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Dr Thomas George Beckett (1859-1937)

"DR THOMAS GEORGE BECKETT"

Image: "DR THOMAS GEORGE BECKETT"

Source: Museum Victoria

Thomas George Beckett was born in London in 1859 and was one of seven children; his father was a pharmacist. He studied medicine in Edinburgh and qualified in 1880. After his graduation Beckett spent several years as a ship's surgeon before arriving in Victoria, Australia, in 1885 with wife Kate Beckett (nee Lawrence) and one son, George. Thomas and Kate had married in London in 1883; they would have four children surviving to adulthood: George (b 1884), Helen (Nellie) (b1885), Lawrence (b 1890) and Kathleen (b 1892); Maud died in infancy.

Beckett commenced practice in the north central Victorian town of Charlton in 1885, moving his practice and family in 1892 to Northcote, a northern Melbourne suburb. In 1905 they moved house and practice to 340 St Kilda Road, South Yarra and around 1913 to 132 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, opposite the Exhibition Building.

Beckett was one of a small number of medical practitioners in Melbourne to make radiology an important and successful part of their private practices in the early 20th century. Beckett was a friend of Frederick John Clendinnen (1960-1913), another pioneer radiologist in Melbourne, whose collection of x-ray tubes is held in the Museum Victoria collection. Beckett worked as head of the X-Ray Department and electrician in charge of equipment at the Alfred Hospital from 1901 to 1908. He was a pioneer in the building and use of x-rays for cancer treatment and delivered many papers and public lectures on the subject.

A skilled electrician and woodworker, Beckett built his first x-ray apparatus, even constructing his own batteries, and building the cabinets and tables for the apparatus. Beckett took a photo of the x-ray apparatus he built at his Northcote surgery, around 1900-1902.

Beckett was also a keen photographer, and documented the history of his family and community. He was a keen cyclist and a Captain in the Militia, retiring with the rank of Major.

Beckett was to suffer from his work, spending the last 15 years of his life in constant pain and losing his arm, fingers and the tops of his ears to amputation because of exposure to radiation.

References:
Biographical notes held by Australian Institute of Radiography.
Mitchell, Ann M. (1977). The Hospital South of the Yarra: A History of Alfred Hospital Melbourne from Foundation to the Nineteen-Forties, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.
J. P. Trainor (1946). Salute to the X-Ray Pioneers of Australia, W. Watson & Sons, Sydney.

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