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Hicks, Sir Cedric Stanton (1892–1976)

by Heather Nash

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Sir Cedric Stanton Hicks (1892-1976), university professor and army catering officer, was born on 2 June 1892 at Mosgiel, New Zealand, son of George Henry Hicks, a New Zealand-born factory worker, and his wife Sarah, née Evans, from England. Young Hicks attended Ravensbourne Public and (on a scholarship) Otago Boys' High schools. While at the University of Otago (B.Sc., N.Z., 1914; M.Sc. Hons, 1915; M.B., Ch.B., 1923), he earned an income by demonstrating chemistry to medical students, lecturing to evening-classes and teaching photography at the Dunedin School of Art; he also won a national research scholarship. In his spare time he played tennis, water polo and Rugby Union football, represented the province in rowing, swam competitively, managed the Otago University Review and was an executive-member of the Students' Association.

By his own account, in 1916-18 Hicks served as a non-commissioned officer in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He assisted Professor J. K. H. Inglis in the synthesis and production of Chloramine-T for use against meningitis among the troops. Under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act (1908), Hicks was appointed government analyst in 1918 and also worked as police toxicologist for the provinces of Otago and Southland. His earnings helped him to complete his medical degree. Meanwhile, he undertook research into several branches of chemistry and was elected a fellow (1922) of the Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland. Awarded a Beit medical research fellowship in 1923, he travelled to England and studied at Trinity College, Cambridge (Ph.D., 1926), where he pursued his interest in the pathology of the thyroid gland.

The fellowship gave Hicks an opportunity to carry out research in Switzerland, Germany and the United States of America. On 8 June 1925 at St Jude's parish church, Kensington, London, he married 21-year-old Florence Haggitt; they were to have two sons before she divorced him on 1 October 1948. In 1925 Hicks successfully applied for the Sheridan research fellowship and Marks lectureship in mammalian physiology, then being advertised by the University of Adelaide. He stated that, although more attractive opportunities might be offered 'to those of us who have come to this part of the globe, it is the duty of those who can to return and work for the Dominions'. He took up the post in April 1926. In January 1927 he was appointed to the new chair of physiology and pharmacology which he was to hold until 1957.

On his arrival in Adelaide, Hicks had bought and begun to restore Woodley, his home at Glen Osmond. During the Depression he studied the dietary patterns of five hundred families receiving relief. The university awarded him an M.D. in 1936 for his thesis on the application of spectrophotometry 'to biochemical, physiological and medico-legal problems'. He was knighted that year. In the 1930s he made several trips to Central Australia to examine the physiology of Aborigines. A member from 1936 of the Commonwealth Advisory Council on Nutrition (subsequently the nutrition committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council), he took a leading part in surveying the diets of Australian families.

In February 1940 Hicks was appointed temporary captain, Australian Military Forces, and performed part-time duty as catering supervisor, 4th Military District, Adelaide. He was transferred to Army Headquarters, Melbourne, in June. As chief inspector of catering, he began a campaign for applying scientific principles to the feeding of troops. His achievement in overcoming resistance to his proposals was considerable: on 12 March 1943 the Australian Army Catering Corps was formed, largely due to his persistence. Having been promoted temporary lieutenant colonel (1941), he was posted as first director of the corps; by the end of World War II it numbered some 17,000 officers and soldiers. Hicks altered the basis of the allowance for military rations from a monetary to a nutrient entitlement, improved the pay and promotion opportunities of cooks, established schools of cooking and catering, devised new methods for preparing food, supported the service's adoption of the Wiles steam-cooker, and designed jungle-patrol, emergency and air-drop rations.

Hicks's initiatives led to a dramatic reduction in wastage. In 1944 he visited Britain and the U.S.A. to promote his ideas; in November he was seconded to the Australian Imperial Force as temporary colonel. Relinquishing his appointment on 31 January 1946, he was recalled for part-time duty in 1947 and transferred to the Retired List as honorary brigadier on 10 March 1952. The army retained him as a scientific food consultant, in which capacity he supervised the Defence Food Research Establishment at Scottsdale, Tasmania. His 'Who Called the Cook a Bastard?' (Sydney, 1972) gave an account of his experiences in military catering.

On 9 October 1948 Hicks had married with Congregational forms Valerie Irene Hubbard, a 28-year-old trained nurse and a divorcee who had reverted to her maiden name; the wedding took place in her father's home at Peppermint Grove, Perth. Committed to community work, Sir Stanton was president (1958-65) of the South Australian Tuberculosis Association Inc. In addition, he analysed the merits of fluoridation, studied soil conservation, investigated biological approaches to food production and took a close interest in land reform in Italy. Survived by his wife, and by the sons of his first marriage, he died on 7 February 1976 at Glen Osmond; he was accorded a military funeral and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canb, 1958)
  • H. Nash, The History of Dietetics in Australia (Canb, 1989)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 9 Feb 1976
  • Hicks papers (National Library of Australia)
  • University of Adelaide Archives.

Citation details

Heather Nash, 'Hicks, Sir Cedric Stanton (1892–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hicks-sir-cedric-stanton-10499/text18627, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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