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BODINGTON medics - a distinguished group

Loss in Pioneer Family, Bodingtons were distinguished group

Published in the Vancouver Province newspaper, on 8 May 1943

By R. J. Templeton

Dr George Fowler BODINGTON
I was occupying the visitors' chair at Major J. S. Matthews' desk in the City Archives, and we were talking, as usual, of old-time Vancouver. It was just about time for me to leave when he asked "Did you notice the account of the death recently at Winnipeg of Walter E. Bodington?"

"No." I answered, "Who was he? The name is vague in my memory." Matthews registered surprise and disappointment. "Who was he? Only an outstanding pioneer of this city and of Gambia Island, only the son of a more outstanding pioneer and the grandson of one of the world's outstanding medical discoverers."

I expressed my contrition. "The late Walter E. Bodington," explained Matthews, "was the son of Dr George Fowler Bodington, a pioneer physician of Vancouver, afterwards superintendent of the mental hospital at New Westminster. He was one of the founders and the first honorary secretary of the Vancouver Reading Room on Cordova street, the precursor of our present Public Library."

Walter Bodington's sister lives in Toronto

He groped through a mass of correspondence on his desk. "Here's a letter I received a few days ago, from Dr George Fowler Bodington's daughter Constance, who now resides with her daughter Isobel at 38 Walker Avenue, Toronto. "Constance Bodington married the late Alderman Lauchlan A. Hamilton, CPR land commissioner, who not only laid out the forest covered site of the city of Vancouver, but also named its streets. One of them, Hamilton street, is named after him."

"The freedom of the city was conferred upon him on the occasion of his golden wedding anniversary in 1938. He was, I should mention, one of the 10 aldermen of the first city council. He is in that picture of the first council now hanging in the council chamber. His widow, Mrs L. A. Hamilton, the writer of this letter" - he pointed to it - "was the first alderwoman of the city of Toronto. She is still active despite her great age, and takes a keen interest in war work."

Matthews went to a cabinet, then took from it a bulky file, and from the file a little book that, obviously, had been printed many years before. He glanced through the book. Then: "Dr George Fowler Bodington's father, the grandfather of Mrs L. A. Hamilton and of the late Walter E. Bodington, whose recent death we are discussing, was Dr George Bodington of the Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield, England, descendant of a long line of Bodingtons of Cubington, [sic] who had tilled their own land from the time of Henry VIII."

"This Dr Bodington established at Sutton Coldfield, in 1833, the first sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1840, he published an essay describing his discovery, entitled 'The Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption.' Here it is." Matthews held out the book in his hand. "This essay anticipated by many years our modern views on the treatment of tubercular patients. He met the usual lot of those who question authority."

Searching further in the file before him, the city archivist brought out some letters and pasted clippings. "Here," he read, "is an extract from the Lancet of July 1940: 'The modest and rational preface with which the author, Dr Bodington, introduces to us his pamphlet on pulmonary consumption, has so far influenced us that we shall merely give an outline of his principles, without expending any portion of our critical wrath on his very crude ideas and unsupported assertions.'"

Thought He Would be Appreciated After His Death

"Here is an extract written to his son, Dr George Fowler Bodington, in 1866: 'I often think that, when I am dead and buried, perhaps the profession will be more disposed to do me some justice than whilst I live.' And here is a clipping from the Lancet, March 11 1882 - the very journal which 42 years earlier, had scorned Dr Bodington's new type treatment. Referring to his essay of 1840, the editor comments: 'In this little book, Dr Bodington anticipated by many years the modern treatment of phthisis ... It is remarkable that a village doctor should have arrived, in 1840, at these conclusions.'"

"It was only after many years, when credit was being claimed by others as founders of the open air treatment for tuberculosis, that Dr Bodington's essay was dragged from oblivion, and a tardy, though full, recognition to one who had been wise before his time."

"In 1938, there was formed at Sutton Coldfield, under the chairmanship of the mayor, a committee to erect a suitable monument to Dr Bodington, now recognised as amongst the borough's greatest sons."

Major Matthews paused, put away his papers, looked at me in silence for a moment, then concluded: "Every year pioneer sons of Vancouver die, forgotten by all but the few. Only for the City Archives the record of the worth and work would pass into oblivion. Isn't it worth the few thousand dollars it costs to preserve that record for posterity?"


I am most indebted to Stephen Wright, the chess historian for the British Columbia Chess Federation, who has provided me with considerable additional information regarding Dr George Bodington and Dr George Fowler Bodington.

I also acknowledge the Vancouver City Archive and the British Columbia Archive for their invaluable store of information on the Bodington family.

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