Australian Academy of Science|
Biographical Memoirs of Deceased Fellows
By A. I. Clunies Ross
When the Australian fifty-dollar note was issued in 1972, it bore the heads of two scientists. On one side was Howard Florey, co-discoverer of penicillin. On the other side was Ian Clunies Ross. Clunies Ross, though active for some years in productive research, had no major scientific advance to his credit. The strange honour of being imprinted on the currency-in company with Macarthur and Farrer, Greenway, Henry Lawson, Caroline Chisholm and Kingsford Smith-came to him because of the special public position he had come to occupy by the time of his death as spokesman for Australian science, champion of research and promotion for the wool industry, and steady advocate of an open and generous view of Australia's destiny. These three roles are remembered in the naming after him of the National Science Centre in Melbourne, a sheep and wool research laboratory in Prospect, NSW, and the original wing of International House in the University of Melbourne. A long road in Canberra skirting Black Mountain also bears his name. His reputation was due in part to concrete achievements, but also to the fact that, with a distinctive appearance, personality and style, he caught the imagination of many of those who met him or heard him speak.
Ian Clunies Ross was born on the 22nd of February, 1899, in Bathurst, New South Wales, the fourth and youngest son of William John Clunies Ross and his wife Hannah Elizabeth. Ian's father was himself a scientist, with wide scholarly interests both within and without the natural sciences, and at the time of Ian's birth he was head of the Technical College at Bathurst. He had been born and reared in London, where he had as a young man been a lecturer in geology at Birkbeck College, and he had travelled to Australia at the age of thirty-three in a sailing-ship of which his brother Alfred was master. Ian's mother was Australian-born and had been a schoolteacher before her marriage. Her father, Charles Tilley, born of farming stock at Hinton Admiral in Hampshire, and possibly also her mother, who came of distressed Irish Protestant gentry from co. Tipperary, were apparently professional evangelists. Ian's father's father, Robert Clunies Ross, a sea-captain born in Shetland in 1790, was a brother of that John Clunies Ross who settled with his family and crew on the Cocos-Keeling Islands in 1826-7 and founded a tiny Malay kingdom. Another colourful relative was Ian's mother's brother, William Tilley, who migrated as a young man from Sydney to Berlin and there established a notable school where, with Prussian thoroughness and some eccentric rules, he exposed English-speaking students systematically to the German language.
When Ian was four years old, his father was appointed lecturer-in-charge of the Department of Chemistry and Metallurgy at Sydney Technical College, and the family moved across the Blue Mountains to Sydney, where they settled at Summer Hill in the western suburbs. In a passage on his childhood (published after his death in his Memoirs and Papers), Ian describes the free and varied life which he led, especially after the family had moved to more spacious quarters in nearby Ashfield. For three years, until he was about nine, he and his brother Rob, who was two years older, received all their schooling from their parents, and, as they had lessons only in the mornings, they had plenty of time at their disposal. At Ashfield, they were close to paddocks and to scrubby bushland. Their mother, who always imposed considerable trust in her children, let them roam very much as they liked and tolerated their keeping fantail pigeons and bringing home a variety of insects, frogs and reptiles, though, as he says, she 'drew the line at poisonous snakes in the house'. They counted over seventy species of birds near their home. Ian also had an early love for horses and dogs, and he describes his attempts, at first unsuccessful, to adopt a dog of his own.
As far as a childhood can be made so by external circumstances, Ian's seems to have been a secure and happy one. He had the companionship of Rob and the varied contributions of his two much older brothers: Allen, gentle and studious, with a universal thirst for knowledge like his father's; and Egerton, wild and imaginative, full of romantic stories and adventurous games. For his father, forty-eight years older than himself, Ian had feelings, he says, 'rather of respect than deep attachment', but his mother was at all times a stronghold; his relationship with her was to continue close and untroubled until her death less than twelve years before his own; and she was undoubtedly an important influence upon him. she had in fact some of the qualities of personality that he was to display. While maintaining a certain dignity, she showed a considerable zest for life. she was a good story-teller, with plenty of anecdotes to tell, and a natural teacher, who treated children with respect. Her interests were literary and historical rather than scientific, and she wrote verse in the style of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Though she was conscious of class in the sense of caring about accents and certain details of behaviour, she showed an almost unvarying kindliness and courtesy and conversed easily with everyone she met. Her rule over her family was permissive in many ways and she imposed great trust in her children, but behind this outward relaxation there were very firm views on manners and morals which could not easily be ignored and were sometimes forcefully expressed. Ian seems to have absorbed many of his mother's assumptions and values, and it is likely that her calm assurance of her place in the world, and the devotion, heavily tempered with good sense, that she had for her children, helped to give him a sense of confidence against which his natural ebullience could have full rein.
Ian's outlook was no doubt influenced by the strongly moral attitudes of both his parents, but his own tendency was less to his father's puritanical and self-demanding standards than to his mother's code, in which truthfulness, fairness and courtesy ranked high. Ian's later liberal internationalism was very much of a piece with his mother's; he writes of her admiration for Gladstone against his father's strong championship of Disraeli. His religious position was also to become rather similar to hers; unlike his father, who had an unswerving personal faith, both he and his mother were on the extreme liberal edge of Christianity, shading off into a generalised reverence, but they had a strong attachment to what they believed to be Christian ethics and a critical respect for the church as an institution.
In contrast to Ian's mother, his father cared little for appearances and seems to have had no sense of class distinctions. He was a man of immense intellectual curiosity, for whom Australia, with its plant and animal life and geological structure still not fully catalogued, was fertile ground. He collected rocks, plants and reptiles; published short texts on chemistry; and on his five-month voyage to Australia kept systematic records for the Geographical Society. On one occasion he had himself bitten by the supposedly deadly Australian Black Snake in order to prove that its reputation was exaggerated. Among his many differences of opinion with his wife was over the choice of state or private schools for their sons. By the compromise adopted, Allen and Egerton went to Sydney High School, while Rob and Ian, after a short time at a prep. school in Ashfield, were sent as day-boys to Newington, the Methodist school since favoured by the royal house of Tonga and the leading chiefly family of Fiji.
