ELLIS, Henry Augustus (1861-1939)


ELLIS, Henry Augustus (1861-1939)
federalist and physician
fourth son of Colonel Francis Ellis of County Tyrone, Ireland, was born on 24 July 1861. He was educated at St Columba's, county Tyrone and Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated M.B. in 1884, and Ch.B. in 1885. He then went to Australia, was a resident at Sydney hospital for two years, and from 1890 to 1894 was an honorary physician and surgeon to the hospital. He went to Coolgardie in 1894 and had charge of the government sanatorium there, took an intense interest in his work, in which he was most successful, and also interested himself in local politics and the federation movement. Western Australia did not take part in the referendum held in 1898, and the government under Forrest (q.v.) was opposed to the proposals for federation even so late as the end of 1899. On the goldfields, however, the feeling was strongly in favour of federation, and on 13 December 1899 a meeting of delegates was held which decided to send a petition to the queen praying for the establishment of a separate goldfields colony, which would become part of the Australian Commonwealth. Some 28,000 signatures were obtained to this petition and an immense amount of propaganda matter, mostly drafted by Ellis, was sent to the British press and members of the house of commons. As a result Chamberlain intimated to Forrest that if the electors of Western Australia were not given an opportunity of voting on the question of federation, the Imperial parliament would be compelled to consider seriously the request of the people of the goldfields. Parliament was called together, a referendum bill was passed, and eventually there was a large majority in favour of federation. In 1903 Ellis was elected to the Western Australian parliament and sat for three years, and In 1913 he returned to England.
Ellis was now 52 years of age, a late age to make a fresh start. During the war years he was tuberculosis officer in Middlesbrough, and in 1919 came to London as assistant physician at the Margaret-street hospital for diseases of the chest. Later he established a consultant practice in Harley-street which had much success. Part of this arose from his sympathetic understanding of the action of the mind on the body. He published in 1923 How shall I be saved from Consumption, and two short treatises followed, Reaction in Relation to Disease (1924), and An Explanation of Hydrogen Concentration (1925). He died after a long illness at Crowborough on 3 October 1939. He was twice married and left a widow.
Ellis was a man of unconventional personality and great ability; a colleague of his in later years said of him: "None of us was ever as young as Ellis; none of us will ever be as old." He never lost his freshness of outlook nor the wisdom which comes of experience. His work for federation in Western Australia was of great importance, and as a physician he showed the value of a combination of common sense and science, and an appreciation of the importance of the patient's psychology.
Sir John Kirwan, The West Australian, 24 February 1940; The British Medical Journal, 4 November and 2 December 1939; Sir John Kirwan, "Altering the Map of Australia", Review of Reviews, Australasian edition, January 1900.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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