Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Ferguson, Eustace William (1884–1927)

by Peter Vallee

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Eustace William Ferguson (1884-1927), pathologist and entomologist, was born on 24 October 1884 at Invercargill, New Zealand, third son of Scottish parents Rev. John Ferguson, Presbyterian minister, and his wife Isabella, née Adie. In 1894 his family moved to Sydney; Eustace completed his education at James Oliver's school at Glebe and at the University of Sydney (M.B., 1908; Ch.M., 1909). He was junior resident medical officer and pathologist at Sydney Hospital in 1908-10. In 1911 he set up in private practice with Dr Walton Smith, but suffered a severe attack of nephritis. At Timbriebungie, near Narromine, on 14 December he married Jessie Perry, daughter of a grazier. In August next year he became medical officer at Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane and on 18 June 1913 transferred to the Department of Public Health as assistant microbiologist.

Like many entomologists, Ferguson's interest in insects was a passion that became a profession. As a medical student, he was stimulated by the Macleay Museum at university and its curator George Masters, and within a year of graduation had published his first paper on Amycterides (Coleoptera); it received high praise. He was a gifted collector: H. J. Carter claimed that among his companions on bush rambles 'I have never met his equal for close observation of natural objects, his vision apparently combining certain telescopic, as well as microscopic qualities'.

In August 1915 Ferguson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and, as a captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps, went to London with No.10 Australian General Hospital, then with No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Harefield. He returned to Australia briefly early next year. In June 1917 he was transferred to No.3 A.G.H. at Abbeville in France, but was sent to Egypt. Promoted major in October, he was in charge of the Anzac Field Laboratory in Palestine from August 1918 until March 1919; he returned to Sydney and was demobilized on 1 September. Overseas he was chiefly engaged in bacteriological work while his knowledge of mosquitoes helped in the control of malaria. He was also interested in the history and archaeology of the old world, studying Roman remains in France, and Egyptology and Assyrian relics in the Middle East.

Ferguson returned to the Department of Public Health in 1919, and succeeded (Sir) John Cleland as principal microbiologist in June 1920. His capacity for systematic observation and morphology were readily applied to microbes. His work on tests for susceptibility to diphtheria and his report on dengue fever were notable. However he made his mark scientifically in medical entomology by his study of fleas, ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes. In 1923 he addressed the second Pan Pacific Science Congress on the distribution in Australia of insects capable of carrying disease, summarizing the state of medical entomology in Australia. He published numerous papers on Amycterides (Coleoptera), Diptera, medical entomology and parasitology, in scientific journals and in the Reports of the director-general of public health. In 1926 he received a diploma in public health from the university.

Ferguson's scientific curiosity extended to ornithology and botany: he often surprised his friends with his wide knowledge of birds. He was a member from 1908 and president in 1926-27 of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, president of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales in 1922-23, a member of the Royal societies of New South Wales and South Australia and of the Royal Institute of Tropical Medicine, London, an associate member of the Australian National Research Council and a member of the Great Barrier Reef Committee. In 1922 he ably pressed for a biological survey of Australia based on the work done by the United States Bureau of Biological Survey.

On 18 July 1927 Ferguson died from nephritis at his home at Wahroonga and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Northern Suburbs cemetery. He was survived by his wife, five sons and an infant daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Museum Magazine, 3 (1927), no 4, p 131
  • Australian Zoologist, 5 (1927), p 114, and for publications
  • Emu, 1 Oct 1927, p 131
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 53 (1928), p iv
  • Royal Society of South Australia, Transactions, 51 (1927), p 426
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jan 1926.

Citation details

Peter Vallee, 'Ferguson, Eustace William (1884–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ferguson-eustace-william-6157/text10575, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 30 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014