Ian's time at Newington does not appear to have been particularly memorable for him. He in turn was not by any means an outstanding pupil, and it was a source of surprise to his headmaster when he obtained a second-class honour in English at the Leaving examination. In 1914, while he was at Newington, his father died of cancer, leaving the family in much reduced circumstances, and not long afterwards his three older brothers left for the war: Egerton, a keen part-time soldier, with a commission, to serve in various fields including East Africa; and Allen and later Rob as privates to France. Ian reached the age of eighteen in the second-last year of the war, but it seems that his mother exerted her legal right to prevent his enlisting while he was under the age of twenty-one. Accordingly, and despite his father's dying recommendation against it, Ian entered Sydney University, in the Agriculture Faculty, at the beginning of 1917. At the end of a year in which he passed after a second try in one of his subjects, he transferred to second-year Veterinary Science at the beginning of 1918. In October 1918, news came that Egerton and Rob had died within a few days of one another: Egerton, weakened by an earlier attack of typhoid, from pneumonic influenza; Rob in action. Mrs Clunies Ross travelled to England in 1919 to meet Allen, now commissioned and married, and to join him on his troopship home.
Ian seems to have come to science not mainly out of intellectual curiosity, or even out of fascination with the possibilities of applied research, but because he wanted to work with animals. For much of the veterinary course, he was the sole student in his year, and he probably continued to regard himself as an indifferent scholar. Nonetheless, he completed the course in 1920 and was more than a little surprised to find himself graduating with honours.
'In the morning there was the conferring of degrees,' he wrote to a friend, 'in which I played a small part. The Prof announced that I had got 2nd class Honours at Graduation which I had not known before. I expect he made it up on the spot.'
Indeed he always maintained that his professor had been so keen to have one graduate with honours in order not to be outdone by the other faculties that he had made the award contrary to the rules and had had them amended later.
In 1921, Ian was given a temporary lectureship in veterinary anatomy.
'I have to lecture in Osteology to 1st and Anatomy to 2nd year students,' he wrote to the same friend, 'as well as directing Dissections and doing the Ops in Surgery...The students, though standing in no great awe of me-in fact addressing me when out of hearing of the Prof as Ian-are very decent.'
A no. of the students were in fact returned servicemen older than himself, and he later told stories of scuffles in which the lecturer, no less than the students, hurled pieces of carcase around the dissecting room, and of how the teacher 'in his piping treble' (as he related it) and the pupils in their resounding bass would sing 'Good morning to you' antiphonally at the beginning of class.
Next year, he was appointed a Walter and Eliza Hall Veterinary Research Fellow. This allowed him to spend some time overseas, and he arranged to spend much of the year in work on parasites at the Molteno Institute for Parasitology in Cambridge and the School of Tropical Medicine in London. He and his mother set out for England in a cargo ship, their voyage starting inauspiciously with three weeks berthed at Port Kembla. The ship's doctor was Charles Huxtable, who became a life-long friend. Dr Huxtable, who had returned from the war with the Military Cross, had a capacity for quiet amusement and enjoyment which fitted well with Ian's boyish exuberance, and near the end of the year, when Ian had finished his work in Cambridge and London, they went together for a short tour in Hungary and Poland.
After returning from Poland, Ian began his journey home through the United States, where he looked at methods of field control of parasitic diseases, mainly in Texas and Louisiana.
On his return to Sydney he resumed research in parasitology and part-time teaching at the Veterinary School. For a few months in 1925 he hired rooms in College Street in the heart of Sydney, and tried to start a veterinary practice, but his rueful words in a letter of August that year:
four and a half cases this week. Almost it begins to look as if things are looking up.
bear witness that the practice was not successful enough to be worth continuing. Otherwise research on parasites of domestic animals was to occupy the bulk of his working life until 1937. His personal study was concerned with the hydatid parasite (Echinococcus granulosus), the liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica), and the dog-tick (Ixodes holocyclus).
This work, and all the research with which he was associated, had a highly practical bent, and most was directed to urgent problems of the pastoral industry. Hydatids, however, is a disease of men as well as sheep, and his work on the dog-ticks was of concern to dogs and their owners, rather than to graziers. The dog-tick is especially prevalent in the scrub of the Sydney area and is lethal to dogs unless it is removed quickly. Ian developed methods of actively immunizing dogs by short engorgements with ticks and also of using serum from animals already 'over-immunized' against the parasite as a treatment in tick poisoning. Reports of his work in 1933-34 indicated that with the serum 75 % of a sample of badly affected dogs recovered.
In 1926, the Prime Minister, Mr Bruce, arranged for the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to replace the Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, which had been constituted six years earlier but never adequately financed. The Council (to be known by its initials as 'CSIR') acquired six Divisions in its first few years (Economic Botany, Animal Nutrition, Economic Entomology, Forest Products, Soil Research and Animal Health). At the end of 1926, Ian was appointed the Council's parasitologist to continue his work at the Sydney University Veterinary School. By mid-1931, three other research workers, Gabriel Kauzal, Norman Graham and Hugh Gordon, are reported as working with him, and in November 1931 the team moved into CSIR's new McMaster Animal Health Laboratory, established at the rear of the Veterinary School through an endowment by a grazier, Mr (later Sir Frederick) McMaster. Ian was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the McMaster, a position which he held until 1937. The McMaster provided facilities for research by the staff of the Veterinary School as well as by its own officers, and, though sheep and their parasites remained the main interest, investigations extended also to bacterial diseases (and conditions of unknown origin) and to diseases of cattle.
Ian believed in maintaining close contact with the men on the land, and he devoted considerable efforts to increasing the interest of wool-growers in research. The CSIR Annual Report for 1929-30 records his intention to establish field stations on the properties of graziers who had expressed their willingness to co-operate. The same report, in a recital of a no. of research achievements of particular value to the sheep industry, mentions work on the control of liver-fluke, 'which previously caused losses amounting to well over £1,000,000 per annum', and important progress on other internal parasites ('stomach worms, lungworms, etc.'), also work in which Ian was involved, quoting on this subject a leading Queensland pastoralist as stating that 'as a result sheep-rearing in his district has been completely revolutionized'.
Ian published about fifty scientific papers, some extending to substantial booklets, in the period up to 1937. Besides studies of specific parasites, they include general surveys of internal and skin parasites of sheep, and of skin parasites of dogs, and general works on medication and pasture treatment against parasites. In 1928, his thesis on the hydatid parasite was accepted by the University of Sydney for the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Science, and in 1936 with Hugh Gordon he published a book, The Internal Parasites and Parasitic Diseases of Sheep (Angus & Robertson) which was intended for the use of both students and wool-growers.
