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Biographical entry Smith, Louis Lawrence (1830 - 1910)

15 May 1830
London, England
8 July 1910
East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Museum curator, Physician and Politician


Louis Smith, a proponent of commercialised medicine, opened a surgery in Bourke Street, Melbourne, in 1853 which soon expanded to include a Museum of Anatomy and a Polytechnic Hall. He developed a popular approach to medicine and advertised widely.


While Smith did not invent a revolutionary treatment, make a ground breaking medical discovery or radically redefine medical practice he did differ from many mainstream medical practitioners of his day in his openness and commercialisation of his medicines and sexual health. This commercialisation carried over into the establishment of a Museum and Polytechnic Hall in Burke Street which aimed not only to educate but to entertain. His facility also targeted all classes and strata's of Victorian colonial society regardless of level of education or age. His polytechnic and museum hosted popular public lectures and exhibitions. In a 2008 book chapter David Dunstan described Louis Lawrence Smith as personifying 'trend to a more democratic, inclusive and, above all, popular exhibition culture in Melbourne.'

A more controversial aspect of Louis Lawrence Smith's work was an anatomical museum for adults that dealt openly with sexual health. Smith cited a British colleague who had a similar institution, Dr R J Culverwell, as part of the reason for his interest in commercialisation and exhibitions and their potential impact on public attitudes to health and ability to attract paying patients. Although in later years he reported a change of heart regarding the value of anatomical museums.

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

Australian Medical Association (Victorian Branch)

  • Louis Lawrence Smith - Records, 1852 - 1910; Australian Medical Association (Victorian Branch). Details

National Library of Australia

  • Biographical cuttings on Louis Lawrence Smith, physician, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals, 509199; National Library of Australia. Details

Queensland State Archives

  • Louis Lawrence Smith - Records, 1853 - 1890; Queensland State Archives. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

Newspaper Articles


See also

McCarthy, G.J.