Mr James Stuart Guest AM OBE VRD

Born on 11 July 1916, James Stuart Guest grew up in Mildura. He attended Mildura High School and later Geelong Grammar School before enrolling at the University of Melbourne and graduating in science (1938) and medicine (1941) – the first year of the medical course to be shortened due to the war. He resided in Trinity College, was a skilful and enthusiastic oarsman and received a ‘Blue’ for rowing.

After graduating in medicine James Guest enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy and served three years as medical officer in HMAS Westralia (Landing Ship Infantry), which was engaged in seven major Pacific landings. He received the award of OBE for his war service.

With the war over, James Guest undertook surgical training in London where he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Upon his return to Melbourne he was appointed Surgeon to the Alfred Hospital, which was the focus of his surgical practice. He taught and examined in anatomy, examined for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, was Board Member and later Chairman of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, was on the Board of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Honorary Naval ADC to the Governor of Victoria. As a member of the Gull Force Medical Aid Team, Guest made annual visits (1972-84) to Ambon, Indonesia to provide medical assistance.

In 1979 James Guest was invited to become a Director and medical advisor to the recently formed Jack Brockhoff Foundation. Working closely with Sir Jack, vetting applicants for grants, he gained a wide knowledge of the needs of the disabled and disadvantaged in the community and of wider medical and social issues. He visited and assessed many hospital research organisations requesting funding and his work for the Foundation advancing philanthropic support now occupied much of his time.

As Chairman of the Foundation (1990-2005) James Guest was very active in promoting the work of the Foundation and extending its recognition in the community. The Foundation has had a profound and positive impact throughout Victoria and work is being continued and expanded through its recent endowment of a Chair in this University, the Jack Brockhoff Chair of Child Health and Wellbeing. In 2009 the Directors of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation recognised James Guest’s exceptional service by appointing him Patron.

Although he entered the University to study science, James Guest’s subsequent switch to medicine was greatly influenced by Professor Wood Jones, who occupied the Chair of Anatomy from 1930-37. Wood Jones had already achieved world distinction as a scientist, as a master of human anatomy and as a leader of biological thought and had put forward a most controversial theory on the evolution of man. His passion for these subjects and for medical history had a major impact on Guest and greatly influenced his career. On a lengthy field trip with the McCoy Society, Guest got to know Wood Jones personally, they corresponded during the war and met up again in London where Wood Jones was now Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons.

A keen medical historian, James Guest was President of the Medical History Society of Victoria and wrote several papers on Wood Jones. He delivered the Thomas Vicary Lecture (on a topic of anatomical or surgical historical interest) at the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1989 and this was titled ‘John Hunter’s disciple – Frederic Wood Jones’. Guest was Inaugural President of Friends of the Zoos and in 1984 was recognised by his old college by being elected a Fellow.

James Guest has served his discipline with distinction, as surgeon, anatomist, medical historian and as an astute and perceptive leader. His extensive service to medicine and the community was recognised in 1982 by Membership of the Order of Australia.