In January 1923, very shortly after his return from abroad, Ian was invited to a weekend at Mount Kembla on the New South Wales south coast, at which Janet Carter, then a final year University student, was to be present. Each had heard of the other, and they had lived not far apart in Ashfield, but they met for the first time on Sydney's Central Station on the eve of an Anniversary Day long weekend, and travelled together on the south coast train. Their surviving letters, starting from August of the next year, show that they were both by then deeply involved with one another. Janet, after graduating with first class honours in English early in 1924, continued to work in the University grounds on the staff of the Fisher Library. Nevertheless, their ideas of decorum for unengaged couples, scarcely believable today, set limits on the frequency of meetings between them. To be seen alone together more than once in three weeks seemed to verge on the improper, even when they had been acquainted for nearly two years. At one point they resolved, not quite successfully, to cease to meet for three months because of Ian's doubts over whether, for his mother's sake, he should refrain from marrying at all. This experiment appears to have settled the doubts. They were officially engaged in 1925, but it was not until Ian's CSIR appointment at the end of 1926 had given him what he considered an adequate living that they were married, on the 6th of October, 1927. Ian's mother left for a fourth trip, to England soon after the wedding, and Ian and Janet occupied her small house at Woollahra.
Their marriage was to last with complete loyalty and devotion until Ian's death nearly thirty-two years later. Apart from simple entertaining Janet took a fairly small part in his public life, being by inclination home-centred, and except for two long trips abroad scarcely ever travelled with him. She was, however, a quick and avid reader, interested in world and national affairs, on which her attitudes fitted closely with his, and on occasion she engaged in public controversy on her own account-most notably in 1945 over the very hot issue of press treatment of the Japanese. In later life she was to become increasingly interested in the personal social welfare services, and after Ian's death she became a University student once again and then taught for six years in the Criminology Department at Melbourne University. Whenever Ian was away and within reach of mails, they wrote to each other, generally every two or three days, his letters full of incident and recounting his meetings with the many friends, both men and women, whom he had acquired in various parts of the world. She, though missing him acutely, never seriously tried to inhibit his many outside engagements until fears for his health emerged near the end of his life.
Not long after their marriage, CSIR arranged for Ian to spend the best part of a year, from June 1929, studying research methods in parasitology at the Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo. Some years earlier, he had begun to learn something of Japanese language and history by attending classes at Sydney University. Soon after arrival in Japan, Ian and Janet took a small Japanese-style house in a Tokyo suburb and engaged a Japanese maid, newly arrived from the country. Few Australians at the time had lived in Japan, and nearly fifty years later few have gone there as Ian did for technical or scientific training. It was thus in some ways a pioneering venture. He was able to continue work on the liver fluke, and his letters to Dr Rivett, the Chief Executive of CSIR, suggest that he found value in the work. But more important to him perhaps was his experience of Japanese people on their home ground. Despite minor inconveniences, he revelled in their language, modes of expression, manners, habits and observances. He kept an extensive diary full of humour and appreciation, much of it dealing with domestic matters such as problems of communication with their maid, Teruko-san. A letter to Rivett describes a Shinto ceremony at the laboratory commemorating the animals sacrificed over the year in the cause of science. He adds a suggestion that a similar practice might be instituted at the McMaster.
His interest in Japan, and in Far Eastern affairs generally, continued after his return to Australia. He edited a book, Australia and the Far East, which was published for the Australian Institute of International Affairs in 1935. The contributors included a no. of people notable then or later, among them Sir Robert Garran, John Crawford and H. D. Black. Ian's own paper, 'Factors Influencing the Development of Australia's Trade with Japan', contained a careful attempt to estimate the scope of Japan's possible demand for Australian wool, wheat, dairy products and meat, and to relate this to the growth of Japan's own manufacturing industries. The last third of the paper was devoted to a discussion of how to further mutual knowledge and understanding between Australia and Japan. A passage from the conclusion of the first part of the paper is typical of the liberal and optimistic approach which he continued to have to trade relations. He wrote:
Australia has a very real interest in the progress of Japanese industry and the material welfare of the Japanese people. It is not too much to say that the future prosperity of Australia will to an increasing extent be dependent on that of her great neighbour in the Far East.
Much as Australians had cause to regret the progress of Japanese industry in the early 1940s, the long-range forecast in the last sentence of this passage has turned out to be unusually accurate.
From November 1935 until March 1936, Ian was again in East Asia, this time conducting a brief survey of the sheep and wool industry in North China (including Inner Mongolia), in Japan, and in Korea and Manchuria (both then under Japanese rule). China at the time was in a disturbed and divided state, with banditry prevalent, but all appeared calm and orderly in the newly expanded Japanese empire. In the north-west of Manchuria he was in one of the coldest parts of the world at that time of year. For much of the journey he stayed in Japanese inns, but once at least he spent the night in a Manchurian herdsman's yurt. He was lucky to escape adventures of another kind in Inner Mongolia, for he was told on his return to Peking that the surprisingly prosperous Scandinavian sheep-farmer whom he had visited made his living by betraying travellers to bandits, who kidnapped them for ransom; and indeed this is exactly what happened to an English party who visited the man soon afterwards. Pastoralists' organizations in Australia had supported the survey financially. Broadly the conclusion was that there was no need for Australian woolgrowers to panic over the prospects of expanded wool production in North-east Asia.
After his return in 1936, Ian with his Japanese contacts in Sydney acted as one in a chain of intermediaries between the Japanese and Australian governments in an attempt to fix up a trade deal advantageous to both parties. Australia had recently increased considerably its duties on the import of Japanese textiles. The Japanese had responded by an unofficial boycott of Australian wool sales and by greatly increased import duties on some major Australian exports and licence-restrictions on the rest; and Australia had then prohibited a large part of the goods imported from Japan. Characteristically Ian disliked this sequence of events intensely, and he was convinced that common sense could reach a reasonable compromise. Accordingly, he was quick to take up a proposal made to him by a Japanese businessman, Mr Hirodo, and to feed it by indirect channels to the Australian government. Hirodo and Ian were able to pass unofficial messages between the two governments that enabled them to sound out each other's positions, and, despite misunderstandings, an agreement was eventually reached.
In 1931, Ian and Janet had moved to a house in Gordon on Sydney's North Shore Line. The house was on the edge of craggy bushland and looked across a steep gully with a stream draining into Middle Harbour. Three sons were born to them over the years 1932 to 1936. Their stay in Gordon was interrupted, and as it turned out Ian's career as a research worker was ended for good, by an offer from the Australian Wool Board of a three-year post as Australian representative on the International Wool Secretariat in London. CSIR gave him three years' leave of absence, and in June 1937 the family sailed for England.
