John Cade AO

President 1969

Dr John Cade was educated at Scotch College and the University of Melbourne, graduating with honours in Medicine in 1934. The son of a physician who worked as a superintendant at several mental hospitals, Dr Cade joined St Vincent's Hospital as a Resident Medical Officer in 1935 and the Royal Children's Hospital in 1936.

Later that year he was appointed Medical Officer at Mont Park Mental Hospital.  Having served previously, Dr Cade was posted to the 2nd/9th Field Ambulance in Singapore in 1941. Although he was trained as a Psychiatrist, during his time in the Army he worked as a Surgeon.

From February 1942 to September 1945 he was interred in a prisoner-of-war camp in Changi. After the war he took up a position at Bundoora Repatriation Hospital where he developed experiments based on observations of mania he had made during his prisoner-of-war experiences.

His studies on the use of lithium, published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 1949, had arguably the most far-reaching effects of any discovery in psychological medicine made by an Australian. In 1952 Dr Cade was appointed Superintendent and Dean of the clinical school at Royal Park Hospital where he remained until his retirement in 1977.

Active in professional organizations, Dr Cade was a foundation member of AAP (1946) as well as Foundation Fellow (1963), Victorian Branch Chair (1963-80) and President (1969-70) of the College, and a member (1970-80) of the Medical Board of Victoria. He was closely involved with the establishment of the formal College, contributing to discussions about the Latin motto, the birth of the scientific journal and the development of training for psychiatry across Australia and New Zealand.

Although the use of lithium revolutionized the treatment of manic-depressive disorders from the 1960s, it was not until 1970 that he gained international recognition being awarded multiple prizes and honors. Dr Cade was appointed one of the first Officers of the Order of Australia in 1976 for distinguished service of a high degree in the field of medicine.

The College continues to honour the memory of Dr John Cade and his innovative research with the The John Cade Memorial Medal which is awarded to a final year Victorian medical student following a special clinical examination at Monash University or the University of Melbourne each year.

In 1985 the American National Institute of Mental Health estimated that Cade's discovery of the efficacy of lithium in the treatment of manic depression had saved the world at least $US 17.5 billion in medical costs. In 2004 the Medical Journal of Australia noted that Dr Cade’s 1949 article Lithium salts in the treatment of psychotic excitement was its most cited article over the last 50 years.

More information

Presidential address: Contemporary Challenges in Psychiatry
Biography from The Australian Dictionary of Biography
John Frederick Joseph Cade: family memories on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his discovery of the use of lithium in mania

Have you found the information you were looking for?