Mark Bonnin was born to James Atkinson Bonnin FRCS and his wife Winifred, née Turpin, in Adelaide, South Australia. An inherited characteristic, this third son grew to be over six feet tall, as did all of his four brothers. Mark’s schooling was at St Peter’s College and he graduated in medicine from Adelaide University, followed by early postgraduate training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. In 1938 he came to the UK for further postgraduate training at the Central Middlesex Hospital, as a resident physician, and obtained his membership of the College in 1939. He was still in England when the second world war broke out and he hurried home to enlist in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps on service with the Australian Imperial Forces in the Middle East. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in charge of the medical division of the 2/6 Australian General Hospital and was mentioned in despatches. His unit returned to Australia, after several years, for reconditioning before moving to the South West Pacific. During this time he met and married Avis Watts and they had four children, a son and three daughters.
He obtained his MRACP in 1942. His active service ended in 1946 and during that year he succeeded in passing the MD, by examination, at Adelaide University. From 1947 until his retirement in 1977 Mark Bonnin was on the honorary consultant physician staff of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, finishing as its senior physician during the last years. His hospital honoured him by making him an emeritus specialist on his retirement. Bonnin’s service to medicine and the community was outstanding. He was the complete general physician with a remarkable breadth of knowledge in all areas of the discipline - a knowledge which was always up to date by reason of his extensive reading of the literature. He cared for all his colleagues but especially he helped young physicians when they were struggling for work early in their careers. He was a born teacher on the wards and sought after by all undergraduates and postgraduates. Among medical students his reputation as a teacher was enhanced on less formal occasions by his camaraderie and an impressive ability with a tankard. The Mark Bonnin prize of the faculty of medicine at his university is a recognition of his superb teaching skills; it is awarded annually to the physician at the Royal Adelaide Hospital who is adjudged by undergraduates to be their best clinical tutor.
Mark Bonnin loved the art and science of medicine and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians which he served with dedication for many years. He was a member of the board of censors from 1957-67, a member of council from 1968-75, and chairman of the South Australian State Committee from 1968-1975. These services, his outstanding ability and his contribution on so many College and other committees, were recognized by the College council with the award of the College medal - an honour which is bestowed on only a few Fellows each year.
This tall and imposing man was firm but gentle in manner,measured in his speech and had a broad sense of humour. He was a proficient sportsman, obtaining blues in lacrosse and rowing during his university days. He enjoyed good Australian wine and had a great appetite for good food, like all his large brothers. Despite a considerable calorie intake he remained fit and lean until a fatal terminal illness beset him in the last two years. He was an ardent conservationist with a great expertise in ornithology since his undergraduate years, achieving a national reputation m this field. Many of his photographs adorn books on Australian birds. With an easing of professional responsibilities in 1977 he was able to devote even more time to and influence in conservation issues. He was president of the National Parks Foundation of South Australia from 1981-86. During this time, and even before, his plain speaking and strength of purpose ensured the preservation of large tracts of land in South Australia which remained in their native state. His outstanding service to medicine, and to fields outside his profession, was recognized by the award of Member of the Order of Australia.
His many friends and colleagues remember Mark Bonnin as someone who loved his profession and served it with excellence. His patients remember him as a caring and compassionate person whose knowledge and experience ensured the highest standards of treatment. His family remember him as a proud and loving brother, father and grandfather whose zest for life was both remarkable and a spur to high achievement. And Australians now unborn should well be grateful to him for his untiring efforts to preserve some of the wonders of his native land and theirs.
A Kerr Grant