Philanthropists and Philanthropy

Home » Philanthropy » Alan Carroll (1827-1911), Doctor, Scientist, Philanthropist, Fabricator and Liar

Alan Carroll (1827-1911), Doctor, Scientist, Philanthropist, Fabricator and Liar

The death of Dr Alan Carroll in 1911 was announced to the public in Sydney and beyond with the headline “A Great Man Gone, Doctor, Scientist, and Philanthropist”. Was he really any of these things? Under the headline he was described as ‘not only a wise physician but a philanthropist, who lived for the good that he could do’.[1] Regional papers said that he was a ‘great and good man, who had no thought for himself, but spent all for those who needed his help and advice’.[2] His ardent supporters considered him ‘the greatest and noblest man in Australia’ and ‘one of the greatest minds of the day’.[3] For his medical work he was spoken of in messianic terms as he made ‘the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the crooked straight’. [4] His life was indeed extraordinary, remarkable, colourful and varied as the headline announced, but his history is somewhat less great and his accomplishments less certain than the above would suggest. This article seeks to examine Alan Carroll’s life and some of the claims made by and about him concerning his qualifications, expertise and experience. It will become apparent that, whatever else he may have been, Carroll was an outright liar and a fabricator of his qualifications and experience.

Dr Samuel Matthias Curl alias Alan Carroll

Personal Details

A chronology of his early life, and some recounting of aspects of his background, is required to test the veracity of the various claims made in connection with that life. Critical to this assessment is to know when Alan Carroll was born. He was baptised with the name of Samuel Matthias Curl and he is commonly said to have been born in c1823.[5] Curl was actually born on December 31, 1827, and he was baptised on February 24, 1828.[6] He died in Sydney on April 17, 1911, aged 83 and 4 months.[7] He was the son of Matthias Curl, a wheelwright, and his wife Maria Howlett. Samuel grew up in London in a house in Regent Street[8] having one brother, William Matthias, who followed in his father’s trade.[9] In March 1851, Samuel married Mary White Pryce (December 3, 1820 – May 31, 1905).[10] In June 1851, he joined the Freemasons, St Johns Lodge, Hampstead (United Grand Lodge of England).[11] He maintained his membership until May 13, 1854, when Samuel and Maria embarked for New Zealand (NZ) aboard the Cordelia arriving in the colony at Wellington on September 29, 1854.[12] In 1855, Samuel’s uncle, a brother to his father, died and left him £100 sterling and his farm in Greater Walsingham, England, the income from which meant Samuel was financially secure and perhaps independent of the need to earn a living.[13]

In 1855 in NZ, Curl bought a property and took up farming and combined it with a medical practice and his literary work[14] firstly at Tawa, and then from 1862 at Rangitikei/Bulls.[15] He was appointed coroner for Porirua on September 26, 1855, and for Rangitikei on January 17, 1860, and at his request, was appointed the surgeon in the Turakina Company, Wanganui Rifle Volunteers on April 18, 1861.  He later became the native medical attendant for Rangitikei on March 19, 1862, and a Justice of the Peace (JP)  on April 22, 1862. Curl’s appointments as coroner and native medical attendant were cancelled in July 18, 1864,[16] and he was removed as a JP in November 1870.[17] He remained in the Rangitikei district working as Doctor and farmer, never leaving NZ until the mid-1880s.[18]

Annie Carroll nee Douglas

It is said that in 1887 Samuel abandoned his wife and moved to Sydney with Annie Douglas (1851-1929), his neighbour’s housekeeper.[19] The date of 1887 is incorrect as in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, in the Dr Alan Carroll Papers, there is an account for accommodation at the Oriental Hotel, Melbourne, dated April 25, 1885, in the name of Carroll.[20] They had arrived the previous day on the Rotomahana having boarded the ship at Bluff, NZ. [21]  That they boarded at Bluff, the southernmost port of the South Island and 1000km from Marton, their home, is indicative that they were seeking to avoid being discovered. Once out of NZ, Samuel changed his name to Alan Carroll and he and Annie presented themselves as Dr and Mrs Carroll. In March 1886, at Druitt Town, Sydney, Annie gave birth to a stillborn son.[22] Had knowledge of this adulterous relationship, and of Curl having abandoned his first wife to fend for herself, been known at the time it would have made them less socially acceptable to the society Carroll courted. At some stage in 1885, they moved to Sydney from Melbourne and by July, 1888, they had set up a home in Sandringham/Sans Souci,[23] and from about 1906, they lived in Bondi Road, Waverly.[24] They managed to maintain this deception and were married discreetly at Liverpool, NSW, on July 5, 1905, a month after the decease of Carroll’s first wife in NZ.[25]

Curl/Carrol Claims to Fame

Over his lifetime, Curl/Carrol himself claimed and allowed to be claimed on his behalf various things about his training and academic accomplishments and experience in medicine, anthropology and childhood education in his correspondence and Editorship of The Science of Man. Each of these claims will be examined in turn.

CLAIM 1: That he held the degree MD which permitted him to have the title “Dr Curl”

In August 1849 Curl wrote to the editor of The Lancet giving details of a case of ‘Haemoptisis from Phthsis Cured by Argent Oxydi’ signing the letter S M Curl MD. The article was less than 1,000 words and it contained no fewer than 22 spelling and grammatical errors. By the nineteenth-century good spelling had come to be the ‘hallmark of a good education’ and a ‘marker of social standing’ and so would be expected of someone claiming to hold an MD.[26]  Disturbed, therefore, by the form of the communication rather than its content Thomas Wakely, the editor, doubted it was genuine and contacted Curl asking among other things for evidence he was medically qualified. Curl responded

With relation to the M.D. my only right to put that to my name is having passed an Examination for the same at three colledges [sic] viz Cambridge Edinburgh & Paris I have my other degrees from Cambridge and my right of practice is being Licenced by the colledge [sic] of physicians as however Sir my claim to being legaly [sic] qualified is brought in requisition If it is not too much trouble to leave the paper out, I will call in a few days for it as I have not kept any other notes of the case besides that …[27]

Wakely, printed the report and the correspondence commenting ‘The case and notes are printed verbatim, literatim, et punctuatim. They certainly are very like communications designed for insertion in the Phonetic News. (“Fonetic Nuz”).’ The Fonetic Nuz was a publication seeking spelling reform but this would not have been Curl’s intention but rather the communication is an indication of his level of formal education and a lack of awareness on his part of this inadequacy. Even granting some variation in spelling a university qualified medical doctor would not so express himself. Curl, who was only 21, in his response lies as his acquisition by 1849 of the qualifications that he cites was clearly impossible.

The second occurrence of a reference to “Dr Curl” is in a report of two lectures given by a Dr Curl at the London Mechanic’s Institution in September and October 1849.[28] This is almost certainly Samuel Matthias Curl as the topic of “Identity of Electricity and Life” was a preoccupation of Samuel. He regarded himself as the discoverer of the phenomenon and set aside money in his will to promote the study of this concept. In his will he says ‘I believe that I have discovered that electricity and the vital force or the principle which produces the life of animals and vegetables are one and identically the force agent power substance or entity’.[29] On his wedding certificate, which records him as a Physician, he signs as ‘Samuel Matthias Curl MD’[30] and in the 1851 Census, held on 30 March, 1851, the entry which Samuel would have supplied reads: “Samuel M Curl, Head, Married, 36, MD Cantab, Middlesex, London”. The age given by Samuel in the census is wrong as he was 24 and not 36; this is a significant inaccuracy. Perhaps the age had been deliberately increased by Samuel to give some credibility to his claim to be a medical doctor and a Cambridge graduate.

There is no evidence that Samuel held a MD from Cambridge University. In The London and Provincial Medical Directory of 1855, Samuel’s name is listed as a Doctor but on the ‘Supplemental List’, and there is a comment that the list is ‘of persons practising the medical profession in the provinces, who have not made any return of the nature of their qualifications, in reply to repeated applications.’[31] While it might be argued he was on his way to NZ when this was being compiled, his name is also absent from The London Medical Directory in the years 1845, 1846 and 1847[32] which is the period when he claimed he had a medical practice in London.

