Woman Anderson, Charlotte

Medical Practitioner, Medical Researcher and Paediatric Gastroenterologist

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Charlotte Anderson, widely known as Charlo, was born in Melbourne in 1915. She was educated at Tintern Girls' Grammar School, of which she was dux, and the University of Melbourne where she completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at in 1936. During her next five years as a research biochemist at the Baker Institute, she took out a Master of Science, before returning to the University of Melbourne to study medicine, completing her MBBS in 1945. She came third in her year, the highest result for a woman, but in earlier years she had led the examinations. This time, her mother apparently said, 'the boys beat her' (Argus 1 March 1945).

After graduating in medicine, Anderson spent a year as a resident at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and another at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH), Melbourne. With this last position she began an ongoing association with that hospital, and her life-long dedication to paediatric medicine and medical research, in which she was a pioneer. As registrar and research fellow in the RCH's Clinical Research Unit from 1948 to 1950, she was a pioneer in paediatric gastroentology and made major contributions to the treatment of cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease and sugar intolerance. Among her groundbreaking discoveries were a test to distinguish between cystic fibrosis and coeliacs in children, and the identification of gluten as a cause of coeliacs.

In the early 1950s, she further developed this work at a number of British hospitals, including the Hospital for Sick Children, London, and Birmingham Children's Hospital. When she returned to the RCH, she continued her focus on paediatric gastroenterology and in 1961, with Rudge Townley, Ruth Langford and Dr Pat Phair, formed the Gastroenterological Research Unit, of which she was director until 1968. She was also instrumental in establishing the Australian Society for Paediatric Research.

In 1968, Anderson became the first female professor of paediatrics in the United Kingdom when she was appointed Leonard Parsons Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Birmingham Medical School. She held that position until she retired in 1980 and returned to Melbourne. She continued to research and write in the field, particularly in association with Princess Margaret Children's Medical Research Foundation in Perth. In 1997, Anderson was awarded an AM for her service to medicine. She died in Melbourne in 2002.

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Allen, Nessy, 'A Pioneer of Paediatric Gastroenterology: the Career of an Australian Woman Scientist', Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 11, 1996, pp. 35 - 50. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Life in Melbourne, Vesta Junior's Mirror of the Day', The Argus, 1 March 1945, p. 8. Details

Online Resources

  • 'A chapter in the evolution of paediatrics in Australia: The University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics at the Royal Children's Hospital 1959-2003', in Witness to the History of Australian Medicine, The University of Melbourne: Johnstone-Need Medical History Unit, c.2011, http://www.jnmhugateways.unimelb.edu.au/witness/001.html. Details
  • Alafaci, Annette, 'Anderson, Charlotte Morrison (1915 - 2002)', in Encyclopedia of Australian Science, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, 7 February 2011, http://www.eoas.info/biogs/P004580b.htm. Details

See also