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Usher, Victor Field, 1880-1952 (physician, medical alumnus of Edinburgh University)



  • Existence: 1880 - 1952


Victor Field Usher was born in 1880, eldest son of Thomas Burman Usher and Mary Jane (née Field), of Seven Oaks Nelson. He was educated at Nelson College, New Zealand’s third earliest college, where he excelled both academically and in sport.

In 1902 he left New Zealand for Edinburgh University Medical School, and in October 1907 qualified M.B. Ch.B. with first class certificates throughout the course, especially in anatomy, pathology and surgical diseases in children. “Enthusiasm for learning with a scientific approach and kindly sympathetic attitude to patients” earned him top clinical positions with his University professors and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary consultants. During his studies, He was close friend with Douglas Guthrie and John Fraser. After he graduated, he was appointed at Edinburgh Rotal Infirmary as House Surgeon to Prof. W. S. Greenfield and then Prof. Francis Caird, at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children as clinical and surgical assistant to Harold J. Styles, at the Deaconess Hospital as House Surgeon to Prof. Alexis Thompson, and at Leith Hospital as Senior Medical Officer of the Hospital, and House Physician to Dr. W. Elder.

In 1910 he took the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, specializing in operative surgery. His first surgical appointment was as senior House Officer under Mr McGavin at the Seaman’s Hospital, Greenwich, London, then known as the “Dreadnaught”, with responsibility for 40 general surgical beds as well as those for ear nose and throat. Many of his patients also had syphilis, and Victor Usher, with his inquiring mind, visited the laboratory of the German-Jewish scientist credited with finding a cure for syphilis, Paul Ehrlich, at the George Speyer Haus in Frankfurt am Main. Ehrlich asked Usher to introduce his drug 'Compound 606', which he had found to effectively combat the bacteria that caused syphilis, to Britain. After leaving the Seaman’s Hospital Usher returned to the Royal Infirmary where he had free use of all venereal wards. In these two hospitals he treated over 300 syphilitics successfully without mishap. He presented his report to Ehrlich as an MD thesis, and after this he spent 6 months in the largest mining area doing midwifery, then an ear nose and throat house surgeonship back at the Royal Infirmary and, at the request of Edinburgh’s senior gynecologist, Mr. Carmichael, assisted with all private surgery at his own hospital.

In 1913, he returned to New Zealand and commenced practice in Auckland, but on the outbreak of the First World War he joined the New Zealand Forces, and was sent to France for two years. He was recommended for a military medal, and awarded a medal for operating in the front line. He resumed practice in 1920, later being appointed to the Honorary Staff of the Auckland Hospital as a surgeon.

After returning to Auckland, Victor Usher married Doris Lillian Salter, younger daughter of Rev. Walter Lawry Salter and his wife Annie Maria Dovey (nee Richards), of Athenree, Bay of Plenty. They had two daughters, Dorothy Field Usher, and Patricia Mary Field Usher. He became a faithful member of All Saints Anglican Church Ponsomby, much of the time as an active vestryman. True to his Christian faith he quietly did all he could to help others. Particularly during the 1930’s financial depression between the two World Wars, families whom he suspected would have difficulty paying for his services were never charged a fee. He also cared for the health and well being of both girls and staff of St. Mary’s Orphanage organized by the Anglican Church Army.

Dr. Victor F. Usher died after a tragic launch accident at Lake Rotoiti on the 26th of October 1952.

Obiturary of Victor Field Usher, in New Zealand Medical Journal, February 1953; and biographical account from Victor Usher's daughter Dorothy Field Usher Potter.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Bound medical lecture notes and certificates of Victor F. Usher

 Fonds — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Coll-1886
Scope and Contents Seventeen volumes of lectures notes by Victor Field Usher, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in 1902-1907, who became the first physician to introduce Arsphenamine (the first effective treatment for syphilis, developed by Prof. Paul Ehrlich) to the UK. The fonds includes: Three volumes entitled Practice of Medicine - Gibson, Philip & Bruce containing...
Dates: 1903-1908