Henry Alexander Francis

From Wikitia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Henry Alexander Francis
Born(1863-08-11)August 11, 1863
Brisbane, Australia
DiedAugust 13, 1944(1944-08-13) (aged 81)
West Hoathly
EducationM.B., B.Ch.(Cantab.)
Alma materBrisbane’s Normal School
Brisbane Grammar School
St. John's College, Cambridge
OccupationEar Nose and Throat Specialist
Spouse(s)Rebecca Agate
ChildrenLilian Angela (Daughter)
Dr.Clement Alexander Francis (Son)
  • Arthur Morley Francis (father)
  • Angela (mother)

Henry Alexander Francis (1863 - 1944, Born in Brisbane Australia) was an Australian Ear Nose and Throat Specialist who discovered a treatment for Asthma in 1903. He practiced this treatment at this Wimpole Street London surgery.

Early Life and Education

In a primitive house, in what is now known as the suburb of Corinda, Brisbane, Australia, was Francis's birth place in 11 August, 1863[1][2]. He was educated at Brisbane’s Normal School.

His father Arthur Morley Francis was well educated and took up politics becoming the Member for Moreton in Queensland Parliament from 1867 to 1870. His mother, Angela was a campaigner for greater midwifery skills in Queensland country towns and started an immigration scheme for women from England to become governesses in the state of Queensland. In 1876 Francis’s father takes up numerous positions as Police Magistrate in various country towns in Queensland. Francis at this time is studying at Brisbane Grammar School and remains in Brisbane in lodgings.

Study at Cambridge and Medical Qualification

After qualifying from Brisbane Grammar School where in sport he excelled at rowing, he sought a college at which to study medicine in Cambridge England. After being told St John's College was looking for good rower's he made application to study medicine at St. John's College, Cambridge, England in 1883 and was accepted. His love of the sport of Rowing saw him promoted to Captain of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, where he won the Pearson and Wright Sculls, and rowed in the university trial eights.[1] Part of his studies being a period as a student doctor in St Bartholomew’s Hospital where he worked under Sir William Savory, Howard Marsh, and Dr. James Andrew.

He found the practice of medicine hard and challenging. He took the M.B., B.Ch.(Cantab.) in 1890, intending to return to Queensland but was told that the Cambridge degree was practically unknown in the Colonies. This then led him to qualify for the conjoint diplomas, Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (M.R.C.S) and the Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (L.R.C.P.) in 1890.[1]

It was when working as clinical assistant to his cousin, Dr. Greville McDonald, at the Throat Hospital,Golden Square,London that sparked his interested in what was to be his chosen specialty Ear Nose and Throat (ENT).

Marriage and Profession

In 1890, while in England, Francis marries a St Bartholomew staff nurse Rebecca Agate and they return to Brisbane where Francis begins work as an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist. The notion of medical specialization was rare at this time. He was interested in every new advance in medical science and helped to found the Queensland branch of the British Medical Association.[1] Soon after his wife Rebecca developed tuberculosis. Francis then seeks employment in towns where the drier air helps his wife cope with her illness.

This led to the couple moving to Queensland towns of Warwick and thence on to Barcaldine where Francis was appointed medical officer of the local hospital in 1892. He was the only surgeon, physician, and obstetrician in a remote area.[3] His insights in to medicine are contained in his autobiographical book 'Then and Now" London : Chapman & Hall, 1935 which refers to 1890s medical practice and country health problems. In 6 January 1891 Rebecca gives birth to a daughter Lilian Angela. On 15 November 1892 Francis's wife dies from tuberculosis and leaves him devastated. Francis's outlet is to throw himself more into his chosen medical field.

A further tragedy was to strike with the death of his older brother Richard Powell Francis from pneumonia caused by his efforts to help residents who were affected by the 1893 Brisbane floods. After leaving his daughter Lilian in the care of his mother in Dalby, Queensland, he returns to Barcaldine for 3 years to serve out his contract with the Hospital.

Specialist Practice

After this Francis returns to live in Sherwood Brisbane, which neighbours the suburb of Corinda, and resumes his practice in Wakefield's Buildings, Adelaide Street Brisbane as an ENT specialist.[4] His Sister-in-Law, Lillian Agate, arrives from England to help care for his daughter and in 1897 the two marry.[5] He has two further children with Lillian while in Australia, Clement Alexander Francis in 1898 and Ruby Estelle in 1901. It is during this period that he observes certain reactions from his treatment of asthma patients. This procedure involved touching of the nasal septum lightly with a cautery. The results from treating the initial asthma patient causes him to investigate further and in doing so forms a theory on the causes and treatment of Asthma.[6]

Along with Francis's specialist work in Brisbane and Ipswich, he practices as a General Practitioner in Sherwood as well as being elected on to the municipal council, the Sherwood Divisional Board. The burden of work and his own illness of dengue fever[5] brought on exhaustion which caused him to resign from the council in 1902 and give up his medical practice in order to recuperate. Francis decides in 1902 to take his daughter Lilian to holiday to England.[7]

Practice in England

On arrival in England he reads a paper at the Clinical Society on the treatment of asthma which caused much interest along with hostile criticism. Francis learns that the drug aspirin was unheard of in England. The application of aspirin at the time was a method of treating ear nose and throat problems. [8] Francis's father had died in Australia around this time and his mother sought to live in England with her daughter Charlotte, placing a demand on him to reside in England.

