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Pursuing Passion Over Expectation

BGS Old Boy Tony Delamothe '69 took the world-renowned British Medical Journal into the future as an early adopter of the internet – a feature of his three-decade career at the publication.

Established in 1840, The BMJ is one of the world's leading medical journals. In 1995, Delamothe registered the domain name when there were just 20,000 websites worldwide, compared to more almost two billion today.

His path to the UK and Deputy Editor of The BMJ began at Brisbane Grammar School. Born in Bowen, Delamothe boarded at BGS for the last two years of high school in 1968 and 1969. He was extended academically, where he said he was fortunate to be taught by some “terrific teachers".

Delamothe enjoyed his time at BGS and excelled in the classroom. His senior results saw him obtain an open scholarship to study medicine at The University of Queensland.

After his first year of medicine, Delamothe's father, who had been Minister for Justice and Attorney General, was appointed Queensland's Agent-General in London. Twenty years old at the time, Delamothe decided to move to London with his family and transferred to Middlesex Hospital for the remaining years of his medical course.

“Within a few years of internship, I heard of this postgraduate course in history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge, and I took a year off to do it," Delamothe said. “My peers thought I was crazy, but it turned out to be the most intellectually satisfying year of my life."

He returned to clinical medicine, before undertaking medical research towards an MD. On the path towards becoming an attending physician, Delamothe questioned whether he was going down the right career path. It was a brave move in his early 30s.

“A friend pointed out an advertisement for an editorial position at the British Medical Journal, and I thought I had what they were looking for," Delamothe said. “My hunch turned out to be right; I felt as if I had come home. I worked happily at The BMJ for almost 30 years, before retiring at 64."

During that time, Delamothe married, bought a house, and with his wife brought up three children in London. His professional highpoint came when he successfully campaigned to move The BMJ online.

“Here was the biggest change in publishing since Gutenberg and I was lucky to be slap bang in the middle of it," he said. “In those early days, I worked for a very enlightened boss, who encouraged me to find out as much a possible about the internet. I attended many meetings in Silicon Valley and Washington."

“We were early adopters when I registered the domain name in 1995, just four years after the first website appeared. From 1997, we made our entire journal contents freely available online. The journal rowed back from that position, although all original research remains freely available."

Looking back on his career and those of the Class of 1969, Delamothe encouraged today's students to value passion over doing what is expected.

“I never knew that following such disparate interests, studying English in my first year of medicine and writing for a theatre magazine while doing my medical research, would prepare me for my ultimate job," he said.

“Australian hospice nurse Bronnie Ware recorded the regrets of dying people. She found most people wished they had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life others expected of them."

“If there is a message, it is to do what you want to do and make sure you do it to the very best of your abilities. Passion, rather than a sense of duty, helps."

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T +61 7 3834 5212

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