Samuel consistently claimed, up to the time of his moving to NSW, that he had a MD, yet he never produced any evidence to support the claim. His registration as a Doctor in NZ, and in consequence his registration in NSW, was based on a special provision in the Medical Practitioners Act, 1867 (NZ), which accepted those as legally qualified who had been practicing medicine in NZ before 1857 without them having to produce any evidence of medical qualifications. Samuel’s entry in that registration reads ‘No diploma produced. In practice prior to 1857. Registered under Medical Practitioners Act, 1867.’[33]

The last usage of MD by Curl was in a letter to the editor in September 1884.[34] There are no extant uses of MD by him again until 1888 when he submits an article on Aboriginal rock art under the name of Carroll.[35] Ten years later he uses it just one more time as “A. Carroll MA MD” in an article advocating Federation in 1898.[36]

CLAIM 2: That he practised medicine in London for eight years

In an exchange of letters in the NZ press in 1879 with Dr Sorley, who had questioned Curl’s competence and qualifications, Curl said:

During the eight years I was practising in London, I was one of the Physicians of the London City Mission …[37]

Curl did spend some time on the medical team of the London City Mission and this is confirmed by an article in The Lancet in 1852 complaining of

the strange medley of names – quacks and regulars- which figure as medical officers of the London City Mission … The honorary medical officers form, however, a very heterogeneous mixture. Among the honorary physicians we have Dr. Risdon Bennett, Dr. Conquest, and Dr Camps, all stout allopaths; but they hold office with Dr. Curl and Dr. Malan, the homoeopaths … medical men have no business to mix themselves up with quacks and quackery.[38]

Clearly, the Editor of The Lancet, Thomas Wakely,[39] regarded Dr Curl as one who was numbered among the quacks. Perhaps Wakely had been aware that, at this time, Curl was also selling his book on Physiopathy[40] which would seem to have fallen into the homoeopathic category.

Furthermore, Curl said that

… again anterior to this while I was in Austria a child died at the Maternity Hospital … Again whilst in Paris I was one day at the Hotel Dieu a young child was brought into the Hospital …[41]

And when this information did not satisfy Sorley and he continued his challenge, Curl was goaded into saying:

Well I will so far gratify him as to inform him that after obtaining a B.A., a B.M., and the M.D. at a British University, as well as obtaining other licenses and diplomas there, I then went on the Continent; I again obtained degrees at two foreign Universities after severe examinations, and writing and defending a thesis before the faculty assembled, and also obtained a license and practised in a public appointment in the service of one of these countries; then went to London, bought a practice, and practised eight years there.[42]

As to the content of Curl’s academic claim to be so credentialed it should be noted that Curl left England for NZ in early 1854 and never returned to England. The period referred to for his practice in London can refer at the latest to the eight years from 1846-1854. Samuel was born December 31, 1827 and was 26 when he left England for NZ. So according to his statement, he could have been no older than 18 when he began in a purchased medical practice in London. This means that before Curl turned 18 he had acquired three British and two Foreign University degrees plus various diplomas, obtained a license and practised in a public appointment overseas.

This is impossible. Curl was not just inflating his experiences to sound more impressive on his CV. He is telling outright and deliberate lies and falsehoods, claiming qualifications that he could not have had. He may have had some medical experiences in this period, perhaps as an apprentice, but it is not possible that he was the fully qualified, university trained doctor that he claimed. This deliberate fabrication makes it difficult to accept other statements he makes during his lifetime about the many areas of his so-called ‘experience’.

We don’t know if Dr Sorely was satisfied with this exchange. For his part, Curl became very aggressive. He threatened Sorely, or anyone else who continued to question his qualifications, saying that if anyone ‘by word or writing tries to injure me “I shall be obliged to instruct my lawyer to prosecute criminally,” and then in the Police Court I will show some of my diplomas or degrees’.[43] Curl’s bluff worked and the matter was dropped.

CLAIM 3: That he studied under Charcot and Luys

This claim is in an article in the Science of Man Journal edited by Carroll. Carroll did not write the article, but it is a small extract of an article that had previously been published in the Sunday Times and Carroll reprints it in his journal.  It reads:

then followed a long course of close study under the great Charcot and his coadjutor Luy [sic] at the far-famed Salpetriere, in Paris, after which the Doctor travelled through Europe and gained valuable experience, which he has put into practical use in Sydney’[44]

This is a reference to Jean-Martin Charcot (1825 – 1893) who was a professor at the University of Paris for 33 years and who, in 1862, began an association with Paris’s Salpêtrière Hospital that lasted throughout his life.[45] Luy [sic], who is also mentioned, must refer to Jules Bernard Luys (1828 – 1897) who was a French neurologist who made important contributions to the fields of neuroanatomy and neuropsychiatry. He became a Doctor of Medicine in 1857 and conducted extensive research on the anatomy, pathology and functions of the central nervous system.[46] In 1862, he was appointed a Médecin des Hôpitaux and Chef de Service at the Salpêtrière.[47]

This claim by Carroll is clearly false as he left England and went to NZ in 1854. Charcot and Luys did not work at Salpetriere until 1862 and while Carroll would have known this claim to be incorrect, he chose not to correct it when he republished the article.

CLAIM 4: That he studied under Sir Astley Paston Cooper

In his obituaries, over which Carroll, of course, had no control but  was reprinted without comment in his journal by the editor Mrs D Izzet,[48] it was claimed that Carroll ‘studied his profession in London, practised with the celebrated physician Sir Astley Cooper’ and another version of his obituary reads ‘His early studies in London, under the celebrated Sir Astley Cooper’.[49] The claim that he ‘practised with’ or studied ‘under the celebrated Sir Astley Cooper’ is totally untrue. Sir Astley Cooper died on February 12, 1841[50] and Samuel was born on December 31, 1827 which means that in the year of Cooper’s death Samuel was 13 years of age.

CLAIM 5: That he worked in Berlin

But it was whilst walking the Berlin hospitals that he evolved that system of therapeutics for the treatment of children, particularly those that were deformed, which gave him a just distinction.[51]

There is no evidence to support or deny this claim.

CLAIM 6: That he held the degrees MA DLitt PhD DSc

The holding of an MA degree was first mentioned in August 1888. It was a qualification he said he possessed when he gave the Presidential address at the Anthropology section of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science.[52] Concerning the other degrees (three doctorates), the first two doctorates (DLitt and DSc) appear credited to Carroll in a book review which he wrote and that was published by him in Science of Man on February 21, 1898.[53] Then, two and half years later, a PhD is mentioned and so the full suite of degrees (MA DLitt PhD DSc) appear on the cover of the Science of Man on June 22, 1901, and on the cover of each issue from then on.[54] It is difficult to believe these were earned degrees and they are possibly meant to refer to those revealed in his exchange with Dr Sorley. On the other hand, they may have been honorary degrees awarded to Carroll. No mention is made of such events and it seems unlikely that Carroll, a superb self-publicist, would have missed an opportunity to draw attention to the award of such honours. These degrees seem more likely to be an example of CV invention by Carroll.

CLAIM 7: That he was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London

S.M. Curl Esq M.D. was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London (FLS) on April 17, 1879.[55] So this claimed credential is true.

CLAIM 8: That he travelled extensively and gained experience in other countries

In 1906, more detail begins to circulate on Carroll’s ‘medical experience’. The earliest of these is from an official source connected to Carroll and is a letter to the Editor written on behalf of the Child Study Association (CSA) of which Carroll was the president. The other two accounts arise shortly afterwards which further expand the information given on his European experience.

Account 1.

In connection with the CSA it was in a letter to the Editor that Dr Carroll was prevailed upon to accept the

presidentship connected therewith, he also bringing to bear as medical adviser his most valuable experience amongst imbeciles and defectives, gained in the Asylum for Idiots, established in Belgium, as well as in the southern and northern continents of Europe, Canada, and America.[56]

Account 2.

