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Legg, John (1892–1984)

by Beverley M. Angus

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

John Legg (1892-1984), veterinary scientist, was born on 11 February 1892 at Greta, Victoria, second of nine surviving children of English-born parents Oliver George Legg, storekeeper, and his wife Marianne, née Whitehead.  Educated at Hansonville State and Melbourne High schools and the University of Melbourne (B.V.Sc., 1913; B.Sc., 1915; D.Sc., 1928), in December 1914 John joined the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, Brisbane, as a veterinary surgeon and inspector of livestock and meat.  On 19 May 1915 he was appointed as a veterinary surgeon in the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train which supported operations on Gallipoli.  Transferring to the Australian Imperial Force in November, he served in the veterinary corps in Egypt and on the Western Front, and was mentioned in despatches (1918).  Captain Legg was granted leave to qualify as a member (1919) of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, before returning to Australia where his AIF appointment terminated in April 1920.

Resuming duties with the department in Brisbane on 16 February 1920, in January next year Legg was appointed officer-in-charge of the stock experiment station at Oonoonba, near Townsville.  On 25 July 1923 at Stoke Street Methodist Church, Townsville, he married Olga Katrina Uhd (d.1951), a milliner.  He was seconded (1931-36) to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which took control of the Oonoonba station for five years while it investigated animal health problems in North Queensland, especially bovine tick fever, the cause of severe morbidity and mortality in cattle.  Sent in 1931 to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Transvaal, South Africa, he studied tick-borne diseases with Dr P. J. du Toit and next year elucidated the complex of organisms that generated tick fever in Queensland.  He developed species-specific 'carrier-donor' vaccines; they were used until the 1960s and greatly benefited stockholders in northern Australia.

Legg was promoted (1935) to senior veterinary surgeon and returned to the Department of Agriculture and Stock.  In October 1936 he transferred to the animal health station, Yeerongpilly, Brisbane, where, as well as taking charge of all work on bovine tick fever, he carried out successful acaricide trials with chlorinated hydrocarbons.  An inaugural member (1937) of the department’s poison plants committee, he also served on the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board of Queensland (1938-56) and on several CSIR advisory and technical committees.  He was named director of the animal health station (1941) and director of the division of animal industry (1947).  Although he was respected as an intellectually gifted scientist his superior air led Yeerongpilly scientists and technicians to call him 'the Von'.

In addition to his scientific publications Legg compiled a comprehensive but unpublished history of stock diseases in Queensland (1859-1947).  He was president (1938) of the Queensland Veterinary Association and State editor of the Australian Veterinary Journal from 1929 to the 1950s.  In 1956 the Australian Veterinary Association awarded him its Gilruth [q.v.9] prize and in 1961 elected him a fellow.  After retiring in February 1957, Legg was a consultant for two years to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based at Ipoh, Perak, Malaya.  Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 1 February 1984 at Kenmore, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • B. M. Angus, Tick Fever and the Cattle Tick in Australia 1829-1996, 1998
  • P. J. Skerman et al, Guiding Queensland Agriculture, 1887-1987, 1988
  • Australian Veterinary Journal, 9 March 1984, p 6
  • B2455, item Legg John (National Archives of Australia)
  • personal file, A/54078, no 2880 (Queensland State Archives)
  • private information

Citation details

Beverley M. Angus, 'Legg, John (1892–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/legg-john-14166/text25178, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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