Ivan McDonald Allen was born in Auckland Province, New Zealand, the son of William James Allen, a farmer, of Hamilton, and Elizabeth Pollock, whose father, Thomas McDonald Pollock, farmed at Pukekohe. He attended Pukekohe School and received his secondary education at Auckland Grammar School, being awarded a junior and a senior scholarship. He entered Auckland University in 1913 as the holder of a National University scholarship, and the following year commenced medical studies at Otago University (Knox College) and Otago Medical School. After resident appointments as house physician and house surgeon at Dunedin Hospital in 1918 and 1919, he served as assistant to the professor of pathology and lecturer in pathology at Otago University Medical School from 1920 to 1921. Thereafter he spent five years in general practice at Rangiorar, a country town in Canterbury, before proceeding to Great Britain in 1927. After admission to the Membership, neurology became his main interest. He was house physician and then resident medical officer at the West End Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System from 1927 to 1929 and later registrar at the National Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System, Queen Square, from 1929 to 1931. He became honorary assistant physician at the West End Hospital in 1931.
On return to New Zealand in 1932 he established himself in practice in Wellington as a neurologist and was appointed to the honorary staff at Wellington Hospital, being the first to hold a position in that special field. The appointments were defined as honorary assistant physician, 1932-4, consulting neurologist, 1934-40, visiting neurologist, 1940-47, senior visiting physician for diseases of the nervous system, 1951-6. He was also consulting neurologist to the Home of Compassion Hospital, Wellington. After retirement from Wellington Hospital in 1956 he became honorary consulting neurologist.
He was a foundation fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and devoted himself wholeheartedly to its interest. He worked zealously to maintain the standards of the College, he contributed regularly at scientific meetings, he was a member of the New Zealand Board of Censors from 1945 to 1955, and he was vice-president from 1952 to 1954. He represented it at the Fourth International Neurological Congress at Paris in 1949, and was vice-president of the Fifth International Neurological Congress at Lisbon in 1953. In 1955 he delivered the Montgomery Spencer memorial lecture, R.A.C.P., the subject of his paper being ‘Cerebral palsy and allied conditions in childhood’.
Allen was at heart a student and a scholar. He worked with tremendous zest. He was most painstaking in his observation and examination of patients and his detailed personal records provided the background to the many clinical studies which comprised the bulk of his writings. He was regarded as a good teacher and clinician and his opinion was sought widely throughout the Dominion. Publications under his name outnumber those of any other individual of his day in New Zealand. As a person who set a high standard of personal behaviour and performance, he did not suffer gladly anyone who did not measure up to his ideal. Outwardly he was rather a serious individual, but in the background there was a sense of humour and an ability to sum up his fellow beings.
His interests were in literature and in his home and his family. He was an active member of the Classical Society connected with the Victoria University of Wellington. He suffered a long and painful illness in his later years and he earned the admiration of the intimate few with whom he was associated for the great fortitude he displayed throughout. In spite of increasing disability and discomfort, and of repeated interruptions for surgical treatment, he resolutely carried on with consulting work and with his writings.
His marriage took place in 1923 to Mary Katharine Cameron, daughter of the Rev. Andrew Cameron, LL.D. (Edin.), of Dunedin, chancellor of Otago University from 1912 to 1925. He had two sons and two daughters. He died at Wellington.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1962, 2, 614, 1133; N.Z. med. J., 1963, 62, 244-5 (p); Wellington Evening Post, 3 Aug. 1962.]