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Biographical entry Purdy, John Smith (1872 - 1936)

31 January 1872
Morpeth, Northumberland, England
26 July 1936
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Health worker


John Purdy was jointly metropolitan medical officer of health in Sydney, responsible to the chief medical officer and city health officer, responsible to the Sydney Municipal Council. He was influential in slum clearance and was proud of Sydney's falling death rate, which he attributed mainly to improved sanitation and purity of foodstuffs.


Born 31 January 1872. Died 26 July 1936. Educated Universities of Aberdeen (MB, CM 1898; MD 1904) and Cambridge (Diploma of public health 1903). DSO 1917. Worked briefly as surgeon, Otaki Hospital, New Zealand, surgeon-captain , 6th and 10th New Zealand Mounted Rifles, Boer War 1901, worked in various London Hospitals, briefly in general practice, Liverpool, Quarantine Service of Egypt 1905-06, district medical officer, Auckland, New Zealand 1907-10, chief health officer, Tasmania 1910, jointly metropolitan medical officer of health and city health officer, Sydney 1913-?. Served in the Australian Army Medical Corps 1914-18, as major, lieutenant-colonel and acting colonel. Lectured in sanitary law, Sydney Technical College from 1919. President, Health Society of New South Wales (1921), Australian Association for Fighting Venereal Disease, and Town Planning Association of New South Wales. Chairman, Public Health Association of New South Wales. State president, Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia 1929, Silver Wolf Badge, Boy Scouts' Association, deputy chairman, St John Ambulance Association, Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh 1911. French Médaille d'honneur des epidémies 1933.

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Cummins, Cyril Joseph, 'Purdy, John Smith (1872-1936), Health Officer and Soldier', in Geoffrey Serle (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 11, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1988, pp. 308-309. Also available at Details

Online Resources

Rosanne Walker