Joseph Cooke Verco who became Adelaide's most prominent physician and made a valuable contribution to natural history.
Image by Hammer & Co, courtesy State Library of South Australia

Adelaide University
and even city high-rise property development

THE VERCO FAMILY AS BECOME A DYNASTY WITH A MAJOR INFLUENCE on South Australian medicine, dentistry and the University of Adelaide.

The dynasty started in 1840 when young stonemason James Crabb Verco arrived in Adelaide. His contribution to South Australia turned out to be through strong links with the University of Adelaide. More than 15 direct descendants have qualified – mostly in medicine and dentistry – at the university.

Robin Warren, 2005 Nobel medicine prize winner, was also part of broader family the contains other distinguished Adelaide names including Margarey, McMichael and Ludbrook.

James Crabb Verco’s fourth son, Joseph Cooke Verco, went to London to study medicine. He returned to Adelaide in 1878 to pursue his career – coinciding with the rise of the new university.

In 1885, along with Edward Stirling, he helped found the University of Adelaide Medical School, funded by Thomas Elder and John Howard Angas, second son of George Fife Angas.

Joseph Cooke Verco also was pivotal in setting up the university's dental school after World War I, acting as dean 1920-28, while he was also dean of medicine.

Medicine and dentistry have continued to intertwine with the Verco family. Several of James Crabb Verco's grandchildren contributed significantly in both fields. Stanley and Peter Verco were pioneers in radiology, and Peter Joseph Willis (Joe) Verco was the university’s first graduate – and second in Australia – in the specialty of paediatric dentistry.

Joe is also the only dentist awarded a Baillieu Medical Research Grant. His brothers, Christopher (medicine) and William (dentistry) graduated from the university, while his son Sam also obtained a dental and medical degree and specialised in oral and maxillo-facial surgery.

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