This article would not be complete without reference to the great attainments of Dr Alan Carroll and his valuable experience gained in idiot asylums in Belgium, Canada and America where he has had the privilege and been allowed special facilities for the study and practice of the most modern methods of restoring mentally defective children to the blessings of health and useful citizenship.[57]

Account 3.

Some years ago, while practising in London, being then a member of the British Medical Association (were he practicing in Sydney he would command a fee of £2 2s as was his fee in London), Dr Carroll devoted his attention to an investigation of the fact that a high percentage of children suffer from physical and mental defects. Retiring from active practice he followed a long course of close study under the great Charcot and Luy at the far-famed Salpetriere in Paris after which he travelled through Europe and gained valuable experience, now put into practical use in alleviating suffering and cure of defective children.[58]

Also relevant to his claims of extensive overseas medical experience are his claims to extensive overseas experience in other fields.

CLAIM 9: Extensive overseas experience in non- medical contexts.


It is many years since I have devoted time, money, energy and travel to study that science dealing with mankind termed Anthropology. It is now long since I was able to gain and learn from the lectures of the famous anatomist of Edinburgh, Dr. Robert Knox, his views upon the races of men, and since then to continue these studies under the well-known professors, Broca, Quatrefages, and in later times to witness the work of the celebrated ethnologists, Sergi, Bastian, Virchow, Hamy, and others; also, to examine and study the extensive collections of crania and other osteological relics in the French, Austrian, Italian, German, British and Holland towns and cities, where large quantities of the bones and the works of ancient men have been gathered together, and thus where the peculiar characteristics of each race of men could be learned, and where the combined characters in the bones of mixed-up peoples could be made out and defined.[59]


This work is the result of Dr Carroll’s actual experiences, observations and studies whilst travelling in very many parts of the world during the best and most strenuous period of his life.[60]

Sugar Beet

From my notes collected on the continent of Europe, during more than seven years residence in the countries where the growth and manufacture were carried on.[61]

… he was familiar with European conditions gained he said ‘during eight years of travel in Europe, from Russia in the north to Spain in the south.’[62]


I found in the museums of England, America, France, Germany, and elsewhere, wooden tablets and other things, with inscribed characters upon them that had been dug up or procured in Easter Island by the islanders, or by explorers who had been there.[63]

Dr Carroll ‘we were told, was conversant with at least nineteen languages, and fifty dialects[64]


[Dr. Carroll] who related his experience of the system in Germany, and pointed out how the early education of the young enabled teachers to eradicate evil thoughts and habits.[65]

Whereas some of this public image being promoted in these examples has been shown to be false, there is no evidence either way on the claim of extensive travel or residence in Europe. Given that it is known that he left London in 1854 aged 26 and spent the time from 1854-1885 in NZ it is, however, highly improbable.

Curl/Carroll’s Civic Contributions


In 1862, Dr Curl was appointed as Surgeon to the Turakina Company Wanganui Rifle Volunteers. In 1870, Curl wrote a letter to the newspaper criticising the officers in general but Lieutenant Heywood the drill instructor in particular; the issue may have been around the compulsory attendance of medical officers on parade.[66] The Volunteers were incensed and responded with a meeting and drew up a protest and threatened legal action against Curl:

That the Militia and Volunteers of the Rangitikei district do express our indignation at the foul calumnies in the contemptible and cowardly letter written by the Militia shirker, Mr Curl, to the injury of our worthy and respected drill instructor.[67]

Furthermore, revealing how Curl was regarded, it was said of Curl’s comments:

As to his being a needy adventurer [i.e. Lt Heywood], had Doctor Curl performed his duties as well as the said drill instructor has done, he would have attained a far higher standing in this district, neither would he have demeaned himself by venting his spite on a Government through one of its most respected servants.[68]

Clearly, Curl was not popular with the military.

Coroner Curl

Curl was appointed coroner for Porirua and later for Rangitikei and in his work as Coroner, he was described as “one who liked to magnify his office”.[69] On one occasion, he believed two Maori had shown disrespect by delaying their appearance before him. Curl, displaying little cultural sensitivity, issued an arrest warrant and the court was in an uproar over this lack of understanding.

The Doctor was however determined to go on – the dignity of his Court was at stake – and spite of the remonstrances of his foreman – spite the warning of the Interpreter – spite of the universal sentiment in and out of the room, he was resolutely bent on exhibiting himself in the well known character of the “Bull in the China Shop”.[70]

The same journalist went on to point out that because of the uncertain nature of the Maori relationship with the colonial community, Magistrate Curl’s rash action posed a danger to the colonial community:

Under Dr Curl’s warrant, a good many of us would not have slept in our beds that night-lucky if we ever slept in them again. In times like these men of discretion are wanted in public employments- the rash act of a headstrong or angry man, clothed with a little brief authority, might plunge a whole community into irretrievable ruin. In this case the Doctor’s escapade was the more unfortunate as the Natives all through the district, were doing all they could to assist us.[71]

For Curl it was indeed a ‘brief authority’ for soon after, in June 1864, he was dismissed as Coroner.[72]

Justice of the Peace (JP)

Curl was appointed a JP and consequently sat with other JPs in various Magistrate Court matters. By May 1870, the Magistrates Court at Marton ceased to function as Curl’s fellow magistrates refused, for reasons not publically stated,[73] to sit with him. The local newspaper said ‘where a disagreement exists similar to the one at Marton, the Justice who is so unpopular with his brother Magistrates should retire.’[74] Curl didn’t, but when the new roll of JPs for the Colony was issued later that year Curl had been removed as a JP.[75]

Sydney Activities

As in NZ so in Sydney. Carroll involved himself in various community activities. He was president of the Sans Souci and Sandringham Progress Committee for 1890[76] and the Inaugural President of the Sydney Theosophical Society in 1891 where, on concluding his presidential address, ‘a vote of thanks was accorded to the President, and the society was congratulated … on possessing as president a gentleman of Dr. Carroll’s attainments and experience’.[77] It would appear that his involvement did not extend past one year and similarly, he was secretary of the short-lived Reform League a political group for one year in 1893.[78]  He was President of the St George District Natural Science Society, a judge of St George Horticultural Show in 1894,[79] and chaired community meetings in 1898.[80] Carroll became a bit of a local identity with all this activity and was even asked to plant a tree at the opening of the Sandringham Public School in 1899.[81]

His major involvement in Sydney would be his attempts to contribute to knowledge in the two areas of Anthropology, and Childhood Education and Health.

Curl/Carroll’s Contribution to Knowledge

As Curl, and as Carroll, he sought to contribute to knowledge in various disciplines and these contributions are discernible in four main phases of Curl/Carroll’s life. There is the phase of agricultural innovator, that of anthropological apologist, then that of the early childhood educational theorist, and lastly that of a clinical philanthropic paediatrician.

