Stewart Smith was born at Grafton, New South Wales, the youngest of three gifted sons of Stephen Sheldrick Smith, the local public school headmaster. One brother, Stephen, became director of education for New South Wales; the other, Grafton Elliot, achieved world fame as an anatomist and anthropologist. Stewart graduated from Sydney University and after two years’ experience at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital entered general practice near Sydney and became a part-time demonstrator in anatomy at the University. From 1912 to 1919 he was lecturer and chief demonstrator, and from 1913 to 1915 was acting professor. During this period he published a series of papers on the morphology of the Australian aboriginal and a study of the ‘Talgai Skull’ (Phil. Trans.B, 1918, 208, 351-87).
In 1910 he had joined the staff of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and, soon after he became a full physician in 1925, lectured there on clinical medicine. He also lectured from 1922 to 1926 at St. Vincent’s Hospital, to which he had been appointed in 1914. In 1938 he resigned from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to take charge of the new post-graduate unit at the Prince Henry Hospital, and when this was closed on the outbreak of war in 1939 he became chairman of the Post-Graduate Committee in Medicine of the University.
As he had been from 1928 an active member, and for some time a member of council of the Association of Physicians of Australasia including New Zealand, he was appointed a founder fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and advanced from honorary treasurer to vice-president and finally to president from 1946 to 1948. He was also for ten years the first chairman of the Australian Rheumatism Council, and persuaded the life assurance offices to establish its medical research fund.
He was a most popular teacher, generous to a fault to his colleagues and juniors, but not always sound in his judgment of men, and could be offensively intolerant of stupidity. In 1906 he married Muriel, daughter of Robert M. Pitt, a wool broker. They had three daughters, of whom the eldest, Nancy, had much success as an actress under the name of ‘Nancy O’Neill’.
Richard R Trail
* He was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature..."
[Brit.med.J., 1961, 1, 1324; Lancet, 1961, 1, 516; Med.J.Aust., 1962, 1, 259-62; Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Feb. 1961 (p).]