Notes taken at Professor George B. Halford's (1824-1910) lectures on General Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology

John William Springthorpe (b.1855, d.1933)
Leather bound exercise book containing John Springthorpe's (1855-1933) handwritten notes with coloured pencil illustrations, compiled during his attendance of Professor Halford's lectures on General Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology,at the University of Melbourne throughout 1877, starting in "February Term". These notes do not seem to be divided according to subject or hold the dates of each lecture.

The lecturing style of the Melbourne Medical School’s first professor, George Britton Halford (1824–1910), has been described as ‘exceptional and striking’, deliberately planned to develop ‘in us [medical students] the spirit of investigation; he gave us things to do and didn’t do them for us’. On the other hand, his inaugural lecture was assessed retrospectively as strong on rhetoric and literary allusion, but weak on scientific interest.
Given these differing perspectives on the style and content of Halford’s communications at a time when he was shaping the early Medical School, the 1877 lecture notes hand-written by one of his bright students—the effervescent John
Springthorpe (1855–1933)—constitute compelling reading. The fact that they are the only surviving representation of Halford’s teaching adds to their importance. They tell us that Halford’s modus operandi was to describe and assess the
latest findings by various named scientific investigators, employ a show-stopping demonstration or two to make some salient points, and then articulate conclusions which, hopefully, students had already reached themselves. His lecture on saliva was a case in point. First, Halford presented students with the findings of various investigations on the make-up of the salivary glands, their nerve and blood supply, and the composition of their secretions. Then he mixed starch and iodine, added saliva and shook it. By the end of the lecture, in less than thirty minutes, not a trace of starch remained. In the meantime, Halford discussed the influence of various stimulants on salivary secretions, and methods for analysing its chemical constituents. Only as the lecture concluded did Halford reiterate the functions of saliva, most of which he had already deftly illustrated: as a promoter of digestion, as an essential intermediary in the sense of taste, and as a lubricant of the mouth, teeth and tongue, enabling the rapid movements of speech. He was indeed a skilled communicator of scientific insights, who could also illustrate key points through entertaining showmanship.
Dr Ann Westmore
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Object detail

Other Maker
0 - Whole
ink, pencil on paper, leather and cardboard
19.5 x 23.4 x 3 cm
Accession Number
name/inscriptions ▫ front cover: 'Physiology and Pathology/Lectures/Melb 1877 Univ.'
name/inscriptions ▫ inside cover: 'General Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology/Lectures John Springthorpe/Melb Univ/1877/Melbourne University 1877'
Object Type
Medical History Museum Category


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