Pioneering doctor of many talents
Dr Richard Sanders Rogers pioneered the use of X-rays and hypnotism within medicine and was a leading authority on Australian orchids.
Dr Richard Sanders Rogers made his initial mark in history in 1879 by becoming the first boy from a state school to study at the University of Adelaide.
Over his long career as a medical practitioner, however, he produced several other "firsts" in his readiness to apply new technology and techniques to his practice.
Dr Rogers was born in 1861 and, as a teenager, attended the Pulteney Street State School which later became Pulteney Grammar School. There he won an Education Department scholarship to the University of Adelaide, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in 1882.
With the award of a South Australian scholarship, Dr Rogers travelled to the UK and completed his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh in 1887, returning to South Australia to set up his medical practice, first in Port Wakefield and then Adelaide.
In the 1890s, Dr Rogers became interested in hypnotism and its use within medicine and was reportedly the first doctor in private practice to perform a major operation in 1905 while acting as both surgeon and hypnotist. He removed a cyst from the breast of a female patient while she was conscious and talking.
In 1896, only a matter of months after Roentgen's discovery of X-rays, Dr Rogers imported one of the earliest X-ray tubes - the first brought into Adelaide - and encouraged its use in medical diagnosis.
Dr Rogers became Honorary Physician to the Adelaide Hospital in 1897 and, in 1909, undertook a major influential survey of the health of state school children.
He was elected to the Medical Board of South Australia in 1911 and was its President in 1932. In 1919 Dr Rogers was appointed Lecturer in Forensic Medicine at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until his retirement at the age of 78.
In the early 1900s, Dr Rogers began a study of Australian orchids, an interest he'd developed as a child and pursued at university. This hobby soon developed into a passion and between 1906 and 1932 he published 25 papers on orchids and became well known in the field.
He identified and authored at least 85 orchid species from Australia and others from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Over 30 years his work was illustrated with coloured drawings and paintings by Adelaide artist Rosa Fiveash.
His work promoted an interest in orchids among school children with a series of articles for the Education Department's Children's Hour, published as Some South Australian Orchids and the updated An Introduction to the Study of South Australian Orchids, popular in South Australian school libraries.
In 1905 Dr Rogers was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia of which he was President in 1920 and in 1924 he became a Fellow of the Linnaean Society.
Dr Rogers died in 1942. His drive for achievement in such a diverse range of fields was unusual but he was a modest man and made light of his own significant contributions. ■
STORY ROBYN MILLS
The above is derived from several sources, namely: a biography published by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, Australian National Herbarium and supplied by his grandson, Lauder Scott Rogers; a biographical note by the University of Adelaide Library Special Collections; and Orchids of South Australia by Rob Bates.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BARR SMITH LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS