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Campbell, Kate Isabel (1899 - 1986)

Dame, DBE, CBE, FRCOG, 2001 Victorian Honour Roll of Women

22 April 1899
Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
12 July 1986
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Medical scientist


In 1951 Dr Kate Campbell, a specialist in children's diseases, was the first person to prove the link between retrolental fibroplasia (a blindness in premature babies) and oxygen levels in humidicribs. She was appointed to the Order of the British Empire (Dames Commander) on 1 January 1971 for services to the welfare of Australian children. Along with Norman Gregg she was co-winner of the first Encyclopaedia Britannica award for medicine in 1964. Dr Campbell had previously been recognised for her services to medical science when appointed to the Order of the British Empire - Commander (Civil) on 1 January 1954.


The daughter of Donald and Janet (née Duncan) Campbell, Kate Campbell was awarded scholarships to attend both the Methodist Ladies College and the University of Melbourne, where she obtained her Bachelor of Medicine (MB), Bachelor of Surgery (BS) in 1922 and Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1924. Dr Campbell became resident medical officer at the Melbourne Children's and later the Royal Women's Hospitals. In 1927 she established a general medical practice and ten years later became a consultant peadiatrician.

Dr Campbell was appointed medical officer to the Victorian Baby Health Centre's association, a position she held for over 40 years. She was also honorary paediatrician at the Queen Victoria Hospital (Melbourne) (1926-1965), consultant from 1965 and honorary paediatrician at the Royal Women's Hospital (Melbourne) from 1965. From 1929-1965 Dr Campbell lectured in neonatal paediatrics at the University of Melbourne. Together with Vera Scantlebury Brown and A Elizabeth Wilmot she wrote the Department of Health's Guide to the Care of the Young Child. In 1951, she wrote a paper on the cause of blindness in premature babies, for which she received worldwide recognition. A member of the Lyceum Club, Kate Campbell was also awarded an honorary LLD (Melbourne) in 1966.


Inducted onto Victorian Honour Roll of Women

Sources used to compile this entry: Lofthouse, Andrea (ed.), Who's Who of Australian Women, Methuen Australia, North Ryde (NSW), 1982, 504 pp; McCalman, Janet, 'Campbell, Dame Kate Isabel', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006,; Radi, Heather (ed.), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press, Sydney, 1988, 258 pp. Also available at p. 208.; accessed 23052002.

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Half open door, The, 1978 - 1983, 83/147; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • Scantlebury Brown, Vera (1889-1946), 1917 - 1939, 84/82; Brown, Vera Scantlebury (1889 - 1946); The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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