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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Baldwin, Alec Hutcheson (1891–1971)

by H. O. Lancaster

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Alec Hutcheson Baldwin (1891-1971), professor of tropical medicine, was born on 24 December 1891 at Kyneton, Victoria, son of Robert Baldwin, a locally-born grocer, and his wife Annie, née Fraser, a Queenslander. Alec was educated at Kyneton College, Wesley College and the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1917). Appointed captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps in December 1917, he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 21 March 1918. He served on the Western Front with the 5th Field Ambulance from September. Granted leave in May 1919, he took charge of the isolation wards at the Birmingham and Midlands Free Hospital for Children, England. He returned to Melbourne where his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 4 April 1920; he took his diploma of public health that year.

Finding difficulty in obtaining training in established institutions amid the postwar influx of returned medical officers, Baldwin spent eighteen months with the Australian Hookworm Campaign. In 1922 he was awarded a scholarship by the Rockefeller Foundation which enabled him to work at the Johns Hopkins University, United States of America, and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Dip.T.M.& H., 1923). Returning to Australia, he joined the Commonwealth Department of Health and was posted as relieving officer to its laboratory at Rabaul, in the mandated Territory of New Guinea.

From 1924 Baldwin was acting-director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine at Townsville, Queensland. There, on 5 March 1927 at St Peter's Anglican Church, he married a nurse Beatrix Rebecca Fitzmaurice. When the institute was merged in 1930 with the new School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in Sydney, he became deputy-director and worked under Professors Harvey Sutton and (Sir) Edward Ford. Baldwin undertook research into tropical diseases in Australia, the Pacific and South East Asia, published ten articles and attended international conferences.

In 1942, with the rank of temporary wing commander, Baldwin was appointed to the Royal Australian Air Force as director of hygiene and tropical medicine; he was promoted acting group captain on 1 September 1943. His advice on malaria and other tropical diseases was valued by the R.A.A.F., for which he also built hygiene and tropical units, organized training among medical officers and other ranks, and fostered research into scrub typhus and schistosomiasis. In March 1943 he was appointed R.A.A.F. representative to the Combined Advisory Committee on Tropical Medicine, Hygiene and Sanitation which was set up to brief General Douglas MacArthur. On demobilization, Baldwin returned to the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and in 1947 became professor of tropical medicine by special arrangement with the Commonwealth Department of Health. He retired in 1956.

Fair haired, blue eyed and 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, Baldwin was kindly, modest and approachable. An alert conversationalist with a good fund of stories, he was a member of the University Club, Sydney, and the Navy, Army and Air Force Club, Melbourne, and enjoyed bushwalking, golf and photography. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 29 December 1971 in his home at Epping, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Walker, Medical Services of the R.A.N. and the R.A.A.F. (Canb, 1961)
  • Commonwealth Department of Health and University of Sydney, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1930-1980 (Syd, 1980)
  • J. A. Young et al (eds), Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine (Syd, 1984)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 1974, vol 1, p 769
  • private information.

Citation details

H. O. Lancaster, 'Baldwin, Alec Hutcheson (1891–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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