P.W. Laidler

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P.W. Laidler (1885-1945) was a medical doctor, writer, editor and socio-cultural historian.

Born Percy Ward Laidler, he trained as a medical doctor, and practiced in East London, South Africa. For a while he was the editor of the SA medical Journal (SAMJ), and at one time President of the Public Health committee of the South African Medial Association.

He died in East London in 1945.

As author

He was an eclectic author, interested in a range of matters.

His academic writings focused on medical issues and included a number of articles in the SAMJ. In addition, his interest in history and social relevance led to the first South African attempt at medical historiography through his contributions to the SAMJ between 1937-38, in which he traced the history of medical institutions in the Cape during its earlier period. He later worked on a complete history of medicine, but could not complete it. Some years after his death, his manuscript was completed by Dr Michael Gelfand and published as South Africa: its medical history 1652-1898. A medical and social study by Percy Ward Laidler and Michael Gelfand (Cape Town by C. Struik, 1971)

His other writings focused on historical, political, social and cultural matters, and include:

"Hottentot and Bushman pottery of South Africa." South African Journal of Science, 1929,XXVI.

Arthur Elliott : a sentimental appreciation

The Growth and government of Cape Town (1939)

His contribution to South African performing arts

Two works are of particular value for the theatre historian:

A tavern of the ocean: being a social and historical sketch of Cape Town from its earliest days (Maskew Miller Limited, 1926);

Annals of the Cape Stage (Edinburgh: William Bryce, 1926),

The latter volume is still an invaluable source for historians of South African theatre.


The South African Medical Journal April 10, 1937[1]

Subject Guide to the Medical Collections at the UCT Library[2]

"Medical Africana" by Dr M Slotow, SA Family Practice Journal, January 1982[3]

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