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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mellor, David Paver (1903–1980)

by Stanley E. Livingstone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

David Paver Mellor (1903-1980), professor of chemistry, was born on 19 March 1903 at Launceston, Tasmania, eldest of four children of Joseph Frederick William Mellor, a miner from England, and his Tasmanian-born wife Amy Florence Sarah, née Russell. David was educated at Launceston State High School and the University of Tasmania (B.Sc., 1926; M.Sc., 1928; D.Sc., 1945). After he graduated, he was employed as a chemist at the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd, Risdon, and in 1927 was the company's research scholar. In the following year he held a research fellowship at the Commonwealth Solar Observatory, Mount Stromlo, Canberra. He was appointed assistant-lecturer in chemistry at the University of Sydney in 1929. At St Chad's Anglican Church, Cremorne, on 17 August that year he married Nina Hilda Moses, a kindergarten teacher.

Mellor's research interests were mainly concerned with the properties and structures of metal complex (coordination) compounds, a field to which he made significant contributions. In 1938 he spent a period of study-leave as a research fellow with Professor Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, United States of America. He returned to the University of Sydney with a fresh outlook on inorganic chemistry which was to have a notable effect on two young men, Frank Dwyer and (Sir) Ronald Nyholm. Mellor wrote numerous scientific papers and produced three books: The Role of Science and Industry (Canberra, 1958), The Evolution of the Atomic Theory (New York, 1971), and Chelating Agents and Metal Chelates (New York, 1964) which he edited with Dwyer. He also wrote for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Promoted reader in 1948, Mellor was appointed to the second chair of chemistry at the New South Wales University of Technology (University of New South Wales) in 1955. He was head (1956-68) of the school of chemistry and dean (1968-69) of the faculty of science. Beyond the university, he made considerable contributions to chemical education as chief examiner in chemistry for the Leaving certificate and chief examiner in science for the Higher School certificate, and as a member of the Secondary Schools Board, the council of the U.N.S.W. and the interim council of Macquarie University. In addition, he chaired the publications committee of the Australian Journal of Science and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Australian committee for natural sciences. He was president of the Sydney University Chemical Society and of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1941).

Mellor received a number of honours and awards: the Royal Australian Chemical Institute's H. G. Smith and Leighton medals in 1949 and 1975 respectively, the R.S.N.S.W.'s medal (1954) and the University of New South Wales Chemical Society's Dwyer memorial medal (1969). In appreciation of his work the U.N.S.W. endowed in 1970 the David Mellor chemical education fund for a lecture and medal. He delivered the Liversidge lecture in 1951 for the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, and the inaugural E. E. Kurth memorial lecture in 1977 at the University of Tasmania.

Although barely of middle height, Mellor had a distinguished bearing. If he had a fault, it was a lack of decisive action. An earnest, kindly and quietly spoken man, not without a sense of humour, he was held in affection by his former students and staff. One of his unusual interests was the synthesis of gems; he was patron of the Gemmological Association of Australia. Following his retirement in 1969, he lived at Lindfield and enjoyed photography. He died on 9 January 1980 at Royal North Shore Hospital and was cremated; his wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. B. Kauffman (ed), Coordination Chemistry (Washington, DC, 1994)
  • Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 113, 1980, p 103
  • Chemistry in Australia, 47, no 3, 1980, p 115
  • Polyhedron (Oxford), 1985, p 1337
  • University of Tasmania News, no 39, 30 Sept 1977, p 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Aug 1958.

Citation details

Stanley E. Livingstone, 'Mellor, David Paver (1903–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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