WOOMB International

Science of Fertility

Gillian Barker

Rock solid science starts with rock solid scientists who have a strong desire to seek answers, reasons and explanations not just for their subject of interest but for many things that surround them. The scientists involved in the development of the Billings Ovulation Method® were Drs John and Evelyn Billings and Professors Emeritus James Brown and Erik Odeblad. What started as a collaboration between scientists became a life-long friendship.

Dr John Billings AM, KSCG, MBBS (Melb), MD (Melb), MRACP, MRCP (Lond), FRACP, FRCP (Lond) who initially began the research into what became the Billings Ovulation Method®, was a neurologist held in high esteem before he became interested in fertility. John obtained his medical degree in 1941, graduating with high honours. He took up the position as the resident medical officer at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He married Dr Evelyn Thomas in 1943 and later that year enlisted in the Australian Infantry Force where he served in Papua New Guinea.

He had published papers on conditions that he had encountered during his time as an army doctor in World War II, such as amoebiasis in Papua New Guinea and also on viral encephalitis. He worked in the Australian Army Pulmonary Diseases Hospital in Bonegilla and also at the Repatriation Hospital in Heidelberg.

In 1946 he obtained his MD (Doctorate of Medicine), he was made a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (MRACP). In that same year he was awarded a Nuffield Fellowship, which enabled him to develop his interest in neurology in London where he gained membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

The Billings returned to Melbourne in 1948 where John initially worked as Assistant to the Neurosurgical Clinic but having convinced the hospital administrators that clinical neurology should be seen as a separate discipline he was appointed Head of the newly established Department of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1950 until his retirement from the Department in 1983. Although John had retired from the Department of Neurology he continued to work in private practice. He served on the Medical Advisory Council of St Vincent’s Hospital and was Associate Dean (Clinical) of its clinical school. He was appointed neurological consultant to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and to the Peter McCallum Cancer Hospital and the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Fairfield. John Billings served on the Council of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and represented the College on the National Health and Medical Research Council, for a time as its chairman. This very significant contribution was recognized by the establishment of the John Billings Scholarship.