Dr Cecil Evelyn Aufrere Cook is most widely known as the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory (1929–37). In this role he is aligned with the Stolen Generations and the term ‘breeding out the colour’. There was, however, much more to Dr Cook’s professional life than this role and period and these topics.
A brilliant student, Cook was dux of his school and involved in advanced research after his graduation in 1920 (University of Sydney M.B., Ch.M). His national survey of leprosy as the Wandsworth scholar (1923–25) produced The Epidemiology of Leprosy in Australia and his M.D. (1930). He specialised in tropical medicine and public health and worked for the Commonwealth and State governments for almost forty years. Public health provided the lens through which he viewed his work, and the health of populations and communities influenced his policy proposals and research projects. His work with the National Health and Medical Research Council (1946–69) included many foundational projects, e.g. redefining public health; poliomyelitis vaccination; tobacco smoking and lung cancer; food additives and standards; and the reduction of infant mortality, especially from stillbirths. He became a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1935 and the recipient of the Cilento Medal in 1936.