O. A. (Oswald Andrew) Bushnell (1913-2002), the distinguished historical novelist and professor of medical microbiology and medical history at the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, was a third-generation kama‘aina born in Kaka‘ako and educated at the UH and the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his Ph.D. in bacteriology.
Upon his return to Hawai‘i in 1940, he worked on Kaua‘i with the Territorial Department of Health. Following service in the Army during WWII, Bushnell began his professorship at UH, retiring in 1970.
Bushnell’s pioneering first historical novel, “The Return of Lono” (1955), a fictionalized account of Captain Cook’s discovery of Hawai‘i, was published when practically all Hawai‘i literature had been written by visitors like Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, W. Somerset Maugham and James Jones.
His next novel, “Moloka‘i,” portrayed the banished sufferers of Hansen’s Disease at Kalaupapa. Set on O‘ahu in the 1850s, “Ka‘a‘awa” is a tale of Hawaiian culture besieged by foreign influence. “Stone of Kannon” and “Water of Kane” describe the lives of immigrant Japanese contract laborers.
O. A. Bushnell’s other historical work includes “Hawai‘i: A Pictorial History,” a collaborative effort with Joseph Feher and Edward Joesting, “A Walk Through Old Honolulu,” and “A Song of Pilgrimage and Exile: The Life and Spirit of Mother Marianne of Moloka‘i,” with Sister Mary Laurence Hanley.
“Gifts of Civilization: Germs and Genocide in Hawai‘i” is the definitive study of Native Hawaiians ravaged by exposure to foreign diseases.
Over the years, O. A. Bushnell provided encouragement and advice to many authors, playwrights, and filmmakers.
Private and retiring, he and his wife, Elizabeth, had two sons and a daughter. One son is Andrew “Andy” Bushnell, a Kaua‘i resident and longtime professor of history at Kaua‘i Community College, now retired.