Agricultural Innovator

As a farmer, Curl was interested in plants, crops, sheep and things agricultural and the expansion of NZ agriculture. He made literary contributions to newspapers and farming groups on agricultural and botanical topics and was involved in civic affairs that impacted upon his rural community such as founding a Farmer’s Club and serving on the Rangitikei Highway Board.[82] He wrote and spoke with confidence and frequently, and in great length and detail, on the topic of sugar beet and its possible cultivation in NZ. He implied a detailed knowledge of European practice and of having contacts with key people in Europe in sugar beet cultivation. Curl had said he was familiar with European conditions gained ‘during eight years of travel in Europe, from Russia in the north to Spain in the south[83] and that he had ‘seen the beet culture and manufacture in France, in Russia, in Germany, in Austria and in other countries.[84] Some had ‘very strong doubts as to the accuracy of many of his deductions and assertions’ in ‘Dr Curl’s very roseate tinted paper’. The doubts increased when he was requested to give letters of introduction to his contacts for someone going from NZ to Europe to examine sugar beet cultivation in France and Germany; he refused to cooperate.[85] This led to the suspicion that ‘his acquaintance with the people he wrote so confidently about is more imaginary than real’.[86]

According to Curl, he had planted experimental sugar-beet crops which, he reported, had produced good yields. He published a paper about sugar beet and a reviewer of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute Volume in which it appeared was critical of many of the volume’s papers. The reviewer judged Curl’s paper on Sugar Beet as one of the worst saying that “Dr Curl’s crude paper on “Sugar Beet” is still more objectionable, and certainly will not tend to raise the volume in the estimation of scientific men in England”.[87]

The negative assessment of some of his sugar-beet ideas notwithstanding, he did put sugar-beet on the farming agenda in NZ and was rightly praised for it[88] and he also caused the government to introduce legislation to assist the possible growth of a viable colonial industry. In 1892, the Agent-General for NZ in London was still distributing Dr Curl’s paper on Sugar-Beet to those making an enquiry about the agricultural potential of NZ.[89]

Curl also enthusiastically researched and wrote about grasses and plants which were suitable for fodder. His paper, entitled “On a few of the Grasses and other Herbage Plants that might be advantageously introduced into Cultivation in New Zealand”,[90] was read at the Royal Society of New Zealand and generated discussion and criticism. The comment of Professor T Kirk FLS, seems the best informed when he said of Curl’s paper:

His statements were for the most part wanting in the necessary data for testing their value. He trusted Dr. Curl would furnish the results of the analysis to which he referred, with particulars as to the nature of soil in which the grasses were growing, course of culture, and quantity of food furnished by each, in precise terms, at some future time.[91]

It is not known if the analysis to which Kirk referred was ever forthcoming from Curl. James Wilson, in his book on Early Rangitikei, saw some irony in Curl’s research saying of Curl that

He was noted for starving his stock, and a more miserable lot of sheep could not be seen on a day’s journey; so that it seemed rather an anomaly that he should experiment on grasses.[92]

An examination of Curl’s literary interests while in NZ (see Table) indicate a predominance of contributions in the Agricultural and botanical disciplines (green) but not long prior to his removal to NSW his interests were becoming more Anthropological (yellow):

Anthropological Apologist

Towards the end of his time in NZ his interests turned to the developing field of Anthropology. It was reported that his paper on Australian Cave Paintings asserted

that a painting of a human figure covered in cabalistic signs in a cave in the interior of Australia, proved that the Syrians or Philistines had visited Australia. He expressed an opinion that the figure represented the giant Goliath. The process of reasoning was not very clear and some discussion of a facetious character ensured.[93]

The paper was read at the Royal Society of Victoria in 1884, and before being printed it was referred to Andrew Harper for his opinion on the ‘correctness of the views it contained in regard to the alleged resemblance of the inscriptions to the letters of the Syrian alphabet’.[94] The Royal Society of Victoria never printed the paper which suggests that Harper didn’t think the paper was worth publishing either. Another paper by Carroll on a similar topic shows his lack of understanding when he seeks to distinguish between ancient and modern carvings ‘by the fact one set is overgrown with mosses, and the other is not’. This analysis ignored the fact that lichen growth on rocks is dependent on a rock’s grain, hardness and position. His interpretation of the various carvings, said John Matthew, ‘is clearly mere conjecture, and has little to recommend it beyond possibility.’[95]

During his time in Australia, through his confident enthusiasm, Carroll became a populariser of the discipline of Anthropology. In December 1895, he founded the Anthropological Society of Australasia with a special interest in Aborigines. To further his purpose to spread the knowledge of Anthropology, and to give himself a platform, he founded the Australasian Anthropological Journal, also known as the Science of Man Journal (SOMJ), in December 1886.[96]

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930) Wed 4 Dec 1895 Page 1

Advertisement for the first meeting of Anthropological Society of Australasia December 5, 1885

Elkin says of it that

The Society, whose anthropological interests were very wide, indeed almost diffuse, had Vice-Regal patronage, and some good foreign exchanges for its Journal. Its work, however, was hardly scientific in the sense we understand the term, but still, in its semi-popular fashion, it did record much useful material. It also helped to prepare the way for later developments of anthropology as a separate discipline.[97]

Berclouw says that Carroll served as ‘a conduit for conveying ideas to a wider audience in a small, isolated and very distant part of the world.’[98] She describes his role well when she says ‘He was in fact something of an intellectual bowerbird, collecting ideas as they appeared from England, Europe and America, and assembling them on the platform which was his journal.’[99]

In 1892, Carroll published his work on the Rongorongo or Easter Island script in the Journal of the Polonesian Society. He claimed that he had

found in the museums of England, America, France, Germany, and elsewhere, wooden tablets and other things, with inscribed characters upon them, that had been dug up or procured in Easter Island by the islanders, or by explorers who had been there.[100]

In his article he then gave a translation of these inscriptions based on the linguistic key he said he had discovered. Contemporary anthropologists like Lorimer Fison were sceptical. Fison wrote to a colleague:

Do you know anything of a Dr. Carroll who is making investigation about the S. Sea Islanders? He has kept me writing to him till I am utterly weary of him–& this because he seems to me to be a mere theorist. He says that he can trace the Polynesians, Melanesians &c in the early records of India & China; but, if his connections there are no sounder than those he makes out of material with which I am acquainted, they are not worth much.[101]

The Aust. Ass.  is now sitting in Adelaide, & Drs Fraser & Carroll have free course in the Anthrop. Section.  If I could have afforded it, I would have gone to Adelaide for the purpose of asking Carroll coram publico [in public] for the method at which he arrived at his translation of the inscriptions upon the Easter Island stones. He published it in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, but returned an evasive answer to the request of the secretary, suggested by me, that he would explain his method of interpretation. I have no doubt that the whole thing is quite untrustworthy.[102]

Modern criticisms of Carroll’s work have been scathing. Carroll is considered a ‘crank’[103] and his work is described as ‘bizarre’, commencing ‘the era of “esoteric fanatics”’ and of him riding a hobby horse which he ‘rode his merry way from frivolity to absurdity’.

Contrary to his claims, Carroll was not a trained scientist. Even to call him a dilettante would be begging the issue … the bungling, babbling rambler was erroneous, whimsical, unmethodical … to enumerate Carroll’s abuses against reputable rongorongo scholarship would be an exercise in futility … nowhere in any of Carroll’s many articles is there even a cursory summary of how he arrived at his conclusion … Carroll’s readings … are ridiculous Victorian self-indulgences … today “Dr Allen [sic] Carroll” is justly forgotten.[104]

All this raises a question. Was Carroll deliberately perpetrating a hoax or was he genuinely seeking a solution but was deluded in his thinking and living in a state of self-deception?

Carroll’s next phase was involvement in work with children and this seems to fall into two parts. Firstly, as an educational theorist by the promotion of the education of young children and the development of a laboratory where children could be psychometrically assessed. Then secondly, as a paediatrician in the relief of childhood suffering by the holding of clinics which dispensed solutions, mainly dietary advice, for ‘imbecile and deficient children’.[105]

Early Childhood Educational Theorist

Carroll said, as he often did when he was being knowledgeable about a subject, that he had had personal experience of the Kindergarten system in Germany. It was Dr Carroll, in a speech at the opening of the Newtown Free Kindergarten, who

related his experience of the system in Germany, and pointed out how the early education of the young enabled teachers to eradicate evil thoughts and habits, destroy tendencies to crime, and so to improve the moral nature as to develop, useful men and women and make them worthy citizens.[106]

Carroll was a member of the Kindergarten Union governing committee from 1898 until 1909.[107] Arising from the Kindergarten movement in Sydney, the New South Wales CSA was formed in August 1898[108] with Alan Carroll as President. Professor MacCallum proposed Carroll’s appointment and in a 1903 article by Annette Maclellan, the Honorary General Secretary[109] of the CSA, we are told that

Professor M’Cullum [sic] proposed that, as the work of the association would be principally of an anthropological nature, especially in the branches of anthropometry and psychology, Dr. Alan Carroll should be elected permanently as president.[110]

The reporting of the foundation event at the time of CSA formation made no mention of Professor MacCallum’s reasons for moving the motion to appoint Carroll nor that the appointment, in a highly unusual decision, should be permanent. This may all be true but perhaps, as this was the very time when there was disagreement within the CSA and Carroll was under challenge, Maclellan was fed this information to shore up Carroll’s leadership of the CSA.