The International Wool Secretariat, representing New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, was established at that time to assist in the promotion of wool. It was designed in large part to counter the threat from synthetics. The work was seen as partly one of supporting research into the physical structure of wool and into improvements in the techniques for its manufacture, but in large part also one of public relations, conveying to manufacturers, fashion designers and the public the qualities and versatility of wool. The sums available for this work now seem extremely small, even when allowance is made for the level of prices and costs prevailing at the time. The members of the Secretariat realised that they did not really have enough money to run a world-wide publicity campaign by the methods that had been used for promoting other primary commodities and that they would have to find ways of getting much of their publicity free. They tried particularly to make known some of the newer uses of wool, for example in light-weight dresses. The Queen and Mrs Roosevelt were induced to appear in woollen dresses in an American mid-summer, and the conscience of the Secretariat, it reported, was 'quite unclouded by any suspicion that the comfort of either distinguished wearer was in any way affected other than for good'.
Ian, who was elected first chairman of the Secretariat, clearly enjoyed this completely different field of work. In 1938, he was a member of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations in Geneva, then (at the time of the Munich Agreement) in its last year of operating life. While at the Secretariat he made two visits to the United States, and he came back each time with an enthusiasm for the country and people that differed greatly from his reactions on his 1922 visit. In 1939, Ian and Richard Boyer (a Queensland grazier, later Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who shared many of his hopes and enthusiasms) managed to convince American graziers of the need to co-operate with Dominion producers in publicity for wool, and in January 1940 the US National Wool Growers' Congress agreed to a voluntary levy on graziers in order to share in the Secretariat's work. On his return at Christmas 1939, his plane was delayed for ten days at Bermuda, and through this accident he met John Winant, Secretary-General of the International Labour Office and later a wartime US Ambassador to Britain, who was similarly delayed. Winant struck him as one of the most remarkable and admirable men he had met. During the course of 1940, Winant pressed him to apply for the position of Secretary-General of the ILO, which he himself was due to vacate.
In 1938, the Nazi persecution of Jews extended to Austria with its annexation by Germany. Ian sponsored the admission to Britain of a Viennese Jewish couple whose only daughter had come to the family some months earlier as a maid. Apart from the mother, who was interned in 1940 along with many other refugees from nazism, the family stayed in the Clunies Ross house until Ian's departure from Britain.
The outbreak of war in September 1939 meant the end for the time being of some branches of the International Wool Secretariat's work. 'All the great structure we have laboured to build collapsed overnight. Wasted years!' Ian wrote to a friend four days after Britain's declaration of war. But this was unduly pessimistic. The Secretariat had to turn from Europe to concentrate more of its attention on America, and had eventually to put an end to its fashion publicity, but it was to revive after the war and to emerge as a major force in research, with a reputation for ingenious publicity, and with widespread representation through the world. Ian hoped in the early months of the war that the contacts made by the Secretariat in neutral countries might be useful for undercover operations, and, though he was appointed professor of Veterinary Sciencv at Sydney University in November 1939, he remained in London until the end of his term at the Secretariat in July 1940, hoping, as it appears from his letters, for some opportunity of using his experience for the war effort. But he had to content himself with a brief period as sergeant in the predecessor of the Home Guard. In June 1940, he met Duff Cooper, Minister of Information in Churchill's government, in order to put his ideas about better relations with America, a question that appears from his letters to have greatly concerned him at this time. To Janet, despatched with the children early in June and staying at the time in New York, he wrote:
Both we in Australia and the people of America must begin to see each other with new eyes; eyes which are trained to see the virtue not the vices; the strength and not the weaknesses - the similarities and not the differences which in the past in our blindness we have stressed. This war may provide that severe mental shock out of which may arise the vision of a new and better life for both our peoples. If only we are given the opportunity to retrace our steps we must seize it this time. Whatever the outcome here the new world has the future in its hands.
In July he left Britain on an old Cunard steamer and after an unusually devious Atlantic crossing, during which two torpedoes passed beneath the ship, he joined his family in New York. After a month there he returned with the family across the Pacific to an Australia still comparatively little affected by the war.
In Sydney, he took up the position of professor of Veterinary Science, but university affairs did not occupy him exclusively. At a time when there were few professional students of international affairs in Australia, he was used by the ABC as a news commentator; in 1941 he was elected Commonwealth chairman of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and he became a frequent public speaker, generally on topics with an international concern. He wrote a booklet, commissioned by the Sydney Daily Telegraph, called Should We Plan For Peace? Of one broadcast, delivered in 1941 as part of a series called 'After the war, then what?', the witty and iconoclastic Professor G. V. Portus wrote to him: 'Your amazingly good talk tonight moved me more than I can write about'.
Japan's entry into the war in December 1941 and her rapid push southward brought the fighting close to Australia and inspired a more intense mobilisation. In 1943, Ian was appointed Director of Scientific Personnel in the Commonwealth Directorate of Manpower and also Adviser on the Pastoral Industry to the Department of War Organization of Industry. He held these positions until 1945 while continuing to do some of the work connected with his university appointment. His job at the Directorate of Manpower was to see that trained people were used to maximum advantage for the war effort. This involved interference with people's lives in ways that were not always welcome to them, but it could also involve releasing people from frustrating jobs, in which they felt their talents were wasted, to do the kind of work for which they had special skills. Helen Newton Turner, later to become a distinguished statistician and geneticist, who worked with him then as at various other stages of his career, recalls that:
we had square pegs who came back time and time again because they alleged they had been given round holes, and still they were received courteously and patiently, often by Dr Clunies Ross himself, because he was convinced that the best must be done for every single individual.
Particular difficulties arose over Jewish and other refugees from nazism. Though many of these people were highly skilled, they were, if not interned, often drafted into such jobs as road-building in Central Australia. Ian had an instinctive dislike of both the discrimination and the irrationality that were often behind this kind of labour allocation, and it was on this subject that he made the acquaintance of C. V. Pilcher, a scholarly Englishman recently appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Sydney, who had come to live in Gordon, close to the Clunies Ross family. Bishop Pilcher was untiring in taking up cases of refugees whom he believed to be unfairly treated, and, finding Ian sympathetic, he became a frequent visitor to the house.
At the end of the war Ian did not return to an exclusive concern with the Veterinary School. In May and June 1945, arrangements were made for him to be released from the University to assist CSIR in making plans for new sheep and wool-textile research. Then in 1946 he was appointed a full-time member of the CSIR Executive Committee, which was situated in Melbourne. In August 1946, he and his family, followed shortly after by his mother, moved to Deepdene in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The family's period in Melbourne was marked by an attempt to foster two small girls. One of the two, Judith, remained with them and was eventually legally adopted.
