Dr. Henry Norman Bethune is internationally renowned as a Canadian physician and social activist, especially for his front-line contributions in Spain and China in the 1930s.
Bethune was born March 4, 1890 in the Presbyterian Church manse in Gravenhurst. The son of a Minister, Bethune and his family relocated frequently to different communities throughout his childhood. From a young age, Bethune developed an independent spirit. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Bethune was reportedly the eighth person in Toronto to volunteer for service.
By the war’s end in 1918, Bethune had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, served in the Royal Navy, completed his medical degree, and became the first medical officer of the newly created Canadian Air Force( established in 1918).
In the mid-1930s Dr.Bethune pioneered the use of front-line blood transfusions during the Spanish Civil War. Then, in 1938, he worked tirelessly to save lives in China during the Second Sino-Japan War. It was in China that he succumbed to an infection and passed away on November 12, 1939.
His life and accomplishments are commemorated in Gravenhurst at Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site.