CONNOR, Joseph Ivan (1887-1966)

Modified on Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:45 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of War - World War I

CONNOR, Dr Joseph Ivan (1887-1966)

Joseph Ivan Connor played a recognised role in identifying and isolating the influenza virus during the worldwide influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. The disease, reputedly spread by soldiers returning from World War, I was responsible for the deaths of an estimated fifty to one hundred million people.

He was born on 27 December 1887, the son of Dr Samuel Connor and Florence nee Arden, of Coleraine. He was educated at Hamilton College, Geelong College and Ormond College, The University of Melbourne, where he graduated MB MS. He was enrolled as a boarder at Geelong College in 1905. The Annual Report prize lists note him as earning 2nd places in both Chemistry and Physics in the Post Matriculation Form in 1905

After leaving College, he completed his residency at Melbourne Hospital becoming Registrar in 1916 and a member of staff at Melbourne University. He volunteered in the Australian Army Medical Corps Reinforcements as a Captain in May 1917. (His Attestation Record confusingly cites enlistementdates of 14 May 1917 and 16 May 1917). He then embarked for England on HMAT A29 Suevic on 21 June. He was Mentioned in Despatches, gazetted 28 January 1919 ‘for his research work into the probable causative germ of the influenza epidemic’ , at No 3 Australian General Hospital, Southall Military Hospital. Ironically, in February 1919 he contracted influenza. He served in France for a time with the 1st Field Ambulance, then returned to the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from June-August 1918, where he was successful in isolating the influenza virus during the pandemic. He returned to Australia, embarking on 23 September 1919.

After his war service Dr Ivan Connor returned to Australia and practised at Coleraine until 1930 when he returned to London for further studies. On his return to Australia he was appointed to the staff of the Melbourne Hospital in 1933 as an honorary assistant dermatologist.

The following year, he married (Dame) Annie Jean Macnamara (1899-1968) on 19 November 1934 at the Gardenvale Presbyterian Church. Jean was a medical scientist who, following the 1925 polio epidemic became a renowned and determines authority on the viral disease, poliomyelitis. She had graduated MB BS in 1922 in the same year as Old Geelong Collegian (Sir) Macfarlane Burnet (1899-1985). With the collaboration of Macfarlane Burnet she discovered the existence of multiple strains of the poliomyelitis virus and this was to prove a vital step in the later development of the Salk vaccine. Jean also played a major role in campaigning for the testing and introduction of myxamatosis virus successfully in Australia, which particularly during the 1950s for the first time controlled the wild rabbit population.

After their marriage they acquired Springfield, South Yarra, the former home of the pioneer woman doctor, Lilian Alexander. They later had a hobby farm near Romsey.

Dr Joseph Ivan Connor died at Melbourne on 7 September 1955.

His older brother, John Leslie Connor was killed in action at Walker’s Ridge, Gallipoli, on 7 August 1915 while serving with 8th Light Horse. He has no known grave, his name is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, Turkey.

His cousin, Private William Arden Egerton ‘Tommy’ Arnold, of 3 Light Horse Field Ambulance worked as a stretcher bearer and despatch rider, prior to his wounding by a sniper while at Anzac. He died as a result of those wounds on a hospital ship on 17 September 1915, aged just 17 years 10 months, and was buried at sea. As he has no known grave, his name is also recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Sources: Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 158-59 (citing The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service of Teachers, Graduates, Undergraduates, Officers and Servants (1926); Pegasus; Ken Fitzgerald, The Coleraine Cenotaph: A Brief Biographical Record of the 103 First and Second World War Service Personnel Commemorated; National Archives); Ann G Smith. Macnamara, Dame Annie Jean (1899-1968) Australian Dictionary of Biography NCB ANU Vol 10, 1986; Doctors on the Western Front: France and Belgium 1916-1918 by Robert Likeman CSM. Volume 3, NSW: Rosenberg Pub, 2014.