Richard Ryther Steer Bowker, M.D., was
born in England on August 30,1815.
He received his
preliminary education in the Endowed School, Appleby,
Leicestershire, under Dr. Lloyd, and, having served an
apprenticeship in the Nottingham General Dispensary, studied in
various schools of medicine and surgery in Scotland and England,
and for further improvements in his profession spout some time
Dr. Bowker was a fellow of the Royal College
of Surgeons of England, and a member of the Royal College of
Physicians of London. He began the practice of his profession at
Bingham, near Nottingham ; but, having been overcome by hard
work he determined to take a sea voyage, and came out to Swan
River (Perth), West Australia, as doctor of an emigrant ship. He
subsequently settled in Newcastle, New South Wales, where he
stayed for two years. He then spent two years in the East Indies
studying the diseases peculiar to those regions; and in 1853
returned to Australia, and settled in Newcastle, where he has
filled several local public office as coroner, alderman, and
justice of the peace.
He early began to take an interest
in politics and public life, and was elected a member of the
Legislative Assembly in 1856. On the dissolution of the
Assembly in 1859 he did not offer himself for re-election ; but
after some years, being anxious to obtain improvement in
sanitary legislation in various directions, he offered himself
for re-election in 1877, and was returned.
he exerted himself chiefly in showing the danger arising from
bad ventilation in schools, and in procuring improvement in this
respect. He also pointed out the. dangers arising from drinking
surface water, and how prolific - a cause of typhoid fever this
was. He therefore urged the construction of proper water supply
works, particularly in his own district of Wallsend. The evils
arising from intramural burial also occupied his attention ; and
he strongly opposed the building of a large hospital within the
city boundaries on the ground that the latest teachings of
medical science had shown that hospitals in the country were
more conducive to recovery than those in towns. Dr. Bowker
also endeavored to get a Medical Bill passed, and also an Act to
prevent the immigration of Chinese, looking upon them as a
positive danger. He opposed the Public Instruction Act, thinking
that if the State inaugurated a system of education for its
children it should not have made the teaching of religion a
secondary matter. At the next election, in consequence of his
views on public education, he was defeated ; and his political
connection with Newcastle ended. In 1873 he left Newcastle as a
place of residence, and taken up his abode at Avoca, Darling
Australian Town and Country Journal 4 February 1888
One of the voyages he made to Australia as ship surgeon was on
the immigrant ship Georgiana which arrived in Port Phillips on
23 February 1841 While on board the Georgiana he kept a journal of his voyage.
settled in Newcastle in the 1840's where he lived in Bolton
Street. He was
called on at all hours of the night for emergencies. Some
of the cases are mentioned below.....
1843 he was disturbed at ten o'clock at night to attend a man
named Morgan - a 'deformed and exceedingly harmless man' who
resided in King Street and lay dangerously ill after being
beaten and stabbed with a bayonet by two soldiers from the
99th regiment. When Dr. Bowker arrived he found Morgan
seriously wounded with the stab being about three inches depth
between the third and fourth ribs.
He was often required
to attend inquests in Newcastle. In April 1844, Coroner J.S.
Parker held an inquest at Newcastle on the body of 18month old
Rebecca Dunn who had supposedly died through the injudicious
medical treatment of a man named
Peter Rosario At the inquest it was discovered that the
child had been ill for four months and attended by Dr. Bowker
who had told the mother that he entertained no hope of recovery
due to her liver complaint. He recommended oatmeal, arrowroot
and beef tea which the child refused. Her mother then called the
assistance of Peter Rozario who ordered the flannels in which
the child was wrapped to be removed. He mixed some aloes in a
table spoon of water with some lump sugar, a teaspoonful of
which he gave the child. After giving this medicine he cut up a
white onion which he bruised with half a teaspoonful of salt and
rubbed the child all over, when he prescribed a teaspoonful of
castor oil to be given. He then ordered her to be laid to sleep.