CSIR had been led since its establishment in 1926 by an extremely successful team, G. A. Julius (later Sir George) as part-time Chairman, and Dr A. C. D. Rivett (later Sir David) as Chief Executive Officer. They had been joined in 1928 by Dr A. E. V. Richardson as Executive Officer. Julius, the inventor of the automatic totalisator, had political skills and flair, while Rivett contributed his high scientific reputation and ideals, as well as assiduous and conscientious labour. The organization had grown from small beginnings, increasing greatly in size and scope during and shortly before the war. The achievement of Julius, Rivett and Richardson had been to maintain a satisfactory compromise between the university ideals of intellectual quality and free inquiry on the one hand, and the need to provide results acceptable to government and public on the other. They had kept in the organization's hands control of its own internal arrangements and appointments. For these or other reasons CSIR had been able to play a particularly, and for such an organization perhaps uniquely, large role in its country's scientific research. Julius had retired in 1945. His place was filled by Rivett and Rivett's by Richardson. Both Rivett and Richardson were near to retiring age, and it was decided to fill the gap left through Richardson's promotion by appointing two Executive Officers, one interested in secondary, and one in primary, industry. It was these posts that were filled by F. W. G. White, previously chief of the Division of Radiophysics, and Ian Clunies Ross.
In the last fourteen years of Ian Clunies Ross's life, from 1945 to 1959, his own story is bound up with four significant episodes in Australia's history; the establishment and application of the funds for wool research and promotion; the political attack on CSIR and its reconstitution as CSIRO; the application of myxomatosis to the rabbit plague; and the great expansion in Commonwealth surveillance and support of the universities associated with the Murray Report. These four episodes will be recounted in turn.
During the war, the United Kingdom government had bought the whole of the Australian wool clip at a fixed price. It was clear that, when this arrangement ended, large quantities of wool would be held in store, and there were doubts about the terms on which it could be sold. There was considerable gloom about the current financial situation and the future of the industry. At the same time, funds of about £7 million from the sale of wool had been accumulated without having been paid to growers. Clunies Ross' visionary plan, put into law in 1946 with the consent of those who had a claim to the money, was that this fund should not be paid to growers or to government revenue but held in a trust account for the benefit of the industry, with provision for a no. of possible uses, including promotion and research. In preparation for this, a law passed in 1945 modified pre-war arrangements by creating a fund for the promotion of wool, to be financed by a levy which would continue as before to be paid on the sale of wool, and another for wool research, to be financed by a government grant matching the levy and initially also by a quarter of the levy itself. The rate of the wool levy had also been raised fourfold from its pre-war level, a change which at first would far more than compensate for inflation. CSIR was to do the scientific work financed by the latter fund, which was to cover methods of improving all aspects of production (wool, lambing percentages, meat) through studies in genetics, physiology and nutrition (including pasture improvement). Much of the fund accumulated from the wartime wool sales was devoted to meeting the capital cost of new laboratories and of extensions to old ones. One completely new establishment was what was originally called the Sheep Biology Laboratory, at Prospect near Sydney. Supported by these funds, CSIR also agreed to enter upon research into the properties of wool fibre and into the processing of wool into textiles. Textile research was a new venture for the organization, and Dr White played a large part in its establishment. In 1948 and 1949, three textile laboratories were opened, each to be given the status of a Division by the late 1950s.
These arrangements involved a substantial investment by the growers and by the country at large in the future of the wool industry. Those who worked with him at the time assert that Ian Clunies Ross conceived the idea and was largely responsible for getting it accepted. After his death, the new laboratory at Prospect was named the Ian Clunies Ross Animal Research Laboratory.
In 1948, the year of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, CSIR became the object of vigorous attack by certain Liberal and Country Party members of the Federal Parliament and by the Labor rebel, J. T. Lang. In September and October the organization was accused of harbouring officers who were security risks. Early the previous year an attack had been made in Parliament and in the Bulletin on a fairly junior and temporary CSIR officer working in forest products research who was or had been an active Communist Party member. The latest provocation was a newspaper report that the United States government was unwilling to admit Australian scientists to information on atomic research because of fears about security. CSIR in fact applied no political tests in its appointments and, unlike the public service, did not require officers to be secretive about their work unless that work was directed to defence. Sir David Rivett was the special target of attack, having recently in a speech upheld the principle of free communication in science and having proposed that any work which had to be secret should be conducted separately, outside CSIR.
The government answered these criticisms: there had never been any presumption that the United States would share information on nuclear research with Australia or any other country; CSIR was doing no secret work at the time, and it had never been known to leak confidential information. Shortly before this major attack, however, the government had reacted to the rumours over security by appointing Mr W. S. (later Sir William) Dunk and Dr H. C. Coombs to report on the constitution of CSIR. In the succeeding months a decision was accordingly made to reconstitute the organization under the name 'Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization' ('CSIRO'). The old governing Council was converted into an Advisory Council, and the small Executive Committee, now with a full-time Chairman, became the governing body as the Executive. The Aeronautics Division was removed from the organization on security grounds. The Public Service Board, which determines the staffing and standard of provision for Commonwealth government departments, was given control over the numbers of CSIRO's clerical and administrative staff and their conditions of service, and was also given a power of veto over conditions offered to scientific staff. In matters affecting security, CSIRO staff were made subject to the same conditions as public servants.
Rivett, who had bitterly opposed any security restrictions or control by the Public Service Board and fought hard against their imposition, was at first dismayed at these changes, which were to come into effect in May 1949. At sixty-three years old he was close to retiring age and both he and Richardson, who was in very poor health, decided to retire at the time when the new arrangements were to begin. In their place, Clunies Ross and White were appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Offlcer respectively. Rivett, however, accepted the new and honorary position of Chairman of the Advisory Council.
In July 1949, within the first few months of the new Executive's life, it was faced with an embarrassing decision over a CSIRO scientist who had publicly distributed leaflets in London attacking the Australian Labor government for its action against the miners' union during the current coal strike. The officer concerned was on leave but working in England on a CSIRO scholarship in nuclear physics, and he was assumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to be a member of the Communist Party. After the Soviet armies' success in supporting the setting up of satellite governments in Eastern Europe, there was a genuine fear that they would attempt to subordinate the rest of the world, and the West's lead in nuclear weapons (then rapidly diminishing) was widely considered to be its main defence. The Communist movement, much more unified than it has since become, was assumed to be a fifth column in non-Communist countries. Thus the idea that CSIRO had let an active Communist into research in nuclear physics was most embarrassing to the government. CSIRO was therefore under pressure to take strong action. After establishing the facts to its satisfaction, the Executive decided that the case justified disciplinary action, as indeed it must have been held to do if the officer were to be regarded as a public servant. The Executive cancelled the few remaining months of his leave and recalled him at once. Presumably to placate public feeling, the Executive also declared that, though not dismissed, he could not continue to work within CSIRO in nuclear physics or radiophysics, the two areas most closely connected in the public mind with defence. Complaints that could have been raised against this decision are that it had not been clear before that a CSIRO officer was subject to the same rules as a public servant, that the decision made it impossible for the officer to work in his own field and therefore went very close to a dismissal, and that he was not given a chance to defend himself before the Executive and argue about the rules applying to his case. He did in fact refuse to comply with the demand that he return and was dismissed. He subsequently had a distinguished career in Britain. On the Executive's side, it could be said that an organization financed by public funds could not operate by rules that were unacceptable to government and public opinion, particularly in matters held to be related to national security, and that some political restraint by CSIRO staff was necessary if the government were to continue preserving scientific freedom within the organization. Sir David Rivett, despite his championship of scientific freedom, approved the Executive's action, and the members of the Executive were doubtless convinced that their judgment followed accepted principles about the allowable behaviour of government employees. However the decision was inevitably controversial, and it aroused a spate of protests from civil-rights and pro-Soviet bodies.
