History of West Australia/Frank Tratman

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DR. FRANK TRATMAN, J.P., M.D., M.R.C.S., D.P.H., L.R.C.P. (Eng.).

Frank Tratman HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

THE survival of the fittest—the uprising of merit—is one of the undeniable characteristics of the nineteenth century, in which work in any profession is highly specialised, and none but the specialist is held to be of any account. The time has gone by when mediocre brains or acquirements can pass muster in the world under a counterfeited hallmark of quality, and maintain for their possessor a spurious credit. The world is too perceptive and too critical to accept a make-believe for performances of the first class; there are too many eager competitors in the field to expose the cheat, and to jealously pull down the usurper of prizes that are fairly beyond his reach. To obtain distinction in any pursuit in these days of high pressure, not only talent, but singleness of purpose, is necessary, and sedulous application for the development in the highest measure of natural gifts, and it is only when this exacting combination of forces is happily found in association that rivals are distanced, and the victor bears away the palm. "The runners," as Carlyle says, "are treading on each other's heels; woe to him who stops to tie his shoe-string." This is especially true of the medical profession. The day has gone by when, as one writer puts it, a doctor may pour drugs of which he knows little into bodies of which he knows less. The physician or the surgeon works under too clear a light of public opinion to be able to assume a knowledge when he has it not. It is true that his patients do not understand his methods, but they judge him by the test of results, which is the most practical test of the efficiency and value of his services, which may manifest an inborn skill of diagnosis or merely a mechanical rule of thumb application of book learning, to all cases alike without discrimination, and which are rewarded respectively by a large practice, and the semi-starvation of the unhappy practitioner who has mistaken his vocation. The range of medical learning has become so wide with the accumulated experience of the ages, since the time of Esculapius, that it may be taken for granted that no man who does not find the profession a congenial one would attempt to shun delights and live laborious days in exploring the libraries of works which have been written upon the ills that flesh is heir to. The application of the point of our text will be found in the perusal of the record of the prosperous life of Dr. Frank Tratman, whose academic qualifications make an imposing array below the portrait of the subject of our biography.

Dr. Frank Tratman, MD., M.R.C.S., D.P.H., L R.C.P., and Justice of the Peace for the colony of Western Australia, was born in Bristol in 1860. He was educated at the Bristol Grammar School, distinguishing himself as a scholar, and carrying off many prizes at the head of his classes. From an early age the mysteries and the triumphs of medicine and surgery had possessed a fascination for him, and he delighted to absorb himself in the researches of these branches of science, so that his father, who was a profound believer in the sound maxim that the boy is father of the man, was easily persuaded to allow him to apply himself to a profession for which he had so marked a predilection. Frank Tratman entered upon the study of medicine at the London Hospital, and having now full scope for the display of his aptitudes, made rapid progress in the studies to which he applied himself with all the ardour of a strong and sympathetic mind. He took the degree of M.B., and became house surgeon to the London Hospital. After he had held this position for some months, he aspired to a wider sphere of observation and practice, and, his high qualifications having attracted the attention of the Colonial Office, an offer was made to him by the Imperial authorities to go out to Western Australia and become resident medical officer at Carnarvon. To the young practitioner the prospect of completing his education by the varied experiences of travel and of seeing the antipodes, whose conditions of life and influences on character are so wholly different to those of the large cities of the old world, was an attractive one, and in 1886 Dr. Tratman undertook the voyage, but he was not destined to immure himself in the arid and tropical town of Carnarvon. On presenting his credentials to the Government at Perth, the Colonial Secretary perceived that Dr. Tratman's abilities would to some extent be thrown away in so remote a part of the colony as Carnarvon, and a more important and fitting sphere was found for him close to the metropolis at Guildford, where he became resident medical officer. The district under his control is one of the largest in the colony, and Dr. Tratman performed the duties of his office with much acceptance to the Government for five years. In 1891, however, he grew restless, and anxious to achieve greater distinction in the profession of his choice; instead of becoming reconciled to one groove which would yield no further intellectual conquests, he resigned his appointment, went to England, applied himself assiduously to further study, and took the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the London University.

While in England he made a special study of the most modern system of hygiene as applied to the preservation of the public health, and in this domain he made a reputation as one of the leading authorities, which brought his name to the front when the Government had to combat the cholera scare that was the outcome of the outbreak of the scourge in Hamburg and in Russia. At this time Dr. Tratman had been appointed assistant medical officer in his native town of Bristol, but the summons of the Government at the important conjuncture in the history of the country, called him to the performance of a higher mission. He was entrusted with the responsible duty of devising and carrying into effect precautions having for their object the shielding of the United Kingdom from the infection of the dreaded malady that was decimating population on the Continent. The fullest powers were placed in the hands of Dr. Tratman for the efficient fulfilment of this duty. He had special steamers at his disposal for the maintenance of the health patrol unremitting]y day and night, and he worked indefatigably and almost regardless of hours of rest during the crisis of the scare. As is well known, cholera was kept at a distance from the shores of England owing to the watchfulness of the health authorities, among whom Dr. Tratman had a prominent place, and it is satisfactory to know that the Government did not prove themselves ungrateful towards so zealous and capable an officer when the danger passed away. In 1893, when the fortune of Western Australia began to rise, Dr. Tratman, who had achieved the object of his visit to the old country, and who had always cherished a cordial feeling of regard towards a colony in which he had so many friends, resolved to return to the place in which he was held in high and general esteem. On arriving here in 1893 he settled in Perth to practise his profession, and at once established himself so strongly in the confidence of the public that his work became a serious tax upon his energies. In addition to his very large practice, he devotes himself to the service of suffering humanity with a philanthropic spirit, and among the surgeons of the Perth Hospital no one is more active or punctual in the performance of his duty than Dr. Frank Tratman. He is also a member of the Medical Board of Western Australia and president of the Dental Board of the colony.

Dr. Tratman, like all successful men, finds much pleasure in the pursuit of his profession, which touches the master-chord of his energetic nature. He holds the conviction, and the dictum is entitled to much respect, coming from such an authority, that hard work is healthful to mind and body, so long as the task is a congenial one, and is free from the destructive effect of anxiety or harassing surroundings. In a word, it is not industry, but worry, that kills, and in this respect he certainly takes his own prescription, and adds the example to precept, for his hours of recreation spent outside his laboratory or his library are very few indeed. He finds the greatest pleasure in keeping abreast of medical thought and development in all parts of the world, and is a contributor to the Lancet and other leading organs of the profession. To him the announcement of any new theory or principle of treatment, such as that of Pasteurisation, which made such a sensation in the medical world a few years ago, or the disclosure of the amazing possibilities of the X rays of concentrated photographic power, are of the most engrossing interest, and he burns much midnight oil in possessing himself of the most microscopic details of such a discovery. Dr. Tratman is reputed among his colleagues to possess not only a remarkable grasp of medical science, but also a peculiarly terse and lucid method of expressing his views upon the most recondite points of practice. At the age of thirty-six he has already harvested a liberal reward for his devotion to his work, and for his early years of strenuous study. In these days of intense competition, and the attrition of intellect in the professions, he has, long before he has reached the prime of life, climbed to a plane of distinction which many of those who started the race with him would probably be well satisfied to attain to in the full maturity of their careers.