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Biographical entry Pugh, William Russ (1806 - 1897)

25 October 1806
Southwark, London, United Kingdom
27 December 1897
London, United Kingdom


William Pugh was a medical practitioner who also pursued a range of other scientific pursuits. He arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1835. He was an active participant in the Tasmanian Natural History Society having been elected in 1839. When the Society became the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1848 Pugh thereby became a founding member. In 1844 he established a medical practice in Launceston for which he gained a considerable reputation as a practitioner. He equipped his practice with distilling apparatus which he used to prepare drugs from plants grown for the purpose, and for chemical analysis including on occasion examining samples for the coroner. Between 1846 and 1849 he made regular recordings of meteorological data which he published in the local newspaper and in the journal of the Royal Society of Tasmania. In 1847 he constructed anaesthetic equipment from a description in a London newspaper and performed the first operations under anaesthetic in any Australian colony. Pugh returned to the United Kingdom in the 1850s.

Published resources


  • Paull, John D., Not Just an Anaesthetist: the Remarkable Life of Dr William Russ Pugh, John Paull, Lanena (Tas.), 2013, 572 pp. Details
  • Pugh, W. R.: transcribed and edited by John Paull, Persistence pays: the discovery of Dr William Russ Pughs' log and journal of his 1835 voyage from England to New Holland, John Paull, Lanena, Tas., 2017, 84 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Craig, C. J., 'Pugh, William Russ (1805-1897), medical practitioner', in Pike, Douglas (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, Melbourne University Press, Carlton (Vic.), 1967, p. 355. Details

Edited Books

  • Richards, Paul A. C. and Ogden, Philip N. (eds), Anaesthesia: Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Celebration of William Russ Pugh's First Anaesthetic in Launceston, Myola House of Publishing, South Launceston, 2006, 136 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Haridas, R. P. and Paull, J. D., 'St John's Hospital (Morton House), Launceston, Australia: a history of the hospital and Dr William Pugh's first operations under ether', Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, vol. 45, Supp., 2017, pp. 29-36. Details
  • Paull, J. D., 'William Russ Pugh's Remarkable Life: Natural Scientist, Innovative Anaesthetist and Founding Member of the Royal Society of Tasmania', Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, vol. 39, no. 4, 2011, pp. 18-26. Details
  • Paull, J. D., 'Dr Pugh and the Myth of the Illicit Still', Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, vol. 42, no. 4 supp., 2014, pp. 41-4. Details
  • Paull. J. D., 'William Russ Pugh's qualifications', Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, vol. 35, Supp., 2007, pp. 45-6. Details

See also

  • Crowther, W., 'Introduction of Surgical Anaesthesia in Van Diemen's Land', Medical Journal of Australia, no. 8 Nov 1947, 1947, pp. 561-70. Details

Helen Cohn