The Association had been formed under the auspices of the Free Kindergarten Alumni Club and its objects were closely aligned to the interests of its originating group:

The discussion of topics bearing upon kindergarten methods and the latest educational questions, and the formation of child study round the tables where teachers and parents can meet to study and discuss practical psychology.[111]

From its foundation the CSA, with Carroll as its President, held lectures, talks and discussions in terms of its originating purpose. At its first meeting Mrs Wilson gave a paper on “The earliest manifestations of intelligence in infants” and at the next meeting Mrs Dane spoke on the “Early Forms of Vocal Expression.”[112]

Carroll also carried on a constant campaign in the SOMJ for the establishment of a psychometric laboratory in Australia for the anthropometrical measurement[113] in the study of children. He claimed to have personally visited such facilities saying that those studies and training that ‘we have observed in Paris, or other European laboratories we have witnessed’ were worthy of emulation.[114] He argued this was necessary ‘as the defectives, deficient and degenerates’ were increasing and so all ’the more civilized countries of Europe and America’ had established laboratories and Australia needed to do so as well.[115] This campaign proved fruitless and he, increasingly frustrated, said:

it is a great reproach to the well-to-do people of this city and colony that they have not provided the funds to establish the laboratory to carry out Anthropometrical and Psychological testings to detect the defectives so that they may be restored to bodily and mental vigour.[116]

Carroll is breathtaking in his willingness to trumpet experience and qualifications he does not possess. On the development of the psychometric laboratories, it would seem others were considering doing what he has been advocating, for he says:

We have been quite willing to place our knowledge and experience acquired in France, Germany and other countries, by years of study and by reading the literature upon the subject of the workers in these researches, &c., before those who would carry on these measurements and testing of the children here. We therefore wait to see whether any attempt will be made to perform these measurings without learning from us the best means of securing conformity with the work done in other countries. As our Society was the first to give this subject prominence here, we shall insist upon it getting the honor therefrom.[117]

Or again:

We are fully convinced how much good such a laboratory could accomplish for the public generally of this country if it was established upon similar methods to those in European countries, in which we have studied and worked.[118]

Sarah Izett one of Carroll’s devoted supporters.

In 1903,[119] a disagreement took place within the CSA and the Secretary, Treasurer and three members of the Executive resigned. As a result of this, according to Izett, Carroll resigned and retired to Sans Souci where he is said to have ‘written several valuable books on child life’;[120] and yet there does not seem to be any period when Carroll was not chairing CSA meetings. Berclouw says that in 1904 Carroll had severed his connection with the CSA but by 1906 had formed another CSA and adopted the same name so there were two Child Study Associations.[121] The sequence of events is difficult to understand, but Berclouw’s construction of events seems to have confused what probably took place.

It appears that those interested in child study were concerned with the control Carroll was exercising and with the direction he was taking the CSA and so, on December 10, 1903,[122] a new group was formed. It was called the ‘The Society for Child Study’ and its concern continued to be the ‘discussion of all problems of child life’ whereas increasingly the CSA under Carroll’s leadership was concerned, even obsessed, with Anthropometrics. [123] Carroll was not pleased, saying that

We have been hindered by the paltry jealousy and personal antagonism of those who were our opponents … as one instance among several others … our opponents have brought out an opposition to our Association to gratify their vanities and self-glorification [124]

During the period of 1904 and 1905 Carroll, due to a lack of funds, did not publish SOMJ but the CSA was still in existence. By 1906, the CSA was reinvigorated with a new emphasis on running clinics for the relief of childhood suffering with the emphasis on relieving and curing childhood suffering, particularly among those who were poor, chiefly through the implementation of a healthy diet.  It is this emphasis, and his activity as a Clinical Paediatrician from around 1906 to 1911, from which Carroll gains his reputation as a philanthropist.

Clinical Philanthropic Paediatrician

In 1905, Carroll gave a talk on “The Treatment and Cure of An Imbecile who is in Charge of the Association”.[125] The omission of the word “the” before “Charge” gave a title that was not what was intended, however appropriate a modern assessment of Carroll might consider it. The subject matter of the talk indicated an increased emphasis on Carroll as the great and experienced doctor who could bring about the removal of suffering in the lives of ‘deficient, defective and deformed’ children. The CSA (Carroll) said that

Our investigations have revealed to us that there are children growing up here whose brains and nervous systems are so abnormal that as dumb-mutes, imbeciles, etc they will become inmates of the various asylums, or a danger to the community. The treatment of such idiots and other defectives in several countries has taught us that such abnormals may by appropriate treatment be brought into normal conditions, so that they may become self-supporting citizens of the country they reside in. With the object of demonstrating what may be done for such defectives by appropriate diet and training, the members of this Association of Child Study brought to its meetings some boy and girl defectives and provided funds for foods suggested, and for some months have watched the progress made in bodily and mental health, and have tested by weightings, measurings, and other physical examinations, the progress made and continuing. We maintain that while the child is growing its imperfect brain, spinal cord, and other defective organs may by suitable dieting and training be caused to recover healthy states [126]

From then on, there followed in the SOMJ and in newspapers, regular heart-wrenching appeals for funds, not as before for an anthropometric laboratory, but to supply food to such poor suffering children. This approach hit a positive chord with the public. Carroll, the hitherto relatively unknown promoter of the discipline of anthropology and educational theorist, became famous as a philanthropic clinical paediatrician. Within five years, his reputation as a highly qualified but selfless philanthropist doctor was forged.

Waiting to see Dr Carroll Sunday Times 3 March, 1907

Carroll began his clinics at the Whitefield Institute in May 1906,[127] at which time they were held once a month, and by 1907 this had increased to twice a month. This clinic work was seen by the CSA, or at least by its honorary secretary Miss Sadler, as the most important of Carroll’s child work. Despite her inaccuracy on the time frames her sentiment is clear, saying that

As far as I know, Dr Alan Carroll initiated the movement in Sydney some 10 or 12 years ago, [actually a little more than 8 years] when he was elected president of the league or union; but failing to get in touch with defectives or imbeciles, some seven or eight years of what might have been his practical work among the children was wasted. He has been in active curative work among our children for about three years.[128]

One of Carroll’s cures

The clinics were very well patronised by anxious parents[129] and Carroll would see about 40 patients each clinic and claimed a curative rate of about 45 percent.[130] Patients would be publically examined by Carroll, his assistants would announce to the audience the doctor’s diagnosis and what diet Carroll prescribed. This served as a public clinical tutorial and was designed to boost the confidence of the waiting and hopeful parents. It was said that the only medicine ever prescribed was liberal doses of Cod Liver Oil, but newspaper advertisements for “Nugentuum Beneficio” would suggest otherwise.[131]

The diet had pure milk as its staple with brain feeding food of sheep’s brains, fish, and fruit, apples with the peel on, very little meat, or jam, or sugar.[132] The consultation was free and some assistance was given to the poor in order for them to benefit from the change of diet. Not surprisingly, many parents noted great improvement in their children’s health and for those who were unresponsive to a change in diet Carroll said:

Where regulation of diet is not sufficient, electrical applications or other means are used to bring the nervous system into operation, to give control of the muscles, or glands or other parts of the body, so we bring the child to a normal condition.[133]

It was pointed out at the time that the main approach or

… the system under which Dr. Carroll works is based upon the fact that, by heredity, parental neglect or ignorance, or the fault of nature, a large percentage of children are born with mental or physical defects. In the majority of cases, however, improper feeding of mother or infant, either before or after birth, is the prime cause, and it is these defects which the system aims to remedy — not by the knife, but by proper feeding in accordance-with the requirements of nature.[134]

Carroll’s treatments would probably have done little harm and for some they would have done considerable good. This assessment is confirmed by Professor Bryan Gandevia’s[135] medical review of Carroll’s views as expressed in the 1915 and 1937 editions of Health and Longevity.[136] Gandevia says ‘it is clear that Dr. Carroll’s dietetic treatment- and indeed probably all his treatment, relative to the therapeutic achievements of the day, did little or no harm.’[137]  Gandevia, who was unaware of the dubious nature of Carroll’s medical qualifications, in his review tends to attribute, possibly correctly, the more irrational concepts of these publications to the editing of Mrs Izett rather than Dr Carroll. This benefit of the doubt extended by Gandevia may be due to his acceptance of Carroll’s extensive ‘qualifications’ and may not have been entertained so graciously had he been aware of their bogus nature and of the bizarre views held by Carroll in other fields.

