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(William) Ian Clunies Ross

(1899—1959) veterinary scientist and scientific administrator


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(1899–1959) combined skills as a veterinary scientist and administrator during his long service with the CSIRO (initially CSIR) that culminated in his chairmanship (1949–59). A son of science teacher William John Clunies Ross (1850–1914), he graduated in veterinary science from the University of Sydney in 1921, and shortly after received a Walter and Eliza Hall fellowship that allowed him to study in England. It was here that he began his life's work of research into parasites. Appointed parasitologist by the CSIR in 1926, Clunies Ross displayed a keen interest in the practical use of research, in particular the breeding of livestock. He chaired the International Wool Secretariat in London (1937–40) before returning to Australia to become professor of veterinary science at the University of Sydney. In 1946 he moved to Melbourne as a member of the CSIR executive, and succeeded David Rivett as chair after the organisation was embroiled in political controversy over national security. Clunies Ross was more cooperative with the new Liberal–Country Party government and its invigilation of left-wing scientists. He worked relentlessly to promote the status of science in Australia and was a skilful publicist, once injecting himself with the myxomatosis virus to affirm its safety for humans. His contribution to Australian science was recognised by the depiction of his image on the Australian $50 note. A biography by Marjory O'Dea appeared in 1997, and L.R. Humphreys produced a biography in 1998.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.


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