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Pound, Charles Joseph (1866–1946)

by Beverley M. Angus

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Charles Joseph Pound (1866-1946), microscopist, was born on 29 May 1866 at Harrow, Middlesex, England, son of Joseph Pound, grocer's assistant, and his wife Martha Susannah, née Wingrove. Educated at council schools, Charles trained in laboratory technology at King's College, London, under specialists in disciplines that included microscopy, physiology and the new science of bacteriology (microbiology). On 25 December 1888 at St Mark's Church, Clerkenwell, he married Elizabeth Ann Leader; they had three children.

In September 1888 King's College established Britain's first bacteriology laboratory where Pound was appointed principal assistant to E. M. Crookshank, professor of bacteriology and comparative anatomy. Pound also studied briefly at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, learning the new technology of making vaccines. In 1892 Professor (Sir) Thomas Anderson Stuart invited him to establish a bacteriology laboratory in the medical school at the University of Sydney. Learning on arrival that the laboratory was yet to be built, he became bacteriological laboratory assistant with the New South Wales Department of Health, then on 2 December 1893 director of the Queensland Stock Institute in Brisbane—the first laboratory in that colony dedicated to investigating disease of any kind, animal or human.

In September 1894 Pound investigated 'redwater disease of cattle' in the gulf district. Guided by the findings of scientists in the United States of America investigating 'Texas fever', Pound reported that redwater fever was confined to bovines and that the disease was readily transmissible by ticks. J. S. Hunt, a scientist and surgeon at Hughenden, took stained blood smears and preserved specimens of cattle tick to the U.S.A. and confirmed the co-identity of Australian redwater disease and Texas fever, as well as of the genus of the tick vector Boophilus. He also documented the American bureau's inoculation techniques using 'recovered blood'—from beasts recovered from Texas fever—containing protective antibodies.

In 1895 Pound and Hunt carried out inoculation trials against redwater disease. Pound then embarked on an energetic campaign of educating stockowners, demonstrating how to collect recovered blood by jugular venipuncture, defibrinate it and inoculate this vaccine into at-risk cattle. To deliver multiple injections, he modified an apparatus—the 'Pound syringe'—and arranged for commercial suppliers to make these instruments available to stockowners. Pound gave numerous lectures on the cattle tick and tick fever, exhorting farmers on the need for protective inoculation of susceptible herds. He published articles in Queensland and overseas, and by 1901 his work had saved hundreds of thousands of cattle.

In the absence of a health department, Pound also carried out unofficial laboratory diagnoses for medical practitioners. He persuaded the government to erect new research laboratories, occupied in 1899 and named the Bacteriological Institute; administration was transferred to the health division of the Home Secretary's Department and Pound was appointed government bacteriologist. The only scientist in Australia producing tuberculin, used in diagnosing human and bovine tuberculosis, he also carried out medical and diagnostic work on leprosy.

In March 1900, examining rats caught in the Brisbane docks, Pound found plague organisms of Pasteurella (Yersinia) pestis in the stomachs of fleas carried by infected rodents. He subsequently confirmed the diagnosis of the first plague patient in Brisbane. During this outbreak, a laboratory assistant accused him of wrongful dismissal, which led to a full-scale inquiry. Then a Brisbane physician brought a court action claiming that Pound had defamed him by disputing his diagnosis that a patient had died of plague. Both cases gained wide publicity, but Pound emerged with his reputation intact. In 1897, however, he had aroused the ire of Henry Tryon, the government entomologist, for criticizing the rabbit commission's pronouncement that chicken cholera did not exist in Australia. Pound had shown that it did and had published the results of his experiments, but such instances earned him the displeasure of medical and scientific men and gained him the reputation of being unprofessional. In 1910 Dr John J. D. Harris was appointed the first medical director of the Bacteriological Institute, which was renamed the Laboratory of Microbiology and Pathology and transferred to the new Health Department. Pound took charge of the new Stock Experiment Station at Yeerongpilly, retaining his title of government bacteriologist. He retired on 31 July 1932.

When photographed in 1896 Pound sported a handlebar moustache; later he was clean-shaven. He enjoyed bowls and yachting and belonged to the Johnsonian and Royal Queensland Yacht clubs. Predeceased by his wife in 1930, Pound died on 25 September 1946 at Yeronga and was cremated with Anglican rites. One son and one daughter survived him. In 1999 the Department of Primary Industries opened the C. J. Pound Laboratory at the Tick Fever Research Centre, Wacol, in honour of a man who was described by one newspaper as the 'boffin' who 'saved the cattle industry'.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland 1900: A Narrative of Her Past (Brisb, 1900)
  • R. Patrick, A History of Health & Medicine in Queensland 1824-1960 (Brisb, 1987)
  • B. M. Angus, Tick Fever and the Cattle Tick in Australia 1829-1996 (Brisb, 1998)
  • Queensland Stockbrokers’ Association, Annual Report, 1899
  • Australian Tropiculturist and Stockbreeder, vol 1, no 5, 1 July 1895, p 132
  • Sunday Sun (Brisbane), 17 July 1988, ‘Magazine’, p 4
  • Dept of Agriculture & Stock packet, AGS/N237 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Beverley M. Angus, 'Pound, Charles Joseph (1866–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pound-charles-joseph-13156/text23817, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 26 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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