Some of those closest to Clunies Ross at this time believe that this affair placed a great strain on him. He was not thick-skinned, was tense under attack, and readily became angry at what he regarded as unfair or unreasonable behaviour. In November 1949, he began to have attacks of angina which continued with intermissions until his death less than ten years later. Like his Executive colleagues he was naturally averse to penalizing scientists for their political activity. On the other hand, he doubtless felt an obligation, as well as a necessity, to shield the Chifley government, which had resisted pressures to mutilate the organization, and he had probably come to think of Communists as enemy agents against whom special methods might be necessary.
The story of the myxomatosis virus in Australia begins in 1934 when Dr (later Dame Jean) Macnamara of Melbourne wrote to the High Commissioner in London recommending, on the basis of information she had gained in the United States, that it should be tested as a means of controlling rabbits in Australia. Soon afterwards, and in communication with CSIR, Sir Charles Martin in Cambridge conducted experiments with the virus which led him to believe that it could be used in the control of rabbits in limited areas, but he did not show that it could be passed on from one colony of rabbits to another. Later trials under Dr Lionel Bull in the CSIR Division of Animal Health showed that certain Australian insects could carry the disease but did not reveal any method by which it could effectively be spread under natural conditions, and Bull and Mules, in a paper published in 1943, were pessimistic about its usefulness.
In the years immediately after the war, however, rabbit numbers became enormous. Dame Jean Macnamara remained unconvinced that the possibilities of myxomatosis had been fully explored and urged publicly and privately that CSIRO should make further attempts to spread it. On the other side Dr Bull stuck to his view that extensive trials had shown no way of disseminating the disease over wide areas. The Executive was faced with what seemed a difficult choice: the urgency of the problem and public pressure to do something about it on the one hand, and, on the other, well-based advice that further trials were not justified. A colleague closely involved in these discussions recalls Clunies Ross as insisting that they must try again. When the Wildlife Survey Section was set up under Francis Ratcliffe in 1949, one of its stated purposes was to explore the possibilities of dealing with the rabbit 'in a scientific fashion', and further trials with myxomatosis were begun almost at once. The two main assailants in the controversy provided what turned out to be vital clues to success, for (as Ratcliffe and Fenner put it) 'stimulated by the insistence of Dame Jean Macnamara...that adequate experiments in well-watered country had still to be done, and following Bull's suggestion that trials should be undertaken where there were abundant [insects], the 1950 trials were conducted in several sites in the Murray Valley.' There was in fact flooding during 1953 along the inland rivers. Nevertheless by the beginning of December of that year the disease had apparently died out in all but one of the sites at which it had been introduced, and the story seemed very similar to that of Bull's experiments. Within that same month, however, the owner of a property near the Murray River rang to say that sick rabbits had been seen in large numbers; 'within a week or less' there was a report of another outbreak ten miles further south; and before the end of the year there were reports of the disease in numbers of rabbits at various points along the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Darling Rivers. Apparently it had tended to spread wherever there were large numbers of 'water-breeding, blood-sucking insects', to rivers, swamps, and areas which had recently been flooded. In the words of the CSIRO Annual Report for 1950-51:
the infection was carried to, and spread along, practically every river system in New South Wales west of the Divide, into northern Victoria, south and south-west Queensland, and into South Australia as far as the Eyre region and Eyre's Peninsula.
Myxomatosis persisted in places over the next winter; in the spring there were campaigns by the States to spread it; and in the summer of 1951-52 there was 'disease activity on a large scale' in the south-eastern States. By July 1953, it was estimated that the rabbit population in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had fallen to a fifth of the level that it had reached in 1950. Though not the final answer to the rabbit problem, the disease provided enormous help in its control.
By an unfortunate coincidence, encephalitis broke out among humans in the Murray Valley during February 1951-the first appearance of this disease for many years-only a few weeks after the spectacular spread of myxomatosis. Inevitably there were rumours that the myxomatosis virus was responsible for the human encephalitis. But with opportune timing the CSIRO Minister, Mr Casey, was able to announce in Parliament on the 8th of March that Sir Macfarlane Burnet, Professor Fenner and Dr Clunies Ross had been inoculated with myxomatosis some months earlier without ill effect. This dramatic gesture, conceived by Clunies Ross before the encephalitis outbreak, was a very effective answer to popular fears about myxomatosis.
The myxomatosis story was a signal triumph for CSIRO and served to blot out the memory of the spy stories of the 1940s. Some of the credit inevitably reflected on the Chairman who had been closely involved with the difficult decision to resume field tests. He for his part continued to hope for further spectacular successes, looking particularly for some breakthrough to increase the supply of water to inland Australia. Through the 1950s there are repeated references in Annual Reports to artificial rainmaking and the control of evaporation from reservoirs. But, though there was some progress in those areas, there were to be in his lifetime no practical achievements comparable to that of the attack on the rabbit.
The Universities of Sydney and Melbourne reached their hundredth birthdays in 1952 and 1954 respectively, and Ian Clunies Ross was called upon to give the centenary oration for each. In the Sydney oration he gave an eloquent discussion of university purposes and ideals over and above those of providing training for a job. After mentioning the financial difficulties which the State universities would have in meeting any new challenges, he appealed for 'the setting up by the Commonwealth of a commission of the highest prestige and authority to examine and define the functions, responsibilities and the needs of the universities'. He repeated the appeal in the Melbourne University oration in 1956.