Though many sang Carroll’s  praises, many who came would have been disappointed as the regime he offered would not deal with all the serious medical needs of some of those who attended the clinic. He was overconfident in what diet could achieve for it could not cure serious disease and illness no matter what miracles were claimed, but it did benefit many children and their parents.

Carroll was treated as an authority, Note the inference of overseas personal experience.

After Carroll’s Death

When Alan Carroll died he left to his widow his estate for her benefit. Upon her death bequests were to be allocated to the Royal College of Physicians to establish a prize of £300 for an essay or thesis on his pet topic of ‘the connexion of the life principle or force with the power or force styled Electricity’. Furthermore she made provision for a prize to be administered by ‘Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland’ for an essay on ‘the discoveries in Anthropology of the past two years’.[138] Eventually, after some legal clarification, the bequest was accepted by the Royal Anthropological Institute and the prize first awarded in 1951 was in excess of £1,000 and is still offered today[139] but the other bequest was rejected by the Royal College of Physicians.[140]

Upon Carroll’s death Annie Carroll became the President of the CSA or as it was then called the “Dr Alan Carroll Child Study Association of Australasia”.[141] In February 1914 she publically severed all connection with the CSA and ‘requested the Committee to stop using her late husband’s (Dr Alan Carroll) name in connection therewith’.[142] The reason for this action is unknown but it may be related to the tensions with Mrs Izett[143] who increasingly became the central figure of the CSA after Carroll’s death. Certainly the Izett family were involved in the commercialisation of Carroll’s name, contrary to Annie Carroll’s wishes, through the formation of the UBO Company[144] which was first advertised a month after Carroll’s death.[145]

UBO Company

Annie took the opportunity to travel in order, it was assumed probably incorrectly, to ‘make a particular study of the treatment child life in old world centres.’ She left for Europe in July 1914 and did not return to Sydney until May 1920.[146] On her death in 1929 she left £300 to the Auckland Jubilee Institute for the Blind, £1,000 to St George’s Hospital, Christchurch; £300 to the sisters attending lepers at Makogai and £300 for the patients, £500 for the NSW Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind and £500 for the Home for Incurables, Sydney.[147] She was buried in New Zealand in Christchurch and her grave records among other things that she was the wife of Dr Samuel Matthias Curl (Sydney) and that she was a member of the Child Study Association of Australia.

Assessment of the Work of Curl/Carroll

In many areas, Curl/Carroll was suspect in his real knowledge and in the quality of his research and was habitually untruthful about his experience and qualifications. This is not to say, however, that he was not genuinely interested nor that he did not make any contribution to the areas he entered. There are four main phases to Curl/Carroll’s life: Agricultural Innovator, Anthropological Apologist, Early Childhood Educational Theorist and a Clinical Philanthropic Paediatrician. He contributed most in this last phase as he was a help and comfort to many parents and improved the lot of many children.

How does one explain the actions and person of Samuel Curl/Alan Carroll? In 1908 Mrs Izett, the Honorary Secretary of the CSA and a staunch defender and promoter of Dr Carroll’s work, said ‘he is a martinet, and the faintest deviation from his order and he will have none of you’.[148] Perhaps the attitude of “I know best” behind this inflexibility explains why a number of the activities he engaged in ended in fractious dispute.

The key to understanding Curl/Carroll is that he was a man who had a high regard for his own dignity and he craved respect and recognition. This was shown in his role as Coroner and as a Surgeon to the military. In the former, a perceived act of disrespect and affront to his dignity led him to almost cause, through his rash response, a Maori uprising. In the military, he complained more than once of disrespect being shown towards himself leading to him unwisely making his dissatisfaction public with an inflammatory letter to the newspaper. Curl was a man who had a high opinion of his own views which were, it seems, largely formed through extensive reading. He also wanted due respect shown to his person so he may have felt that book-knowledge would not be adequate to secure such respect and so he fabricated personal experiences. To bolster his views, he would invent or exaggerate his experience of the subject under discussion usually in the form of a personal experience from his ‘eight years’ of residence in Europe. The European sojourn is itself probably an exaggeration if not an outright invention as there were not enough years before he left for NZ for him to have spent this time in Europe. His spiral into deceit escalated when having a high self-opinion, he rashly criticised another’s medical work in the public sphere. When initially challenged, by someone with significant training and medical experience to justify his views, Curl lied. In order to not lose face and to give credence to his argument, he invented experience and qualifications to assert his view as superior. When this was unsuccessful, he threatened legal action. During his lifetime, when he was challenged by experts in a field in which he had been making claims to provide evidence to justify his work, he never did.

When he came to NSW, having deserted his wife, he portrayed himself as a highly credentialed and world experienced doctor and scientist who had trained under the leaders in various fields of medicine and of mental health and in the emerging field of psychology. This was all a lie for he had done none of these things. What training he had, if any, was suspect for the editor of The Lancet regarded him as a homeopath and ‘quack’. His medical experience was largely limited to 30 years as a doctor in a small NZ rural area.

How did he get away with this deception? The isolation of the colonies of NZ and NSW meant that it was difficult to check claims of the possession of qualifications and experience. While some were suspicious of his medical qualifications it went no further. It appears that Curl/Carroll had a confident manner and expressed his views with an air of authority. His obituary refers to ‘his soldierly bearing, high-bred and courtly manners’[149] which gives a clue that he knew how to present himself in a favourable light to the public and ‘good society’. He must have been a voracious reader who harvested information which, when served up with confidence and authority and a dash of his ‘personal experience’, impressed the public. Experts in the fields in which he dabbled held a different view, but their hesitancy to pursue the matter allowed Curl/Carroll free reign to speak as he wished and to garner for this ‘expertise’ the recognition he desired. He was a great exaggerator, an inventor of qualifications he did not have and a charlatan who duped many into believing what he was not. He was not “A Great Man Gone” perhaps a Doctor but not a Scientist, his work as a Philanthropist in his latter decade is granted, but he certainly was a Liar and Fabricator.

Dr Paul F Cooper

Research Fellow Christ College, Sydney

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. Alan Carroll (1827-1911), Doctor, Scientist, Philanthropist, Fabricator and Liar, Philanthropy and Philanthropists in Australian Colonial History,  January 24, 2019. Available at https:/

[1] The Sun (Sydney, NSW), April 18, 1911, 6.

[2] Clarence and Richmond Examiner, (Coraki, NSW), April 22, 1911, 3.

[3]  Science of man and journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia (hereafter SOMJ) Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911), 1.

[4]  SOMJ, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911), 1.

[5] The name Curl or Carroll will be used for events that took place in the period he used that name. Curl/Carroll will used when referring to his whole lifetime.

[6] Samuel Matthias Curl, St Luke’s Finsbury, London Baptismal Register, 1828, 174.

[7] St Luke, Old Street, Finsbury, London, England, Marriage Register. Various ages have been ascribed to him.

[8] 1841 & 1851 English Census, Matthias Curl.

[9] 1851 English Census, Matthew Curl.

