The John Austin Society

For 2018-19 year onward, please Click Here

John 'Blimey' Austin

Human brain

Impact of immunization on diphtheria mortality

Caldwell's automatic microtome (1884)

Charles Dobson's rabbit

The John Austin Society welcomes all members of the Queen's and Kingston community. Named after Lorimer John "Blimey" Austin, who was Professor of Surgery at Queen's from 1926-1945, the purpose of the Society is to promote an interest in the history of medicine, science and allied professions by providing opportunities for fellowship and continuing education, and by encouraging and fostering research by its members. To this end, we meet several times a year for presentations by members or guests on topics of medical or scientific interest - broadly interpreted. We hope you will find our slate of speakers and topics interesting and enlightening, and will join us as often as you wish. You may bring guests along as well.

We generally meet on the 3rd Thursday of the month during the fall and winter terms at 5:30 pm at the University Club for a 1-hour talk and question-period. We look forward to seeing you!

Speakers for the 2017-2018 season


October 19th: Neil Hobbs (Dept. Family Medicine) "When is Yellow Yellow?: An Inquiry into the History of our Understanding of Colour Vision."

November 16th:  Medical Students: Chantal Valiquette on "Is Madness Medical? An Examination of the Institutionalization of the 'Insane'," and Hissan Butt on "EFPO and the Doctors' Strike of 19**: The Roots of the Current Medical Curriculum," and Harry Chandrakumaran on "From Madhouse to Poorhouse: Financial Motivations in the Shift towards Deinstitutionalization."

Jan 18th: Dana Edge (School of Nursing) "A Unique History: "Nursing on the Labrador"

February 15th: John Schreiner (Depts. Oncology & Physics) "The Matthew Effect: Does It Help When Scientists are Famous?

March 15th: Anne Croy (Dept. Biomed. Mol. Sci) "The Immunological Enigma of Pregnancy Success: Has the Fetal Allograft Hypothesis Stood the Test of Time?

April 19th: Kim Turner (Dept. Anesth. & Periop. Med. & Public Health Sci.) "The Discovery of General Anesthesia - Who was First?"



President: John Matthews

Past President: Donald Forsdyke

Secretary-Treasurer: Cherrilyn Yalin

Advisory Board

Greg Baran, Henry Dinsdale, Jackie Duffin, Neil Hobbs, Ronald Pokrupa, Barry Robertson, John Schreiner, Chantal Valiquette


Meetings are open to all who are interested. Regular attenders who would like to be placed on our mailing list are invited to become supporting members. Please e-mail Cherrilyn Yalin ( to join or renew (cash, cheque or e-transfer; $35 per member). Please make out cheques to The John Austin Society and send to Cherrilyn Yalin, 592 Heritage Court, Kingston, K7M 9C9 (613-542-4201).

A Brief History. In 2014-15 we celebrated our 50th anniversary. It was 1964 when three members of the Queen's medical faculty decided it would be desirable to establish a convivial medico/historical society. The founding meeting was held on April 9th 1965 in Etherington Hall under the chairmanship of the then Associate Dean of Medicine, Dr. John Firstbrook. Some 20 interested persons met and considered that even though some see 'history is bunk,' spending an occasional evening in congenial company talking about each other's historical or cultural hobby-horses would be a welcome relief from one's day to day responsibilities.

Dr. Ford Connell suggested the society be called the John Austin Society after his mentor and later colleague, distinguished former professor of surgery, Dr. Lorimer John Austin (1880-1945). After discussion this name was unanimously adopted.

The first paper presented was by Dr. Ford Connell on the subject of John 'Blimey' Austin. John Austin studied medicine in England at Cambridge and the London Hospital. He gained much practical experience as a surgical registrar in London's East End (hence the cockney slang name of 'Blimey'). In 1914 at the beginning of the Great War he volunteered as a surgeon with the Red Cross. He left England on August 16th and was sent to reconnoitre the set-up of a hospital near Namur in Southern Belgium. The German advance on Namur was faster than expected and despite Red Cross credentials by Tuesday lunchtime JA was a prisoner of war. He was repatriated five gruelling months later, to become an army major and work in field hospitals in Rouen. In 1920 he was recruited to come to Queen's. He played an instrumental role in the development of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and advanced the practice of surgery at Queen's. With his sister, Miss Austin, as housekeeper, JA gave a home-from-home to legions of medical students over the years. Brother and sister were noted characters in the community.

The John Austin society met firstly in private homes, and latterly at the Faculty (now University) Club, and the range of speakers has extended beyond medicine to other departments at Queen's and, sometimes, beyond.