In his position as Chairman of CSIRO, Ian was in a good position to appreciate the inadequacies and the difficulties of the universities and to ask for a consideration of their needs. For some years, however, the proposal was not adopted. It was probably obvious that a commission of this kind would inevitably lead to much greater Commonwealth responsibility for the State universities, which had the great bulk of the students and which depended for the main part of their current expenses, and for almost all their capital expenses, on their own States. Student numbers were lower in the early 1950s than they had been just after the war, and for the time being there was no great sense of urgency. By the middle of the decade, however, it was clear that there would soon be an immense increase in the demand for student places, as the many children born during and just after the war grew up with much greater opportunities than their parents for completing high school and financing higher education. Furthermore, fears about Western backwardness in scientific and technological training were beginning to be fashionable. Accordingly in December 1956 the Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, announced the formation of a five-member Committee on Australian Universities, of which Sir Keith Murray, the Chairman of the United Kingdom University Grants Committee, had agreed to be chairman. Ian was to be one of the members of the Committee, the only one of the five to have been a member of staff of an Australian university.
The Murray Committee (as it is generally known) was charged to look particularly at the role of the university in Australia, the 'extension and co-ordination' of university facilities, technological education at universities, and university finance. After spending the period from 2nd July to 20th August 1957 visiting each of the universities in turn, the Committee proceeded with unusual speed to write its report of about 120 pages, which is dated the 19th September. Ian drafted most of the long chapter on the current state of the universities. The programme was a heavy one, and in the course of it Ian suffered an attack of angina more severe and prolonged than any he had experienced before.
The Committee's report, which is readable and in some places lively, estimated the financial needs of the universities for the following three years and made recommendations on the financing of these needs which would more than double the annual rate of Commonwealth contribution (aside from its contribution through student scholarships) to the State universities. For the future, the report recommended the setting up of what is called a permanent Australian University Grants Committee. This recommendation was fulfilled by the setting up in 1959 of the Australian Universities Commission, which, through its power to recommend Commonwealth financial support, has been able to guide, and to a point co-ordinate, an ever increasing no. of universities of increasing size. The Murray Committee recommendations began a new era in the relationships of universities with Commonwealth and States. In retrospect some such radical change seems inevitable, but it was to Ian Clunies Ross's credit that he saw and stated the obvious before it was generally recognised as obvious.
Ian was generally ready to speak to any group that wanted to hear him, and he became easy and popular prey for school speech days, church groups, clubs, conventions and orations. His appointment book for the year 1957, in which nearly two months were absorbed by the Murray Committee visits alone, reveals over seventy engagements apparently involving speeches or broadcasts, including no less than six school speech-days. Scientific research and its applications formed only one of his groups of topics, but his willingness to speak provided good publicity for CSIRO. He was capable of conveying the excitement of discovery and invention, even in areas in which he had no specialist knowledge. He probably enjoyed speaking, and, except with special set pieces, generally talked without notes and apparently with little preparation. Yet his speeches had a certain intensity about them. Generally he caught and held the attention of his audience, and their response inspired him further. He made very good use of a small no. of funny stories, most of them depending for their effect on acting skills.
Ian's concern for the public relations side of CSIRO was not confined to his own speeches and writings. He was insistent on the need for scientists to communicate in terms the layman could understand, and another constant theme was that they should ask themselves about the applications of their research. He had a particular concern for CSIRO publications, and in the second year of his chairmanship two new journals directed to laymen were begun. 'Above all', says Helen Newton Turner, 'he was interested in seeing that the results of research were quickly made available'. She rates the great improvement in the public's view of CSIRO as an important achievement of his ten years as chairman. 'The name of CSIRO', she says, writing in 1960, 'stands high throughout Australia, and research results are not only widely known and discussed but are sought by the pastoral community.'
His activities as chairman included the stimulation or encouragement of a no. of aspects of research and university teaching, most notably perhaps theoretical genetics (with its applications in animal breeding), wildlife studies and radio-astronomy.
During Ian's period on the Executive, he travelled overseas in 1947, 1950, 1953,1955 and 1958, visiting Britain and the United States (each several times), the Philippines, Egypt (where he went to see arid zone projects), Ceylon, India and Pakistan. He was made a CMG and knighted in 1954, was given several honorary degrees and scientific, veterinary and agricultural distinctions, and served on the governing bodies of three universities and as deputy-chancellor of one. After the severe angina that he suffered during the Murray Committee travels, his associates tried to take particular care of his health during his visit to India and Pakistan in January 1958. However, he suffered a slight stroke in June 1958 and a 'coronary' attack in September. His return to work after this illness was gradual. He used the extra leisure of this period to write some autobiography and to keep a diary, and also tried to increase his reserves by walking, but he had a further coronary attack in June 1959 and died, ten days later, on the 20th of June, at the age of sixty.
Ian Clunies Ross was a good, but not a great, scientist. His reputation must rest principally on what he did as a scientific administrator and as a leader of opinion. The accomplishments of an administrator are difficult to identify. Different people are regarded as good leaders of organisations because of quite different qualities. Yet clearly the job of leading CSIRO was one that he did with great success. Sir Otto Frankel, who served as chief of a large CSIRO Division during Ian's time as Chairman, gives an account of what his qualities as a scientific administrator were. He mentions Ian's memory for facts and ideas; his capacity for swift understanding of a subject, and his immense impact on the morale of CSIRO staff, an impact bound up with his sympathy for people and interest in their work. He says:
As a rule few if any appreciative thoughts go out to the administrator from his colleagues at the laboratory bench or the experiment station; but in this, as in so many other ways, Ian Clunies Ross was an exceptional person. They were grateful for his interest in their work and in their progress; for his tremendous effort in bringing CSIRO before Government, industry and the public; and for securing the moral and material support without which their work could not prosper. In their eyes-and I believe this was true of one and all-he was an excellent leader.
These dealings with government, industry and the public were a vital part of his work. His tireless public speaking and occasional writing helped to bring the fascination of his organization's diverse endeavours before the Australian public and to some extent before scientists overseas. The extent to which he was identified in people's minds with CSIRO's achievements was no doubt due to his energy in projecting them. For graziers particularly, his own close association with a no. of practical triumphs gave him a favourable handicap. His relationships with the two Ministers (Dedman and Casey) and two Prime Ministers (Chifley and Menzies) of his period on the Executive were good. He appreciated their diverse qualities and had points of contact with each. There was little if any hint from him of dissatisfaction with any of them over their dealings with him.
It is clear that his success at the helm of CSIRO depended not only on his intellectual capacities but also on certain distinctive qualities of personality. He had an exuberance and vitality that conveyed themselves even in his walk and gestures. Physically he was tall with (in Frankel's words) 'an elegance which was structural rather than superficial; a patrician manner which in a charming way he seemed to cultivate'. He retained to the end his capacity to become interested and enthusiastic. He had a habit of encouraging people to talk about their lives and circumstances and as a result seemed to be continually makings discoveries about human experience that surprised and fascinated him. Nor did he ever lose the sense of fun and capacity for play-acting that would lead him, on no greater stimulus than a cup of tea, to imitate Japanese wrestlers or the Mallee Fowl controlling the temperature of its eggs.