[10]  Baptism Date: 9 Jan 1821; Baptism Place: St George the Martyr, Southwark, England; Father: Thomas Eastman Pryce; Mother: Mary Pryce. Her date of birth is recorded in margin of Baptism Register as 3 December 1820. London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906/Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1906; Reference Number: p92/geo/150. At her death she was recorded as being 85 which gives a birth date of 1820

[11] Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers; Register of Admissions: London ‘B’, #116-1204, fols 1-180.

[12] Wellington Independent, Volume IX, Issue 936, September 30, 1854.

[13] Samuel Church, 18 September 1855, Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Reference: BT ANW 1855_t-w; Samuel Curl 25 September 1855, Great Walsingham, Norfolk, England.  The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2219; The property was a farm of 14 acres and 5 cottages. The Standard (UK) August 13, 1857, 7.

[14] Wanganui Chronicle, Volume XXVIII, Issue 10613, August 14, 1884.

[15] R E Rawstron, ‘Dr Samuel Matthias Curl alias Dr Alan Carroll’, New Zealand Medical Journal, April 25, 1997, 149-150.

[16] Rex Earl Wright-St Clair. Historia Nunc Vivat: Medical Practitioners in New Zealand 1840–1930, 104.

First published in New Zealand by Rex Wright-St Clair in 2003 and published in digital form by the Cotter Medical History Trust in 2013.

[17] Wellington Independent, Volume IV, Issue 1004, November 5, 1870.

[18] An examination of New Zealand newspapers in the period 1854-1885 from mentions of Curl’s activities reveals that he was in New Zealand from the time of his arrival in 1854 until his departure in 1885.

[19] Rex Earl Wright-St Clair. Historia Nunc Vivat, 104. Annie was born in Glasgow in 1850 and died in Christchurch NZ in 1929.

[20] Carroll, Alan, Alan Carroll Papers, 1868-1902, 1868 Mitchell Library, Sydney. This date of April 25, 1885 is consistent with Dr Curl ceasing in March 1885 to advertise in the NZ newspapers his availability for consultation in Palmerston. The last attendance of Dr Curl at Palmerston is advertised as 20 March 1885. Manawatu Standard, Volume IX, Issue 91, March 10, 1885.

[21] They arrived in Melbourne on April 24, 1885 on Rotomahana having boarded the ship at Bluff, NZ. The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), April 25, 1885, 8.

[22] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), March 20, 1886, 620.

[23] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), July 15, 1890, 2; July 5, 1888, 6.

[24] On Carroll’s death certificate it strangely and specifically states that he lived in Victoria for 3 weeks and NSW for 25 years and some years in New Zealand. This is consistent with an arrival date in NSW in early 1885 rather than 1886.

[25] St Luke, Liverpool, Anglican Parish Register 5 July 1905.

[26] Manfred Görlach, English in Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 45.

[27] The Lancet, Vol 54,   Issue 1358, September 1849, 278-279. The Cambridge University Alumni database has no record of Samuel attending the university. Curl is not listed as graduate of Edinburgh University List of the graduates in medicine in the University of Edinburgh from MDCCV. to MDCCCLXVI [electronic resource] University of Edinburgh, (Edinburgh, 1867).

[28] ‘Identity Of Electricity And Life’, The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), September 29, 1849; Issue 2026; October 6, 1849; Issue 2027. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.

[29] Last Will and Testament of Samuel Matthias Curl.

[30] Wedding Certificate Samuel Matthias Curl and Mary White Pryce, 29 March 1851.

[31] London and Provincial Medical Directory, (London: John Churchill, 1855), 472.

[32] According to Curl’s chronology of eight years in London at the very latest from 1846 his name should have appeared.

[33] New Zealand Gazette Register of Medical Practitioners, January 14, 1892.

[34] Wanganui Chronicle, Volume XXVIII, Issue 10641, September 25, 1884.

[35]Centennial Magazine, August 1, 1888.

[36] Maitland Daily Mercury (Maitland, NSW), May 28, 1898, 1.

[37] Wellington Independent, Volume XII, Issue 9452, June 21, 1879.

[38] The Lancet (London, 1852), Volume 2, page 314. The terms ‘allopath’ and ‘homoeopath’ have a history and an evolution of their meaning overtime. See in this context ‘allopath’ was regarded as the approved medical treatment whereas ‘homoeopath’ was a practitioner of approaches that were regarded by the medical establishment as quackery.

[39] Thomas Wakley, plagiarism, libel, and the founding of The Lancet, Vol 371 April 26, 2008 [accessed 2/11/2018]

[40] Physiopathy: a system of treating disease, by which the present uncertainty of the healing art is removed. By Dr Curl. Reynolds’s Newspaper (London, England), July 20, 1851; Issue 49. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[41] Wellington Independent, Volume XII, Issue 9452, June 21, 1879.

[42] Wellington Independent, Volume XII, Issue 9457, June 27, 1879.

[43] Wellington Independent, Volume XII, Issue 9457, June 27, 1879.

[44] SOMJ,  Vol. 10 No. 5 (21 September 1908), 73.

[45] [accessed 13/10/2018]

[46] [accessed 13/10/2018]

[47] John M Pearce, The subthalamic nucleus and Jules Bernard Luys (1828–97) [accessed 13/10/2018]

[48] The Sun (Sydney, NSW),   April 1911, 6; SOMJ, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911). Sarah Ann Dorothy Izett nee Pattle (1844-1929) for photo see

[49] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), Wed 19 April 1911, 10

[50] Druin Burch, ‘Astley Paston Cooper (1768–1841): anatomist, radical and surgeon’

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2010 Dec 1; 103(12): 505–508. doi:  10.1258/jrsm.2010.10k039 [accessed 15/10/2018]

[51] The Sun (Sydney, NSW),   April 1911, 6; SOMJ, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911), 5.

[52] The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), August 30, 1888, 14.

[53]  SOMJ, Vol. 1 No. 1 (21 February 1898), 21.

[54]  SOMJ, Vol. 4 No. 5 (22 June 1901), 73.

[55] Proceedings of Linnean Society November 1875 to June 1880 (London, 1880), xliii.

[56] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), August 15, 1906, 7.

[57] The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People (Sydney, NSW), September 22, 1906, 2.

[58] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW), August 28, 1909, 7.

[59] The name dropping in this passage is ambitiously worded ‘to learn from the lectures’ of Knox and to ‘continue studies under’ could imply physical presence or just reading their work.  SOMJ, Vol. 2 No. 3 (21 April 1899), 54.

[60] D. Izett, Sub-Editor of SOMJ, Vol. 10 No. 6 (1 October 1908), 83.

[61] Wellington Independent, Volume XXIII, Issue 2726, September 1, 1868, this claim is for residence in Europe and not just visiting Europe.

[62] Wellington Independent, Volume IV, Issue 1215, May 18, 1871; Hawke’s Bay Herald, Volume XXI, Issue 5862, December 23, 1880.

[63] A. Carroll, MA, MD ‘The Easter Island inscriptions, and the translation and interpretation of them’, The Journal of The Polynesian Society, Volume 1, No. 2, 1892, 103-106.

[64] SOMJ, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911), 2.

[65] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), February 21, 1898, 3.

[66] Evening Post (NZ), Volume VI, Issue 103, June 15, 1870.

[67] Wellington Independent, Volume XXV, Issue 3017, July 9, 1870.

[68] Wellington Independent, Volume XXV, Issue 3018, July 12, 1870.

[69] Wellington Independent, Volume XVIII, Issue 1963, September 29, 1863.

[70] Wellington Independent, Volume XVIII, Issue 1963, September 29, 1863.

[71] Wellington Independent, Volume XVIII, Issue 1963, September 29, 1863.

[72] From: Governor, Auckland Date: 23 July 1864 Subject: Warrant cancelling appointment of S M Curl as Coroner at Rangitikei Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office (R24288665)

[73] A Ross JP, Marton Date: 29 March 1870 Subject: Mr Willis will inform Government why Justices of the Peace refuse to sit with Dr Curl, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Office (R24288663)

[74] Wellington Independent, Volume IV, Issue 847, May 4, 1870.

[75] Wellington Independent, Volume IV, Issue 1004, November 5, 1870.

