Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cameron, Samuel Sherwen (1866–1933)

by Harold E. Albiston

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Samuel Sherwen Cameron (1866-1933), veterinary surgeon and public servant, was born on 29 June 1866 at Haile, Cumberland, England, son of John Cameron, farmer, and his wife Sarah, née Sherwen. After attending a commercial school at Barrow in Furness, Lancashire, he was articled to a solicitor but two years later enrolled at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh. Following a distinguished student career he graduated as a qualified veterinary surgeon in 1888. Next year he migrated to Victoria to join the staff of the recently established Veterinary College, Fitzroy, as lecturer and hospital surgeon, a post which he held for five years. In 1893 he was elected to the Veterinary Board of Victoria.

In 1895 Cameron took up an appointment as veterinary officer to the municipality of Dunedin, New Zealand. Here he was closely associated with the establishment of the country's first public abattoirs. He returned to Melbourne in mid-1896 to become veterinary inspector for the Board of Public Health. He continued to direct his efforts in the field of meat hygiene, and together with Dr D. A. Gresswell was responsible for the Meat Supervision Act of Victoria, 1901, which regulated for the first time the slaughtering of cattle. Concerned also with conditions in the milk industry, Cameron set about designing legislation and, largely owing to his initiative and determination, the Milk and Dairy Supervision Act was passed in 1905. This Act was administered by the Department of Agriculture to which Cameron was transferred as chief veterinary inspector. In this post he was also responsible for the first organized efforts to control and eradicate diseases of livestock in Victoria.

In 1910 the government decided that a thorough reorganization of the Department of Agriculture was imperative: Cameron became director in January 1911 with the onerous task of restoring efficiency to a badly run-down instrumentality. Ignoring possible hostility to his appointment among senior officers of the department, Cameron went ahead with the reorganization with some ruthlessness, and much of the ultimate success of his work was undoubtedly due to his initiative and sense of purpose. He was eminently successful in bridging the gulf between the scientific agriculturist and the practical farmer; he supported the university's faculty of agriculture set up in 1906, and by 1931, when he retired, he was employing thirty-five of its graduates. Another of Cameron's progressive moves was the issue of government certificates for soundness in stallions; similar legislation came into being in the other States. The success of the State Research Farm at Werribee owed much to his enthusiasm and foresight.

Cameron was also associated with the formation of Young Farmers' clubs in Victoria. Among his other interests were the Better Farming Exhibition train, the Red Poll and Friesian Cattle Breeding societies and standard and grade herd-testing. In 1927 he represented Australia at the Imperial Conference on Agriculture held in London. He was a council-member of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, and a committee-man of the Pastures Improvement League and the Clydesdale Horse Society. From 1916 Cameron was a member of the Advisory Council of Science and Industry and, in 1925, of the conference to reorganize the Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry.

In 1909 a faculty of veterinary science had been set up at the university and Cameron was appointed lecturer in veterinary hygiene and dietetics; that year he graduated doctor of veterinary science. He became senior lecturer in 1924 and also taught fourth-year state sanitary science. In 1928 the teaching of veterinary science ceased at the university; ironically the decline in student numbers was in part a result of Cameron's encouragement of trained laymen, such as dairy supervisors, to carry out functions previously taken on by veterinarians. He also lectured in animal husbandry and veterinary hygiene in the faculty of agriculture in 1927-33.

Dr Cameron had a gruff manner, and to a young graduate had a rather austere and forbidding presence. On 18 May 1897 he had married Williamina Milne in Dunedin. She survived him, together with one of their two sons and a daughter when he died of cancer at his Hawthorn home on 31 December 1933; he was cremated. His estate was valued for probate at £11,979.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Currie and J. Graham, The Origins of CSIRO (Melb, 1966)
  • Science and Industry, Dec 1919
  • Australian Veterinary Journal, Feb 1934
  • Journal of Agriculture (Melbourne)), Feb 1934
  • Australian Veterinary Association, Victorian Veterinary Proceedings, 1958
  • Punch (Melbourne), 22 Mar 1911.

Citation details

Harold E. Albiston, 'Cameron, Samuel Sherwen (1866–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cameron-samuel-sherwen-5478/text9311, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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