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Armit, Henry William (1870–1930)

by W. L. Calov

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Henry William Armit (1870-1930), medical journalist, was born on 9 July 1870 at Islington, London, son of William Armit, later secretary to the Hudson's Bay Co., and his wife Sara, née Lipman. Educated at Cheltenham College, he went to the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Germany, to study physics and chemistry. His early training may have encouraged his passion for accuracy in observation and expression and perfection in grammatical construction. He returned to England in 1887 and studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London (M.R.C.S., England; L.R.C.P., London, 1894). After hospital experience in the north of England and London, on 14 October 1896 at Bad Godesberg, Germany, he married Maria Josephine Gertrude, daughter of Dr E. Pohl.

After general practice at Torquay, travel in Germany, and work as a locum tenens, he settled at Wembley, London, in 1900. He engaged in research into immunity and other subjects at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine under (Sir) Charles Martin. From 1902 Armit published in English and German learned journals. In 1901 he had joined the external staff of the British Medical Journal and translated articles from German periodicals. He organized the British section at the International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden, 1911, and lectured daily in German to visitors.

In 1913 Armit was appointed by the Australasian Medical Publishing Co. Ltd as editor of a proposed new national journal, and arrived with his wife and daughter in Sydney on 4 June 1914. The first issue of the Medical Journal of Australia appeared on 4 July. He volunteered when war was declared, but was put on the reserve list. He contended with rising costs of paper and printing and shortage of advertising revenue, by setting up a type-setting machine in the B.M.A. Building in Elizabeth Street; he soon acquired a first-hand knowledge of printing techniques. In the early 1920s Armit advised the company to expand its printing activities and in 1925 'The Printing House' at Glebe was functioning. He set high scientific and journalistic standards and, by courage, tenacity and hard work, built up a flourishing journal with an international reputation. As editor, he was a prolific writer.

Armit was a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales from 1915, and an honorary member of the Australian Veterinary Association whose journal he helped to found. He was also a vice-president of the local branch of the League of Nations Union, associate editor for Australia of the Journal of Industrial Hygiene, and chairman of the typography committee of the Standards Association of Australia.

Although not a big man physically, Armit had an imposing presence and courtly manner, with a deep booming voice and hearty laugh. Generous to his staff and solicitous for their welfare, he earned their respect for his knowledge of typography and his understanding of their professional problems. He died suddenly of tonsillitis and septicaemia at his home at Woolwich near Hunters Hill on 12 March 1930 and was buried in the Anglican section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. He was survived by his wife and daughter, whom he left in straitened circumstances.

Select Bibliography

  • Medical Journal of Australia, Mar, Apr 1930
  • Australian Veterinary Assn, Handbook, May 1970.

Citation details

W. L. Calov, 'Armit, Henry William (1870–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/armit-henry-william-5051/text8419, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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