EJANZH: Philippa Martyr Introduction to Ludwig Bruck

The List of Unregistered Practitioners appears as an appendix to the larger publication, The Australasian Medical Directory and Hand Book. The issue reproduced here is the second, dated 1886, and published in Sydney at the Australasian M edical Gazette Office. It included “A General Gazetteer and Road Guide, and Local Medical Directory of Australasia”. A further appendix lists the American medical colleges which are not recognised by Australian medical registration boards.

In the late nineteenth century, allopathic scientific medicine was not yet the controlling and dominating force it became in the early twentieth century. Professional boundaries were still being drawn, and the British Medical Association in Australia was still in its infancy. For these reasons, the creation and preservation of a medical professional identity was imperative in colonial Australia. The Directory was a part of this process. It contained not only a full list of all registered practitio ners, but those who were beyond the pale of medical orthodoxy as well.

Including a gazetteer and a road guide was by no means foolish in a still-undeveloped group of colonies, where a practitioner may find himself working well outside the metropolitan area. But the real value of Bruck’s publication is that it allowed a pract itioner to see, at a glance, if his fellow ‘doctors’ were legally qualified, and also for them to see that he was. In a climate which was rapidly being shaped into medical dominance, this was of tremendous importance.

About the Compiler

Ludwig Bruck was himself a medical practitioner, and was also a medical journalist. His articles include the analysis of medical statistics, “The present state of the medical profession in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand”, Australasian Medical Gaz ette, March 1893, pp. 94-98. It was in this article that Bruck claims that New South Wales was known as “The Paradise of Quacks”, but does not say by whom. He was, however, able to show that in NSW there was one untrained practitioner for every three trained: “These irregular medical practitioners of all nationalities are found in every part of Australia, though nowhere in such astonishing numbers as in New South Wales.”(p. 95)

The List of Unregistered Practitioners

The List is divided into seven regions: New South Wales (city and country), New Zealand, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. Bruck is able to account for a total of 257 unregistered practitioners. This edition of the List, prepared in html for the World Wide Web, is divided into two sections – New South Wales and the rest of Australasia.

The List is a valuable historical resource. It provides an insight into the broad range of therapies available to the public from unregistered practitioners, and includes a range of practitioners also, from the legitimate but unregistered locum tenens, to the free-wheeling abortionist, to the purveyors of cures for fading ‘manly vigour’. There are hydropathists, electrotherapists, homeopaths, oculists, phrenologists, chemists, herbalists, makers of patent medicine and vendors of books and pamphlets.

There are fourteen women on the list. For the most part they are married, and in the Sydney city area, practising medical clairvoyance, herbalism or phrenology. One or two claim to have medical qualifications to practise as doctors, including one doctor’s daughter, Miss Ellen Curling.

Examples of offending advertisments are reproduced in the List. The special invitation of hopeless cases, the promise that no payment would be incurred if the treatment failed, and the chance of avoiding a perhaps too-curious doctor (in cases of ‘nervous debility’ or ‘female irregularity’) were all powerful attractions which the unorthodox practitioner, unfettered by professional ethics, could offer.

The List has been reproduced as faithfully as possible, with the original (sic) insertions included. All subsequent editorial insertions will be in square brackets. The abbreviation ‘p.r.’ stands for ‘previous residence’, but for the most part editorial a bbreviations are self-explanatory.

Notes on Searching the List:

When conducting an electronic search, it is wise to allow for changes such as spelling variations. Practitioners of homeopathy are listed, for example, as ‘homeopathists’, so a search for ‘homeopathy’ will turn up only a few references, but one for ‘homeo pathist’ will be more productive. Masturbation is almost never mentioned directly, so searches for ‘nervous debility’ or ‘self abuse’ are more productive. Female practitioners have been marked with this symbol: *, for easy searching.

Further Reading: A History of Medical Professionalisation in NSW, by Peter J Lloyd.
“From Quackery to Qualification”, by P J Martyr, Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History.