King's College London
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A pioneering partnership: Aubrey & Hilda Lewis

The early years: 1900-1934

Aubrey Julian Lewis was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1900. He studied medicine at Adelaide University medical school, and after anthropological research with Indigenous Australian peoples in 1926, was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship to study psychiatry for two years in Boston, Baltimore, London, Heidelberg and Berlin.

He settled in London, and in 1928 became both a member of the Royal College of Physicians and a research fellow at the Maudsley Hospital. He joined the Hospital’s clinical staff as a psychiatrist in 1929, and married his colleague, Hilda Stoessiger, in 1934.

Hilda Lewis was born Hilda North Stoessiger in London, 1900, and studied at the London School of Medicine for Women, 1921-1924. She then held a number of part time posts in London hospitals, working chiefly with children. She joined the Maudsley Hospital in 1932, as a Temporary Assistant Medical Officer. Hilda and Aubrey married in 1934 at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, London. The first of their four children was born the following year.

In 1931 Hilda was one of a group of 30 British scientists and doctors who visited the USSR to see recent Russian advances in science and medicine, on a tour organised by the Society for Cultural Relations between the British Commonwealth and the USSR.

In the early 1930s, when Joseph Stalin was seeking closer links with the West, there were many organised visits by Western writers and scientists to see and report back on the new Communist state. Some, like George Bernard Shaw, enthusiastically endorsed Stalin’s regime. Hilda’s notes are more circumspect: keenly interested in innovative scientific, medical and childcare institutions, she also noted squalid travelling conditions and a prevailing mood of seriousness.

There is no indication in her papers, however, that she was aware that the travelling peasants she observed may have been among those forcibly dispossessed from their farms, in the state collectivisation programme that had begun two years earlier.

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