Speakers for the 2016-2017 season


October 13th (2nd Thursday): Jacalyn Duffin (Hannah Chair, History of Medicine) on "Stanley's Dream. The Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island"

November 10th:  Medical Students: Prabhpreet Kaur Hundal, Stanislav Pasyk and Jatinderpreet Singh on "Criminals in the White Coats: How Community Regulations Prevent Physicians from Killing their Patients." and Calvin Santiago on "War! What is it good for? Breakdowns in Scientific Collaboration"

Jan 19th: Susan Cole (Dept. Pathology & Molecular Medicine) "Anticancer Drugs - A Complex History of Success and Failure"

February 16th: David Holland (Dept. Medicine) "A Brief History of the World (of Dialysis), or Some Damn Thing in the Balkans"

March 16th: Hugh Pross (Dept. Biomed. Mol. Sci) "The 'Discovery' of Natural Killer Cells"

April 20th:  Peter Aston (Dept. Biomed. Mol. Sci) "Medicine and Physicians in Renaissance Theatre"




Speakers for the 2015-2016 season


October 15th: Steven Iscoe (Dept. Biomed. Sci. Mol. Biol.) on "Treating Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Future to the Back."

November 12th:  Medical Students topics: Adam Mosa on "The Water's No Good: Organic Mercury in Northern Ontario," and Nathaniel Walker, “Food Subsidies in the North” 

 Jan 21st: Albert Jin (Division of Neurology, Dept. Medicine ) on "Stroke and Insight from the Centaur, the Virtuoso Assistant and the First American Woman President."

Feb 18th: Jane Errington (Department of History) on "The Ladies and a Charity Hospital in Kingston (1820-1840)"

March 17th: Susan Lamb (Jason Hannah Chair in History of Medicine, University of Ottawa) on "Adolf Meyer's 'Radical' View of Schizophrenia at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century."

April 21st:  John Matthews (Division of Haematology, Dept. Medicine) on "A Crystallographer's Contribution to the Molecular Structure of Haemoglobin and the Downfall of Adolf Hitler - the Story of Max Perutz."


Speakers for the 2014-2015 season


October 16th:  Neil Hobbs (Department of Family Medicine) on "In Praise of Eponyms. A League of Medical Nations."

November 20th:  Medical Students topics: Sophie Palmer,"A History of Infancy: What is Psychiatry's Role?" Matthew Haaland, “A History of HIV in Kingston”  Elena Barbir, “Harm Reduction Programs in Ontario and BC: What's their Story?” 

Jan 15th: Paul Manley (Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine) on "Gastric Ulcers and Cancer-Stress. Napoleon and Helicobacter Organisms"

Feb 19th: Robert Kisilevsky (Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine) on "The Amyloid Story. Some Steps Forward and Some Steps Backward"

March 19th: Greg Baran (Department of Family Medicine) on "'A Journey through Hell'. The Firsthand Account of Kingston Physician Dr. Cumberland through the Trenches of World War I."

April 16th: Sandra Campbell (Historian, Carleton University) on "World War I Military Nurse: The Case of KGH's Annie Green." An Event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the John Austin Society!


Speakers for the 2013-2014 season


October 24th:  Stephen Archer (Department of Medicine) on "The Mitochondrial Rennaissance."

November 21st:  Medical Students topics: Karen Chung on "Beyond Face-lifts, Implants and Noses: Kingston Plastic Surgery (1949-1970)" Stephanie Lammers on "Her Body, Her Pain, Her Choice? The Dawn of Obstetric Anaesthesia in Kingston." Daniel Paluzzi on "Finding Elbow-room at KGH."

Jan 16th: Jackie Duffin (Department of the History of Medicine) on "Hospital Mergers. The Case of Nineteenth Century Rome"

Feb 20th:  Paula James (Division of Haematology, Dept. Medicine) on "Baltic Maidens in Distress - von Willebrand, Past and Present"

March 20th: John Matthews (Division of Haematology, Dept. Medicine) on "Sinful Diet Saves Lives - a Step on the Road to Discovering Vitamin B12"

April 17thCasimiro Cabrera Abreu (Department of Psychiatry) on "Tinkering with the History and Philosophy of Psychiatry: Is Antipsychiatry Good for Psychiatry? "


Speakers for the 2012-2013 season


October 11th:  Sergio Sismondo (Department of Philosophy) on "Key Opinion Leaders: Choreographing the Pharmaceutical Two-Step."

November 1st:  Topics by Medical Students: Yan Lu on "What is the new patient advocacy? An answer from the history of lumbar fusion." Joe Gabriel on "It blows: The clinical understanding of sleep apnoea following the introduction of positive airway pressure." Shannon Meilleur on "The best defence: a review of Canada's involvement in biological and toxic warfare during the Second World War."

March 21st: Donald Forsdyke on "Long-term Memory from Avicenna to Francis Crick. Does Size Matter?" (Video Here)

April 18th:  John Schreiner on "The Cobalt Bomb: How Canada advanced Radiation Therapy to the Modern Megavoltage Era." (Slides Here)

Former John Austin Society Constitution (amended 2002) Click Here  

Revised Constitution

The John Austin Society

Constitution and By-laws          As approved at AGM April 20 2017


Article I: Name

The Society shall be known as The John Austin Society. The name honours the memory of Queen’s distinguished Professor of Surgery, Dr. Lorimer John “Blimey” Austin, born 20 September 1880 in London, England, and died 20 March, 1945 in Kingston, Ontario.


