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Webster, Arthur Farquhar (1906 - 1997)

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Pharmaceutical manufacturer
Born: 8 May 1906  New South Wales, Australia.  Died: 24 August 1997  New South Wales, Australia.
Arthur Farquhar Webster was one of Australia's pioneering veterinary vaccine producers. Although trained as a pharmacist, he eventually entered into partnership with Ray's Vaccines Institute in 1927. In 1936 he took the firm over and built up Arthur Webster Pty Ltd to be the largest producer of veterinary vaccines in Australia. During the 1970s when the national standards for veterinary biologicals were rewritten Websters and CSL were the only two old Australian firms to survive. Webster’s major contributions to veterinary science have been widely acknowledged and he has received awards from the nation, industry, the Australian Veterinary Association and the University of Sydney.

Career Highlights
Following family expectations, Arthur Farquhar Webster graduated in pharmacy and joined his father’s Burwood pharmacy. However his heart was never really in pharmacy, as he was more interested in bacteriology – a field he was introduced to during his pharmacy training. In 1928 Webster ceased full time work at the pharmacy to train three mornings a week for a couple of years with Francois Ray – a representative of France’s Pasteur Institute who was sent to Australia to make veterinary vaccines including the anthrax vaccine for cattle.

Towards the end of 1929 new regulations were enforced which meant that Webster had to gain formal bacteriology training in order to obtain a license to work in the industry. Initially he enrolled in bacteriology at the University of Sydney’s Veterinary School, but was later forced to undertake the full veterinary science course. Webster completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) in 1936 and upon graduating, decided to establish his own vaccine production company. From 1936 to 1940 it was run from the shed in the back of the family home in West Ryde.

The first of his products were poultry vaccines for the two major diseases at the time – Fowl Pox and Infectious Laryngotrachitis. These vaccines were the main stays of the business. He produced about 1 million doses of each a year and sold them to the half dozen practitioners servicing the poultry owners as well as direct to owners themselves. The business progressed slowly over the next four years and outgrew the shed, so Webster was forced to move. He acquired 15 acres at Telopea in 1940 with the financial help of a £5,000 bank loan and he and his father helped a local carpenter construct a fibro home and two other fibro buildings to house production and laboratory animals. The business, which expanded to livestock vaccines, remained a struggle for survival as most of this period was affected by the war economy.

In 1950 the Housing Commission took over the Telopea property thus evicting Webster and his business. By 1954 Arthur Webster Pty Ltd was re-established in Northmead and had a small staff of 8 semi-skilled technicians working in production and in the care of laboratory animals. By the late 50's financial pressures forced Webster’s and a rival production company, Biological Institute of Australia (BIO), to merge forming Vaccines Pty Ltd. For several years products continued to be produced under the BIO and Webster labels, but when the owner of BIO died (Roy Stewart) Webster took over the whole business.

The 1960s saw Glaxo UK purchase 49% of the company and by the 1970s sell their shares back to the family. At that stage the company had a staff of about 27 and annual sales of almost $1 million. Arthur Farquhar Webster retired from the company in 1980, but continued to work in the field, as an honorary member of the research team.

We acknowledge and thank Arthur C Webster for supplying this information (edited) on his father.

1927Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) completed at the University of Sydney
1936 - Member of the Australian Veterinary Association
1936Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) completed at the University of Sydney
1936 - 1940Arthur Webster Pty Ltd established in West Ryde, New South Wales
1940 - 1952Business moved to Telopea, New South Wales
1950s - Vaccines Pty Ltd. established
1951 - Member of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of New South Wales
1952 - Business moved to Northmead, New South Wales
1956President of the Australian Veterinary Association
1980Australian Poultry Award received for Service to the Poultry Industry
1980Retired at the level of Managing Director
1985Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to Veterinary Science
1987Gilruth Prize for Meritorious Service to Veterinary Science received from the Australian Veterinary Association
1990Doctor of Veterinary Science honoris causa (Hon DVetSc) received from the University of Sydney

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Rosanne Walker
Created: 25 May 2001
Modified: 29 January 2007

Published by The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre on ASAPWeb, 1994 - 2007
Originally published 1994-1999 by Australian Science Archives Project, 1999-2006 by the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre
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Updated: 26 February 2007

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