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4. Leane, Lawson and Brown.


At the turn of the century, FitzGerald’s “Rubáiyát” mushroomed from an elite phenomenon into a popular sensation. As the book market expanded, and book publishing technologies were revolutionized, the “Rubáiyát” was published in a variety of formats by many publishing firms, particularly in the United States. By 1905, the “Rubáiyát” was so popular that it was the theme of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.

Into the 1950s, the poem was so widely quoted that more than half of the “Rubáiyát” appeared in “Bartlett’s Quotations” and “The Oxford Book of Quotations.”

“During the first decades of the 20th century, the ‘Rubáiyát’ made its way into nearly every facet of people’s lives,” said Michelle Kaiserlian, co-curator of the exhibition and “Rubáiyát” scholar. “For example, the exhibition documents the popularity of ‘Rubáiyát’ parodies, written on subjects ranging from courtship to automobiles, and from religion to politics. The ‘Rubáiyát’ became a tool to explore both the thrills and the anxieties of modern life.”

Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas


In 1920 (Professor John) Cleland was appointed first Marks professor of pathology (which then included bacteriology) at the University of Adelaide. Although it ended his experimental studies in epidemiology it allowed him to begin a systematic study of what must be one of the largest series of meticulous autopsy examinations ever conducted by one person—over 7000.

Cleland regarded each post-mortem examination as a voyage of discovery and never wearied, continuing to do routine autopsy work into his mid-80s. He was honorary pathologist at the Adelaide Hospital in 1920-38, and then honorary consultant. He was also honorary consulting pathologist to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. He had an unrivalled experience in macroscopic morbid anatomy and histopathology, and often diagnosed rare conditions almost at a glance.

With each further 1000 autopsy records amassed, he would analyse and epitomize his findings and publish them in the Medical Journal of Australia or the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s Medical and Scientific Archives, which he founded and edited in 1921-48.

Australian Dictionary of Biography


On the 19th of April 1949, Detective Sergeant Leane stated he received the news from Professor Cleland that he had found a torn slip of paper inside the fob pocket of the Somerton Man with the words Tamam Shud printed on it. (GF79)

Then Leane waited seven weeks until the 8th of June before receiving the slip from Cleland and sending Detective Brown on a mission to have the two words translated, the same day Brown interviewed Lawson. This delay by the case’s chief investigative officer is inexplicable as an examination of the slip was as crucial to the investigation as were the contents of the suitcase.

And why Leane didn’t ask Professor Cleland to seek a collegial translation for the two words defies good sense.

And given the Professor’s insatiable curiosity, you’d expect him to find a translation for himself, and if he did, he kept it to himself.

So, in a case blighted by inexplicable investigative lapses we can add two more. Either that or we are beginning to see the scope of some external interference.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Professor Cleland should asked his medical colleague Dr Sprod. She might of even been able to enlist her nephew, Robert Victor Hemblys Scales, who actually studied this book in his university days.

    June 17, 2020
    • Nobody knew that book better than Jessica Harkness.

      June 17, 2020
      • I noted sometime ago for someone sluethed out the chemist shop owned by the owner of the car in which it was found was in a building on Jetty Rd. Next door to where Dr MW Sprod had his original Surgery when he was engaged to Dr Lica Delprat. The Sprods built a combined Surgery and Residence on Moseley St. Dr Lica Sprod sold it after her husband’s early death and moved to Unley. I wonder if she kept up a friendship with the chemist?

        June 17, 2020

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