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John Wilkins was a prominent colonial surgeon for 15 years in Williamstown, Victoria. During the early gold rushes he prospered from investments in property. In Melbourne he aimed to become a recognized authority in diseases of the eye and throat, but he did not achieve his aims, and caused bitterness in the medical community by advertising. After 10 years he moved to Dunedin where he produced the first publication on anaesthesia in New Zealand. He removed to Christchurch, but found contentment in Auckland where he practised general medicine with special consultations in general surgery and diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat, and where he lived for the remainder of his life.