Article II: Non-profit Society

The work of the Society shall be carried out without purpose of financial gain for its members. Any profit or other revenue which comes to the Society shall be used to promote its objectives.


Article III: Objectives

The purpose of the Society shall be to promote an interest in the history of medicine and science in the Kingston community, by providing opportunities for fellowship and continuing education, and by encouraging and fostering research by its members.


Article IV: Membership

1.      Membership is open. Non-members are welcome (see Article V, 2c). The categories of membership are:

a)      Supporting members who pay a membership fee and can vote at the AGM.

b)      Student members.


2.      Annual supporting membership dues shall be set at an amount determined by the Executive.


3.      Any supporting member may withdraw by delivering written resignation to the Secretary, or any member may be considered to have resigned upon failure to pay the membership fee.


4.      Upon termination of supporting membership, a member shall not be entitled to any refund of membership dues paid.


Article V: Meetings

1.      Annual General Meeting

           An annual meeting to discuss business for all membership shall be held at least once in every calendar year, normally in conjunction with one of the regular meetings. At that time the members shall be informed of the business of the Executive meetings that have taken place throughout the year and notified of any proposed changes to the Constitution. Each supporting member present and in good standing shall be entitled to one vote and every question shall be decided by a majority of votes.

2.      Regular Meetings

a)      Regular meetings shall take place at least four times a year.

b)      The Society’s tradition has established a format for these meetings. There is a dinner to which the speaker and his/her partner are invited as guests of the Society. The presentation then takes place followed by a question period. This tradition does not preclude other formats.

c)      Meetings are open to both members and non-members.


Article VI: Elections

The Executive shall propose a slate of nominees for the President, Secretary-Treasurer, and replacement of outgoing members on the Executive. The slate will be presented at the Annual General Meeting and the floor will be open for other nominations. If there are no other nominations, the slate will be approved by a simple majority vote. If there are other nominations in competition, an election will take place by ballot.


Article VII: Executive

1.      The Executive shall be composed of a President, a Past President, a Secretary-Treasurer, and no fewer than three members at large. They must all be supporting members in good standing in the Society.

2.      The Executive will fill unexpected vacancies.

3.      Executive officers shall serve for a term of three years

4.      The President, and Past President, shall not normally serve more than one term in each office. The Secretary-Treasurer shall not serve more than three consecutive terms.

5.      The Executive will:

a)      Execute the decisions of the General Meeting

b)      Define orientations and policies related to the Objectives of the Society and consult the membership whenever appropriate

c)      Authorize necessary expenditures

d)      Delegate powers to officers, and appoint and delegate responsibilities to committees

e)      Appoint editors of any Society publication

f)       Determine the time and place of the Annual General Meeting

g)      Conduct any other activity relevant to the Objectives of the Society

h)      Act as external liaison

i)    Present the financial accounts of the Society at its Annual General Meeting, audited by an appointed regular member of the Society

6.      A quorum at a meeting of the Executive shall be four of its members.

7.      All questions shall be determined by a majority of votes. In cases of equality, the President shall have the deciding vote.

8.      Meetings of the Executive shall be at the call of the President. Notice shall be given to all members of the Executive at least two weeks prior to any meeting.

9.      The Executive shall be charged with the responsibility of maintaining the Society archives and records.

10.  Members shall serve without remuneration, salary, or profit from the position on the Executive, but they may be reimbursed reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

11.  Officers and Executive Membership will be assumed and relinquished immediately at the conclusion of each Annual General Meeting.

Article VIII: Officers

1.      The President shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Society, shall preside at all meetings of the Society, and see that all orders and resolutions of the Executive, and at the Annual General Meeting, are carried into effect.

2.      The Secretary-Treasurer shall attend all meetings, act as Clerk thereof and record all votes and minutes of all proceedings, have the custody of funds and securities of the Society, keep full and accurate accounts of all assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements of the Society, deposit all monies, securities and other valuables in the name and credit of the Society as may be directed by proper authority taking proper vouchers for such disbursement, render to the President and Executive officers at the regular meetings of the Executive an accounting of all transactions and a statement of the financial position of the Society, and perform such other duties as may from time to time be directed by the Executive.


Article IX: Finances

1.      The fiscal year of the Society shall terminate on 31 May.

2.      The Executive shall cause to be kept by the Secretary-Treasurer proper records and accounts of all transactions of the Society.

3.      The Executive may decide on any financial transactions it sees fit to further the objectives of the Society.


Article X: Constitutional Changes

1.      Any supporting member may submit an amendment to this Constitution to the Secretary-Treasurer of the Society

2.      When discussed at an Annual General Meeting, ratification of the change shall require the approval of two-thirds of the supporting members present at the meeting.


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