[76] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), July 15, 1890, 2.

[77] The Sydney Morning Herald, June 27, 1891, 9.

[78] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), March 9, 1893, 4.

[79] The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), September 8, 1894, 478.

[80] The Sydney Morning Herald, July 13, 1898, 8.

[81] The Sydney Morning Herald, July 17, 1899, 8.

[82] R E Rawstron, ‘Dr Samuel Matthias Curl alias Dr Alan Carroll’, 149.

[83] Wellington Independent, Volume IV, Issue 1215, May 18, 1871; Hawke’s Bay Herald, Volume XXI, Issue 5862, December 23, 1880.

[84] New Zealand Herald, Volume XVII, Issue 5932, 20 November 20, 1880.

[85]Wanganui Chronicle, Volume XXVIII, Issue 10697, November 13, 1884.

[86] Wellington Independent, Volume XIX, Issue 5469, November 23, 1884.

[87] New Zealand Herald, Volume XVIII, Issue 6093, May 28, 1881.

[88] New Zealand Herald, Volume XVIII, Issue 5964, January 1, 1881.

[89] Otago Daily Times, Issue 9463, June 25, 1892, SUPPLEMENT.

[90] Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 9, 1876, 531–538.

[91] “Some Remarks on Dr. Curl’s ‘Notes on Grasses and Fodder Plants, suitable for Introduction to New Zealand,”’ by Henry Blundel, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 11, 1878, 528-529.

[92] James G Wilson, Early Rangitikei (Christchurch NZ: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1914), 83.

[93] New Zealand Times, Volume XLIV, Issue 7401, February 14, 1885.

[94] The Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria for 1884, 163; The Argus (Melbourne, Vic), August 15, 1884, 3.

[95] John Matthew, Eaglehawk and crow: a study of the Australian Aborigines including an inquiry into their origin and a survey of Australian languages. (David Nutt, Melbourne; Melville, Mullen and Slade, London, 1899), 138-140.

[96] It was later called from February 1898 Science of Man and Australasian Anthropological Journal and from 1900 having grant the right to use the prefix Royal – Science of Man and the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Royal Australasia.

[97]A. P. Elkin, ‘A New Anthropological Society’, Oceania Vol. 29, No. 3 (March, 1959), 227.

[98] Marja E Berclouw, Perfection, Progress and Evolution: A Study in the History of Ideas (PhD, La Trobe, 2002), xii

[99] Berclouw, Perfection, Progress and Evolution, 26.

[100] A. Carroll, MA, MD ‘The Easter Island inscriptions, and the translation and interpretation of them’, The Journal of The Polynesian Society, Volume 1, No. 2, 1892, 103-106.

[101] Letter of Lorimer Fison, Flemington, Melbourne, Victoria, 4 Dec ’86 to E.B. Tylor Esq LL.D [accessed 17/10/2018]

[102] Letter Lorimer Fison, Essendon Melbourne 29 Sept 1893 to Dr Taylor [accessed 17/10/2018]

[103] M. Roe, Nine Progressive Australians (St Lucia, QLD: University of Queensland Press, 1984), 158

[104] Steven Roger Fisher, Rongorongo the Easter Island Script – history, traditions, texts. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 109-111.

[105] The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), June 15, 1906, 4.

[106] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), February 21, 1898, 3.

[107] The Sydney Morning Herald, August 13, 1896, 6; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), August 20, 1909, 8.

[108] The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), August 30, 1898, 3.

[109] The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), March 25, 1903, 3.

[110] The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), June 13, 1903, 6.

[111] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), August 30, 1898, 7.

[112] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), October 13, 1898, 5.

[113] Carroll claimed the CSA were the first to make such measurements in Australia at a Woolloomooloo kindergarten.   SOMJ, Vol. 5 No. 1 (22 February 1902), 1.

[114]  SOMJ, February 1, 1899, 2.

[115]  SOMJ, Vol. 2 No. 11 (21 December 1899), 205.

[116]  SOMJ, Vol. 2 No. 9 (21 October 1899), 149; Vol. 2 No. 12 (22 January 1900), 229-230.

[117]  SOMJ, Vol. 4 No. 2 (21 March 1901), 20. Carroll clearly perceives a danger that others will take up what he has so long been advocating and so he reminds the public of his ‘qualifications’ to be consulted and be given credit for this.  SOMJ, Vol. 4 No. 6 (22 July 1901), 89-90.

[118]  SOMJ, Vol. 4 No. 5 (22 June 1901), 74.

[119] Marja E Berclouw, Perfection, Progress and Evolution: A Study in the History of Ideas (PhD, La Trobe, 2002), 285 says 1904 but The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), Sat 8 Aug 1903, 7 lists a great number of resignations of office bearers and the Society for Child Study is formed on December 10, 1903. The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), December 11, 1903, 9.

[120] The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), March 20, 1908, 6.

[121] Berclouw, Perfection, Progress and Evolution, 285.

[122] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), December 11, 1903, 9.

[123] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), September 14, 1907, 19. In 1908 the SCS became the Parent and Teachers Union. The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), April 9, 1908, 5.

[124]  SOMJ, Vol. 6 No. 11 (31 December 1903), 157-8.

[125] The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), June 16, 1905, 2.

[126]  SOMJ, Vol. 8 No. 2 (1 April 1906), 13.

[127] The CSA gives the year of 1903 as the commencement of Carroll’s curative work. The figures in this report are imprecise and inaccurate The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), December 20, 1906, 4. There is evidence of advice given by Carroll on a particular child in 1904. ‘Mrs. Izett also spoke of the benefit that a child she was interested in had received after being treated as the president of the association had advised.’ The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), June 30, 1904, 3.

[128] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), December 20, 1906, 4.

[129]  Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), August 30, 1908, 1, 11.

[130] The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (Coraki, NSW), March 8, 1907, 6.

[131] Watchman (Sydney, NSW), September 29, 1910, 12.

[132] The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), September 22, 1906, 15.

[133] The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (Coraki, NSW), March 8, 1907, 6.

[134]  Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), March 3, 1907, 4.

[135] Bryan Gandevia (1925-2006) was Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital, University of New South Wales from 1963-1985. He wrote widely on the history and bibliography of Australian health and welfare measures.

[136] Health & Longevity According to the Theories of the Late Dr. Alan Carrol: With an Account of the Work of the Child Study Association. Sydney: Epworth, 1915.

[137] Bryan Gandevia, Commentary on the medical work of Dr. Alan Carroll, (unpublished, June 1967), 7, History of Medicine Library, The Royal Australian College of Physicians. My thanks to Karen Myers, Librarian for granting access to this paper.

[138] Samuel Matthias Curl Last Will and Testament.

[139] [accessed 18/11/2018]

[140] Items 1-8, [accessed 18/11/2018]

[141] Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), October 8, 1911, 2; The Sun (Sydney, NSW), October 24, 1911, 5.

[142]  The Sun (Sydney, NSW), February 7, 1914, 11.

[143]  Truth (Sydney, NSW), May 7, 1911, 6.

[144] Seven of the eight directors of UBO were members of the Izzert family. Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW), October 24, 1919 [Issue No.245], 5866.

[145]  The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (Sydney, NSW), May 30, 1911, 7. UBO stood for ‘Ungentuum Benefacio Oleumque’ translated as ‘Good and Proper Ointments and Oils’. The Latin is perhaps as dubious as the claimed benefits of the UBO company.

[146] Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), July 27, 1914, 15; Evening News (Sydney, NSW), July 23, 1914, 1; The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), May 15, 1920, 40.

[147] New Zealand Herald, Vol LXVI, Issue 20382, October 10, 1929.

[148] Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), March 20, 1908, 6.

[149]  SOMJ, Vol. 13 No. 1 (1 May 1911), 2.


  1. […] of the Child Study Association and the meeting was addressed by the Association’s President, Dr Alan Carroll.[35]  The Association’s purpose was according to Carroll to ‘examine children and remove any […]


  2. megloucooper says:

    Great article – what a man!!

    Liked by 1 person

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