He also had a facility with language. In the Australia of his day, which did not cultivate oratory, his qualities as a public speaker were exceptional. Full of humour and of matter as his speeches often were, he was not afraid to style. The best of them have, even on paper, a dramatic flow, and generally his writing was highly readable. Early, and then again late, in life he ventured to write outside the realms of science and public affairs. In his youth he composed several humorous tales reminiscent of Wodehouse, some of which were published in a woman's magazine. Then, much later, he wrote two short stories, one of which, 'A Good Life', is published in his Memoirs and Papers. That collection also includes a chapter on his childhood (intended as the beginning of an autobiography) which has its touch of literary magic. Over one period he composed, but never wrote down, three serial adventure stories for his children, which he told them night by night.
He undoubtedly enjoyed the various honours that fell upon him, but without exactly caring greatly about them. The successes of his life seemed to come rather as a surprise. He used to belittle (probably quite sincerely) his own scientific work. (Once, on meeting scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, he seems to have been genuinely surprised to find that he was known for his work on parasites.) He made no secret of his lack in certain skills such as mathematics. Nonetheless he was confident in his capacity to grasp ideas and in his judgment. Frankel makes it clear that, though a good listener, he could be decisive, and hints that sometimes he was prepared to take major decisions without very wide consultation. Helen Newton Turner believes that his readiness to trust people, which was often of great value to them, was also sometimes misplaced. All in all, caution was not one of his characteristics.
Besides his distinctive personality and his gifts of expression Ian Clunies Ross's contribution and reputation also rest on something that can best be called vision. Ian McDonald, once a student of his, says that his capacity 'to see the unfolding future pattern from a sketchy contemporary outline was probably his greatest gift.' It was this capacity to see what was not yet visible, to look beyond immediate concerns to larger issues, that helped to give him his special character as a publicist. Frankel writes that:
He conveyed a feel of the breadth of the continent, of the challenge and adventure it held, greater now than ever since early exploration, and of the role that science was playing and must increasingly play in this second period of discovery which would lead to developments yet only dimly discernible. But beyond this material development he took the greatest pride in the contributions of Australian science to the world. Though intensely patriotic, his outlook was anything but parochial or materialistic.
Indeed his vision extended to the world at large. Long before it was fashionable to do so, he was concerning himself over Australia's relations with Asia. Dr Peter Russo records of a meeting with him in 1930 that:
Clunies Ross already spoke of the strange lands and coloured peoples with whom he had made contact as if they were congenial neighbours with whom we would all have to live in peace and understanding and on a basis of equality. I had never, until then, met a fellow-Australian, or European, so utterly devoid of the racial condescensions and cultural prejudices which were keeping the world divided.
David Sissons writes that the programmes of Japanese studies for Australia of the kind described by Clunies Ross in 1935 as urgent appeared forty years later to be on the verge of implementation.
Ian had indeed much of the ideology which we associate with nineteenth-century liberals: a commitment to free trade and equality among nations, and a belief in social as well as material progress and the possibility of an international moral order. He believed that the recession and world monetary problems of the interwar period were the product of national meanness and stupidity; hence he was enthusiastic about the Marshall Plan, the new world monetary institutions, and the full-employment policies, of the post-war period. At the end of the war he was among those who pinned hopes on the United Nations and the continuation of the wartime alliance between the great powers, and he was correspondongly bitterly disillusioned by what he regarded as Stalin's betrayal of these hopes.
International tolerance and understanding were not just principles with him but attitudes that came naturally: he seems to have liked people all the more for being different-Americans for being American, Japanese for being Japanese, Central European Jews, Italians, Indians, all for being what they were. Thus he was always enthusiastic over Australia's massive post-war programme of immigration from continental Europe, and critical only of its niggardliness toward the old and the handicapped. From the early 1940s, if not before, he was an outspoken critic of the White Australia policy. At the end of a speech at one of the annual Citizenship Conventions in the 1950s, he pictured an Australia in which brown and white children played side by side. He was chairman of the committee which, after a no. of years' work, managed to establish International House in the University of Melbourne, and from its foundation he was chairman of its Council.
There was a strong element of moral judgment and sometimes indignation in his attitudes to world affairs. He believed that there were rules of international conduct which it was criminal to ignore and which had to be enforced in the interests of all. He also believed in the rightness of western democratic institutions and the wrongness of undermining them. Thus (in what may now seem a strange aberration) he supported in private the constitutional amendment which, if passed in the referendum of 1951, would have made it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to ban the Communist Party. It is hard to imagine how his convictions would have stood up to Vietnam and the perplexities of the 1960s.
He would become genuinely angry over expressions of prejudice against foreigners or minorities or over any policy that smacked of a lack of generosity. His friend Sir Richard Boyer aptly describes him as 'intolerant only of intolerance'.
It is impossible to know how far he influenced public opinion in his lifetime over the international issues with which he was concerned. Other people, to say nothing of world events themselves, were simultaneously helping, for example, to spread the view that Australians should concern themselves with Asia, or to doom the old White Australia policy. Yet at least he saw such truths early and stated them eloquently. In his lifetime there was a mood increasingly common among Australians which he was able to express.
The author gratefully acknowledges the help in preparation and revision of this biography given by Lady Clunies Ross, Mr. Frank Eyre, Mr. John Graham, Miss Gladys Munro, Mrs Marjory O'Dea, Dr Helen Newton Turner and Sir Frederick White. Thanks for permission to use material written by them or in their possession are also due to Lady Clunies Ross, the Executive of CSIRO, Professor Frank Fenner, Sir Otto Frankel, Mrs Louise Hutchinson, the International Wool Secretariat, Dr Ian MacDonald, Dr Peter Russo, Mr D. C. S. Sissons and Dr Helen Newton Turner. The passage on myxomatosis draws largely from: F. Fenner and F. N. Ratcliffe, Myxomatosis, Cambridge University Press, 1965. That on the Japanese trade dispute draws on an unpublished paper by D. C. S. Sissons, 'Private Diplomacy in the 1936 Trade Dispute with Japan'.
Anthony Ian Clunies Ross is a son of Sir Ian Clunies Ross, CMG, DVSc, FAA, and is a Senior Lecturer in Economics in the University of Strathclyde.
This memoir was originally published in Records of the Australian Academy of Science, vol. 3, no. 3/4, Canberra, Australia, 1977.