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Dame Annie Jean Macnamara, MD

Born: April 1, 1899
Died: October 13, 1968

Major Contribution:

An Australian medical doctor and scientist, Dame Annie Jean Macnamara (later Connor) was best known for her contributions as a consultant and medical officer to the Poliomyelitis Committee of Victoria 1925-31. During the 1937-38 polio epidemic, she worked with Frank Macfarlane Burnet (who later won a Nobel Prize for medicine) to discover that there was more than one type of polio virus (British Journal of Experimental Pathology, 1931).

She advocated the necessity for adequate aftercare of disabled persons and is credited with ordering Australia's first artificial respirator. She put forward new ideas for splinting and rehabilitation. Her method was to splint the paralyzed part of the body until the damaged nerve had recovered and patiently re-educate the muscles. She spent much time not only with her patients but with her splint-maker, devising ingenious restraining devices (Australian Dictionary of Biography Online).

Other Information:

Brief Biography: Annie Jean Macnamara was born in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia. Her family later moved to Melbourne. At 7 years of age, she attended Spring Road State School. She received a scholarship to study at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, entered the University of Melbourne at 17 and graduated with an M.B. and B.S. in 1922.

Following graduation, she became a resident at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital. In 1923, she was appointed resident at the (Royal) Children's Hospital. She remained until 1925 when, having graduated with an M.D., she became clinical assistant to the Children's out-patients' physician and entered private practice with a special emphasis on poliomyelitis.

Between 1925 and 1931 she was a consultant and medical officer responsible to the Poliomyelitis Committee of Victoria, and between 1930 and 1931 was honorary adviser on polio to official authorities in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

She was the Medical Officer, Yooralla Hospital School for Crippled Children from 1928-51 and on the part-time staff of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research 1933-1937. From September 1931 to October 1933 Dr. Macnamara traveled in England and North America on a Rockefeller fellowship and met President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

While in America she learned about the virus myxomatosis that infected and killed rabbits. It was largely due to her efforts that the Australian Government held field trials as a means to eradicating millions of Australia's rabbits that had over-populated the country.

Back in Australia in 1934, she married dermatologist Joseph Ivan Connor. They had two children. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to the welfare of children in 1935.

Jean Macnamara died at the age of 69 from heart disease in 1968.


April 2011/Carol K. Elliott/Post-Polio Health International

Location of Papers:
National Library of Australia
Manuscript Collection
MS 2399

Description of Papers: There is a large amount of published material including correspondence, press cuttings, case histories, appointment books, sketches and articles. Much of the material consists of Macnamara's own writings related to her interests, such as orthopaedics, research into polio and animal diseases which have some relationship to human beings and to domestic animals. The collection holds a considerable volume of material relating to her interest in the eradication of rabbits by the introduction into Australia of the virus disease, myxomatosis.

Major Articles: Dame Annie Jean Macnamara, MD


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