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Murray, Patrick Desmond Fitzgerald (1900–1967)

by Brian Wimborne

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

Patrick Desmond Fitzgerald Murray (1900-1967), zoologist, was born on 18 June 1900 at Dorchester, Dorset, England, youngest of three children of Australian-born parents (Sir) John Hubert Plunkett Murray, barrister and later lieutenant-governor of Papua, and his first wife Sybil Maud, née Jenkins, who was living in England while her husband served in the South African War. Pat attended St John's preparatory school, Beaumont, Old Windsor, where he became interested in entomology. In 1914 he entered St Ignatius' College, Riverview, Sydney. He graduated from the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1922; D.Sc., 1926) with first-class honours in botany and zoology, the university medal for zoology, and the John Coutts scholarship.

Matriculating in 1922 at Magdalen College, Oxford (B.Sc., 1924), Murray studied experimental embryology. He returned to Sydney in 1924 to become Macleay fellow of the Linnean Society of New South Wales; the university appointed him lecturer and demonstrator in the department of zoology. At St Mary's Catholic Cathedral on 14 March 1925 Murray married Margery Holland; they remained childless and their marriage was dissolved on 28 July 1966. Having been awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1929, Murray worked at the universities of Cambridge and Freiburg, Germany. From January 1931 until December 1935 he held the Royal Society's Smithson fellowship in natural sciences, at the Strangeways Research Laboratory, Cambridge. His research centred on the morphogenesis of bone and functional aspects of embryonic heart cells in tissue culture. In 1936 he published his first book, Bones: A Study of the Development and Structure of the Vertebrate Skeleton.

After demonstrating in zoology at Bedford College for Women, University of London, Murray held a readership in biology and comparative anatomy at St Bartholomew's Hospital medical school in 1939-49. During these years he researched the effects of nutrition, especially vitamin C, on the development and repair of injuries to bones and wrote Biology (London, 1950), an introduction to medical studies, which became a popular elementary textbook.

In 1949 Murray was appointed Challis professor of zoology at the University of Sydney. He was elected a fellow (1954) of the Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, and presided (1957) over section D of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science. University administration overshadowed his research, which probably contributed to his decision to resign his chair in 1960. He moved to the University of New England as reader in zoology (later, research fellow) where he specialized in experimental embryology.

A modest, kindly, sometimes remote man—though not a recluse—Murray took an interest in public affairs; he criticized the Commonwealth government's Communist Party of Australia dissolution bill (1950) and opposed nuclear weapons. On 9 September 1966 he married Jascha Ann Morgan, a 37-year-old university teacher, in a civil ceremony at Armidale. Intent on continuing his work at Cambridge, he sailed for England in the Achille Lauro, but died at sea on 17 May 1967. His body was cremated and his ashes buried at Stoke Poges gardens, Buckinghamshire.

Select Bibliography

  • F. West, Hubert Murray (Melb, 1962)
  • F. West (ed), Selected Letters of Hubert Murray (Melb, 1970)
  • Records of the Australian Academy of Science, 1, no 3, Nov 1968, p 72
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Jan 1931, 19 May 1950, 24 Mar 1954
  • Armidale Express, 19 May 1967
  • Times (London), 14 June 1967
  • private information.

Citation details

Brian Wimborne, 'Murray, Patrick Desmond Fitzgerald (1900–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murray-patrick-desmond-fitzgerald-11214/text19993, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 September 2014.

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

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