Dr Frederick Truby King provided the impetus for The Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children, commonly known as the Plunket Society.
At age 22, New Plymouth-born King left a career in banking to pursue one in medicine. He studied medicine and public health in Edinburgh, then returned to New Zealand with his new wife after eight years abroad in 1888. The following year King was appointed medical superintendent of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, the country’s largest, north of Dunedin.
Ettie Rout gained a public profile in early-20th century Christchurch as a cyclist, vegetarian, freethinker and physical culturist. Tall, fit and endowed with a superabundance of energy, she wore clothes peculiar to the time, was a committed socialist, and helped establish the Maoriland Worker, a left-wing newspaper.
Described by US medical historian David Adams as ‘one of the most notable war surgeons of the 20th century’, Douglas Waddell Jolly was born in Cromwell, Central Otago in 1904 and graduated from Otago Medical School in 1929. There he became an active member of the Student Christian Movement and its non-sectarian Christian socialism would remain a guiding principle of his life.
Charles Begg was New Zealand's most decorated member of the Medical Corps during the First World War. Born in Dunedin in September 1879, he attended Kaikorai School and Otago Boys' High School before studying medicine at the University of Otago Medical School in 1898. He graduated with distinction from the University of Edinburgh in 1903. He became an MD in 1905 and the following year returned to New Zealand, where he went into general practice in Wellington. In December 1909 he married Lillian Treadwell. The couple had two sons.
Margaret Cruickshank was the first woman to be registered as a doctor in New Zealand. From 1897 to 1918 she served the small South Canterbury community of Waimate. She worked tirelessly during the 1918 influenza pandemic but eventually caught the disease herself and died on 28 November 1918.
Following the pandemic speculation continued over the Niagara's involvement in bringing the virus to New Zealand. The Department of Public Health was also heavily criticised. The government responded by setting up a royal commission with wide powers of investigation.
It fell to Robert Makgill, acting Chief Health Officer, to implement the Commission's recommendations. One of the recommendations, which Makgill had argued for, was for a new Health Act ‘to consolidate and simplify the existing legislation'.