Dr William John Smith (later William John Jerome) was born in England in 1846. Dr Smith studied medicine in London, during which time he was awarded prestigious scholarships, prizes, and medals in a broad range of medical specialties. After graduation Dr Smith worked as a surgeon and lectured at the Charing Cross School of Medicine. Dr Smith’s interest in children’s health began during his time working as a surgeon at The Victoria Hospital for Children, London.

In 1869, Dr Smith relocated to Melbourne. His younger brother, Charles, also a surgeon, moved from London around the same time. Dr William Smith registered at the Medical Board in Melbourne and found employment as demonstrator of anatomy at The University of Melbourne, and as curator of the pathological museum at The Melbourne Hospital.

In 1870, Dr Smith established a children’s clinic in central Melbourne. Unfortunately the clinic’s location was of ill-repute and less-than-ideal for the care of children. In the same year, Dr Smith partnered with Dr John Singleton to relocate the clinic to 39 Stephen Street (now Exhibition Street) and establish the first hospital for children in Victoria. A committee quickly assumed management of The Children’s Hospital and rules were established, two of which aimed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Dr Smith was Attending Surgeon and Honorary Secretary until he resigned in 1871 and moved to a general practice in Casterton. The committee honoured Dr Smith by voting him a life governor of the hospital.

Dr Smith was an early adopter of microscope use in clinical medicine and continued to contribute to medical research throughout his career. Dr Smith published articles in the Australian Medical Journal that allow a glimpse of the hospital in its early years; his articles graphically describe patients’ symptoms and the doctor’s efforts to diagnose and treat them.

In 1875 Dr Smith returned to England and became a lecturer in medicine at The University of Oxford. He died in England in 1929.