Australian Institute of Medical Laboratory Scientists.

Murray also became an early member of the Royal College of Pathologists soon after it was founded in the UK in 1965. He was made an Honorary FRCP in 1977. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, a Fellow of the International Society of Haematology and a Member of the International Society of Blood Transfusion.

From his university days, Murray maintained a keen interest in history, medical history in particular. His first medico- historical paper was published in Speculum, the medical students’ magazine. An active member of the Victorian AMA’s Section of Medical History, serving as secretary and as president before it became the Medical History Society of Victoria, Murray was made a life member. For more than 30 years he was an active member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. He was made a fellow in 1973 and served as president from 1974 to 1978. He stressed that to get a proper perspective on history, an historical society should blend the expertise of professional historians with the enthusiasm and special knowledge, in various fields, of intelligent amateurs

One of Murray’s earliest papers was ‘A Medical Account of a Voyage on a Convict Vessel’ published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1950. ‘The Literary Doctor’, ‘Blood Transfusion in the Early Nineteenth Century’ and ‘Doctors and Daguerreotypes’, an account of the contributions medical men made to the development of photography, were some of his other papers.

On several occasions, Murray reviewed medico-historical books for The Age newspaper including the late Ken Russell’s history of The Melbourne Medical School, published in 1977. For many years, he worked on the draft of a book on medical novelists but was unable to find a publisher.

In retirement, Murray developed macular degeneration and became legally blind. This limited his ability to write and to travel. Nevertheless, when in his eighties he spent nearly ten years laboriously researching and writing Legends and Larrikins, his personal reminiscences of various branches of his family and their origins in Australia. It is an entertaining and informative resource for lovers of family history in general, and especially for those families to whom he was related.

Throughout his long life, Murray loved learning: he attended weekly French and Italian classes until a few weeks before his death and retained his exceptional memory for names, dates and places and his good humour until the end.

Murray is survived by his two sons and daughter, his seven grandchildren and by several great grandchildren. His wife, Jean, died in 1993.

Murray Warren Verso, MBBS 1972

Dr Murray Verso