Portrait of Gretta McClelland

Name: Margaret ‘Gretta’ McClelland, OBE

MBBS – University of Melbourne (1931)
DA – London (1942)

Date of Birth: March 1905
Date of Death: 30 November 1990

Margaret ‘Gretta’ McClelland, born in 1905 in rural Victoria, graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1931. After working briefly in Australia, she moved to the United Kingdom in 1936. She remained in the United Kingdom throughout World War II contributing significantly to the medical treatment of civilians. On returning to Australia, McClelland devoted her work to advancing patient care, especially with children. Her research and work paved the way for future anaesthetists to have a more comprehensive understanding of anaesthetic care. She was awarded with Fellowships and the Orton Medal to commemorate her contributions to the field.
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Orton Medal
Margaret ‘Greta’ McClelland was born in 1905 in the rural town of Berriwillock, Victoria.[i] She moved from the country to the city in order to attend Presbyterian Ladies’ College. In her final year at the College, 1924, McClelland was school captain.[ii] After graduating secondary school, McClelland enrolled in a medical degree at the University of Melbourne. She completed her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery in 1931.[iii] McClelland undertook her two-year residency in 1932 at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne.[iv] On completion, she rose to the position of Superintendent at the Queen Victoria Hospital where she worked until 1935.[v]

In 1935, McClelland moved to Sydney and worked at the Coast Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.[vi] After a year, McClelland relocated to the United Kingdom. She held only temporary positions from 1936 to 1940 in hospitals such as the Shadwell Children’s Hospital, St Giles’ and Bellam. In 1941 she was awarded with a full time position as an anaesthetic at Central Middlesex Hospital.[vii] As opposed to returning to Australia with the outbreak of World War II, McClelland stayed in the United Kingdom. Her work with civilian life during the War was a significant contribution that was later awarded. Whilst in London, McClelland studied for a Diploma of Anaesthetic which was awarded to her in 1942.[viii]

After the war, in 1946, McClelland returned to Melbourne to work in private practice. Her postgraduate qualifications from the United Kingdom considerably boosted McClelland’s career.

It also allowed her to play a very important role in developing the first exams for the Faculty of Anaesthetists, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FARACS). Amongst her many achievements during this period, McClelland was able to popularize muscle relaxant drugs in anaesthetics and contribute to knowledge on anaesthetic reactions through her study in trichloroethylene. Her achievements led to her election as president of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists in 1946.[ix]

In 1948, McClelland was hired as the honorary anaesthetic to the Children’s Hospital in Melbourne becoming the chief anaesthetist and director in the following years.[x] Her passion for advancing the work of children and anaesthesia led to some groundbreaking developments. For example, working on the Adams-McClelland T-piece in the 1905s and 1960s.[xi]

McClelland’s contributions to the specialty have been acknowledged. In 1952, she became a Foundation Fellow of FARACS.[xii] She also received a Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in England. Just prior to her retirement, McClelland received the Orton Medal for outstanding work in anaesthetics, 1968.[xiii] This was followed by a honorary Fellowship from FARACS. Outside of anaesthetic awards, McClelland was granted an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1979 for her work in the UK during the War.[xiv] McClelland’s dedication to advancing patient care and her significant contributions to the field of anaesthetics are her legacy.

Exordium - Margaret Gretta McClelland

[i] T. C. K. Brown, ‘Margaret (Gretta) McClelland 1905-1990’, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, 19, no. 2 (May 1991): 311, ANZCA Archives, Series 11.[ii] Ibid.[iii] Margaret McClelland, ‘Exordium’, Application Form, 1952, Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History: VKGM 6903.4.[iv] Brown, ‘Margaret (Gretta) McClelland 1905-1990’, p. 311.[v] Ibid.[vi] Ibid.[vii] Ibid.[viii] Margaret McClelland, ‘Exordium’.[ix] Australian Society of Anaesthetists, ‘ASA Presidents’, 2015, Online: https://www.asa.org.au/ASA/About_us/History_of_the_Society/Past_Presidents/Past_Presidents.aspx.[x] Noel Cass, ‘Sir Henry Bolte, Civil Honour for Margaret McClelland’, Letter, 9th December 1969, ANZCA Archives, Series 11.[xi] Brown, ‘Margaret (Gretta) McClelland 1905-1990’, p. 312.[xii] Margaret McClelland, ‘Exordium’.[xiii] Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, ‘Robert Orton Medal’, 2015, Online: http://www.anzca.edu.au/about-anzca/our-awards/robert-orton-medal.html.[xiv] Australian Government, ‘It’s an Honour’, 2015, Online: https://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1108486&search_type=quick&showInd=true.


  1. ‘Gretta McClelland’, ANZCA Archives, Series 108, Item Number 10.
  2. ‘Robert Orton Award’, Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History: VKGM 1806.
  3. Margaret McClelland, ‘Exordium’, Application Form, 1952, Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History: VKGM 6903.4.
  4. ‘Ayre’s T piece connectors with adjustable valve’, Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History: VKGM 2755.