The next day to recommended more castor oil and rubbed the child
all over again with onion and salt and ordered her to be fed
with chicken broth boiled with whole pepper. The mother and
child returned to their residence a short distance from
Newcastle five days later. On their next visit to Newcastle the
child became ill again and Peter Rozario was again consulted
when he advised that she had a cold on the stomach and would not
live. He again gave the child aloes to cut the phlegm and
chicken broth however she died an hour later.
performed a post mortem on the body and it was found that
Bowker's diagnosis of liver disease was correct. The liver was
enlarged to double its size and contained several abscesses. At
the inquest Dr. Bowker stated that although Rozario's treatment
was not directly injurious it was indirectly so by hindering
efficient remedies from being employed. Two men John Barker and
David Robertson spoke in Court in Rozario's favour stating they
had received relief from his treatments, however the jury found
that Rebecca Dunn had died by the visitation of God, and they
recommended that Peter Rozario be cautioned by the coroner from
practicing as a quack doctor.
On a winter's night in 1844 Dr. Bowker
was called out at midnight when the lockup keeper
Thomas Harrison was viciously assaulted and stabbed by two
men. On arrival at the Court House where Harrison resided he
found the stab wound had passed completely through Harrison's
cheek and that he was in a very dangerous state.
August 1848, he treated Miss Humphrey, the eldest daughter of
Thomas Bott Humphrey of Newcastle. Her dress had caught fire
and she was seriously burned before a ticket of leave holder
John Brown managed to extinguish the flames. She remained in a
dangerous state under the constant medical treatment of Dr.
Bowker for some time.
Richard Bowker worked for a
time in the East Indies however returned to Newcastle and
settled in a house overlooking the harbour and sea. This was
possibly situated in Watt Street next to the California Hotel
Morris Magney. From his house he could no doubt observe any
of his vessels entering and leaving the harbour. He owned five
vessels in partnership with
George Tully by 1853. One of his small trading vessels was
He contributed to the educational
entertainment in the township and in September 1844 gave an
introductory lecture on Chemistry at the Mechanics Institute.
Richard Bowker was highly regarded by the
inhabitants of Newcastle as in 1848 on his return to the
township after a long absence residents contributed to purchase
a piece of plate and fifty sovereigns to thank him for his
previous and continuing service as a doctor
In 1858 he
married Lydia Phillips in Paterson. Lydia was the daughter of
Peninsula war veteran
Phillips. She had probably grown up on the family estate
'Bona Vista' at Paterson. (Lydia's older sister Isabella married
David Sloan in 1840.) Richard
Bowker later purchased the Bona Vista property from the Estate.
Richard and Lydia Bowker soon started a family - Isabel was born
in 1859, Robert in 1861, Elizabeth in 1862, Charles in 1864,
Richard in 1867, Arthur 1869, Harold 1870, Edward 1872 were all
born in Newcastle. Cedric was born in 1876 in Paddington,
Sydney. Lydia Bowker died in
Paddington in 1878.
Richard Bowker died in 1903......
|Obituary......Death of Dr. Bowker. The death is
recorded of Dr. Richard Ryther Bowker, M.L.C., one of
the oldest and most highly esteemed medical
practitioners in the State, at his residence, Avoca,
Thornton-street, Darling Point, on Friday, April 3.
Deceased was born in Lincolnshire on August 30, 1816. He
began the study of medicine at the age of 16, when he
was apprenticed at the Nottingham General Dispensary. He
pursued his studies in Scotland, London, and Paris. He
obtained the degree of M.K.C.P. (London) and of F.K.C.S.
(England) in 1838, and of M.D. at St. Andrew's in 1839.
At 22 he began to practise his profession in Bingham,
He afterwards undertook two sea
voyages as medical superintendent of an immigrant
vessel, and came to New South Wales, and resided at
Newcastle. For the purpose of medical research deceased
visited the East Indies, and in 1853 returned to
Newcastle. He represented Newcastle in the Legislative
Assembly from 1856 to 1859. He did not seek re-election
until 1877, when he was again returned. He was a member
of the Legislative Council for several years.
Prior to 1877
deceased took up his residence at Darling Point. In 1858
he married Miss Lydia Phillips, the youngest daughter of
Phillips, of Bona Vista, Paterson. Up
to two years ago he continued to practise his
profession. His wife predeceased him by some years. He
leaves a family of six sons and three daughters. Four
sons are members of the medical profession, Dr. Robert
Steer Bowker is the eldest, Dr. Cedric Bowker (late of
the Sydney Hospital), and Dr. Richard Bowker (England)
are also sons. The remains were conveyed to the
Paterson, and there interred on Monday. -
Maitland Weekly Mercury 11 April 1903
Notes & Links:
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
Parliament of New South Wales
Monthly Magazine 1811....