Photo courtesy of: David Kapernick, The Courier Mail
Dr John Iredale Tonge, a name synonymous with forensic pathology in Queensland for nearly 70 years, died on 28 February 2013 at the age of 96.
DR JOHN IREDALE TONGE CBE MBBS FRCPA Born in Melbourne in 1916, the youngest of six children, Dr Tonge was educated at Melbourne Grammar, Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex and at The King’s School, Parramatta. Dr Tonge commenced his medical studies in 1934 at the University of Sydney. Upon graduation in 1939, Dr Tonge was appointed as a resident at the Prince Alfred Hospital. At this time, due to the absence of many senior staff on war service, residents were given responsibilities far beyond their training, skills and knowledge. Dr Tonge recalled being appointed as “registrar of anaesthetics”, responsible for six theatres, despite having no practical anaesthetic experience at all. Upon joining the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps in December 1940, Dr Tonge initially assisted in establishing the Blood Bank in Sydney. Later he worked at Cowra, Bathurst and at Concord Military Hospital.
Research Unit at Cairns and remained there until his discharge from the Army in 1946. In July 1946 Dr Tonge was offered a position as pathologist in the Department of Microbiology and Pathology in Brisbane. Following the appointment of the then director, Dr EH ‘Ted’ Derrick, to the fledgling Queensland Institute of Medical Research in 1947, Dr Tonge became Director of the Department, a position he held until his retirement in 1979. Dr Tonge was responsible for expanding the Government laboratory and introducing new services including a TB laboratory, a virology unit, and increasingly sophisticated forensic services. Dr Tonge’s special interests were sudden infant death syndrome, road trauma and aviation pathology.
In 1943 he joined the 2/2 Army General Hospital on the Atherton Tableland as a pathologist and later took command of the 104th Australian Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory and served with it in New Guinea and New Britain.
Largely through the lobbying of Dr Tonge and his team and the neurosurgeon Ken Jamieson, the Queensland Parliament introduced legislation imposing limits to drivers’ blood-alcohol level (1968), governing the wearing of crash helmets by motorcyclists (1970) and seat belts in motor vehicles (1972).
In 1945 he was ordered to undertake malaria research at Wewak and subsequently transferred to the world famous Malaria
Dr Tonge was one of the founders of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and was its third President in 1959-1961.
Dr Tonge lectured medical students at the University of Queensland on forensic medicine for over 30 years. In retirement, Dr Tonge served on many boards and committees including the Queensland Sudden Infant Death Research Foundation (now SIDS and Kids), the Royal Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme, the RSPCA and the council of the, then, Queensland Institute of Technology. The John Tonge Centre housing the pathology and forensic biology functions of the Queensland Health Department was named in his honour in 1992. In 1947 Dr Tonge married Loddie Marks, a member of a well-known and highlyrespected three generation Wickham Terrace medical family. Dr and Mrs Tonge have four children, David, Margaret, Sam and Stephen. A cultured, modest and deeply compassionate man, Dr Tonge lived and breathed his role as a medical practitioner until his death. He was acutely proud of his membership of the Australian Medical Association which spanned over 73 years. Dr Tonge donated his body to the University of Queensland School of Biomedical Sciences. Contributed by Dr Tonge’s son Stephen. Q
DoctorQ MAY 2013
Published on Apr 22, 2013