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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 (more…)

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