Francis returned to Australia in 1903 to tidy up his affairs and returned to England with his wife and two children with the intention to stay for 2 years. He then resides in West Hoathly, West Sussex, England, where his Mother Angela, sister Charlotte and her husband John Godwin King were residing. Francis overcame the criticism which confronted him in 1902 and was encouraged to return to specialist ENT practice 75 Wimpole Street, in Harley Street area of London which he did for the next 40 years.[1]

At meetings of the British Medical Association and in medical journals he expounded his views on the aetiology, symptoms, and treatment of asthma as well as publishing a book Asthma in Relationship to the Nose’ in 1903. It is in this book that Francis details his Asthma treatment. In The Australian Medical Gazette dated January 20, 1906 an article by Dr. W. N. Robertson, H.B., M.S. (Bdin.), Brisbane, espouses Francis's theory with details of clinical trials. He states "Since the publication of the list in Francis's book, I have treated up to the early part of this year 210 cases of asthma. Of these, 157, or about 74 per cent., got complete relief ; 35, or 16 per cent., got considerable relief ; whilst 18, or roughly 9 per cent., got very little or no relief. I have included amongst these a few cases that got relief for a time and relapsed."[9]

In May 1908, at a meeting where King Alfonso of Spain was in the audience, Francis reads a paper on Asthma and its treatment. As the King's wife, Queen Victoria Eugenie suffered from this complaint, the King requested Francis to undertake treatment of the Queen.[10] His method of treating Asthma is cited in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica on Asthma which he states his method: “After painting one side of the septum nasi with a few drops of cocaine and resorcin, I draw a line with a galvano-cautery point from a spot opposite the middle turbinated body, forwards and slightly downwards for a distance of rather less than half an inch. In about one week’s time I repeat the operation on the other side.”[11] and in 1932 he publishes another book ‘Asthma and its Treatment’ .

Francis's mother passes away in 1910. His health deteriorated and he sought the help of Dr Carl Spengler in Davos in 1911. His eldest daughter Lilian, whose mother passed away from tuberculosis, became fascinated with the subject of bacteriology and was invited by Spengler to become his pupil.[12] She then went to work with Dr Spengler in 1913 and from there had her own laboratory in London. In 1920 she married a doctor James Johnston Abraham and had a daughter.

It was always Francis's intention to return to Australia, as he had not sold his house at Sherwood but rented it out since 1903. It was not until 1914 that he sells the house and all the household contents with the intention to remain in England.[13]

Francis forms a partnership practice with his son Dr.Clement Alexander Francis who was also an ear, nose and throat surgeon. They practice what was known as 'The Francis System'. Clement Francis reiterates this method of treatment in an article. [14]

Francis's second wife Lillian passes away in 1933. While still in medical practice in Wimpole Street London, he died at West Hoathly on 13 August 1944.[1] Two days before his death he was still seeing patients. He is survived by two daughters and a son.

Then and Now

Francis wrote memoirs of his life as a gift to his children and grandchildren which he eventually produced into a book ‘Then and Now’ London : Chapman & Hall, 1935. It is a narrative of the life of early colonists in the state of Queensland Australia and his path of education in a fledgling colony to gain a Medical Degree at Cambridge England. Francis goes on to detail his experiences as a medical practitioner in country Queensland to the point where he is able to practice in his chosen field of Ear Nose and Throat Specialist in Brisbane Queensland, and London England. This book is considered a valuable reference to Colonial Queensland, Early Medical Practice[15] and Genealogical Research[16]

His book "Then and Now" was serialized in the 'The Telegraph' a Brisbane evening paper in 1935


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "British Medical Journal". British Medical Journal. 2 September 1944.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ""THEN and NOW" 'A Pioneering Record". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 18 May 1935. p. 15 (LATEST FINAL CABLES). Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via Trove.
  3. "BACK TO QUEENSLAND". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 12 June 1935. p. 15 (CITY FINAL LAST MINUTE NEWS). Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via Trove.
  4. ""THEN AND NOW"". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 22 June 1935. p. 15 (LATEST FINAL CABLES). Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via Trove.
  5. 5.0 5.1 ""THEN AND NOW"". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 26 June 1935. p. 7 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via Trove.
  6. ""THEN AND NOW"". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 26 June 1935. p. 7 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 22 February 2020 – via Trove.
  7. ""THEN AND NOW"". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 27 June 1935. p. 15. Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via Trove.
  8. "A CRIPPLE LANDS IN ENGLAND But is Soon Cured". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 29 June 1935. p. 16 (SPORTS FINAL). Retrieved 16 February 2020 – via Trove.
  9. Robinson, W. H. (1906). "Australasian Medical Gazette". New South Wales Branch of British Medical Association. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  10. "A QUEENSLAND MEDICAL MAN IN SPAIN". The Capricornian. Queensland, Australia. 30 May 1908. p. 36. Retrieved 15 February 2020 – via Trove.
  11. "1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica/Asthma". Wikisource. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  12. ""THEN AND NOW"". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 2 July 1935. p. 7 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 16 February 2020 – via Trove.
  13. "Advertising". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 14 August 1914. p. 12 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved 15 February 2020 – via Trove.
  14. Francis, Clement Francis. "The Nasal Septal Reflex". Karger International. Karger International. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  15. "Then and now; the story of a Queenslander,". World Cat. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  16. "Society of Australian Genealogists". Then and now : the story of a Queenslander / by Alexander Francis. Society of Australian Genealogists. Retrieved 22 February 2020.

This article "Henry Alexander Francis" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles taken from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be accessed on Wikipedia's Draft Namespace.