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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rouse, Edgar John (1894–1974)

by Audrey Tate

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Edgar John Rouse (1894-1974), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 24 October 1894 at Darling Point, Sydney, second child of Melbourne-born parents John Joseph Rouse, merchant, and his wife Anastasia Margaret, née Elsdon. John was a dealer in photographic material who, with Thomas Baker, had founded the firm of Baker & Rouse. In 1908 it became Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd. Educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, Edgar worked as a radiographer before serving full time (from 1916) in the Militia as a clerk at the Liverpool Concentration Camp. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 8 May 1917 and reached England in February 1918. Diagnosed as having tuberculosis of the lung, he was repatriated and discharged from the army on 29 July. Later that year he joined Kodak. At St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, Sydney, on 2 April 1924 he married Mary Constance Layton (d.1970).

Unlike his gregarious father, Edgar Rouse was shy and retiring, but he had John's generous and loyal nature, and the same ability to combine business acumen with altruism. He was appointed Melbourne manager of Kodak in 1928 and chairman of the board of the Australasian company in 1938. In the late 1930s, foreseeing that there would be a shortage of radiographical film in the event of war, he visited the United States of America and bought stocks of film base and chemicals. Australia and New Zealand thus had adequate supplies of these products during World War II. Following his retirement in 1959, Rouse continued as honorary chairman of Kodak (Australasia). He had been elected chairman of the Australian board of Eagle Star Insurance Co. Ltd in 1955.

In 1942 Rouse had followed his father as a trustee of the Baker Medical Research Institute. He was chairman of trustees in 1944-71. Prompted by his interest in radiology, he became an early benefactor of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiologists (Royal Australasian College of Radiologists). He continued to support it by donating money himself and making grants from the Thomas Baker (Kodak), Alice Baker and Eleanor Shaw Benefactions, of which he was chairman. His generosity led to the establishment of fellowships, professorships and scholarships. Largely due to him, the first chair of radiology in Australia was established in 1964 at the University of Melbourne. It was named after him.

Rouse shared the initial gold medal (1961) awarded by the Faculty of Radiologists, Britain. The Australasian college had elected him an associate (1950) and an honorary fellow (1952). Radiographical societies in Britain, Australia and New Zealand accorded him honorary membership, as did the Australian Medical Association. He served on the board of management of the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne. His long-term support for radiological education and medical research enhanced the status of Australasian radiological sciences, strengthened their international ties and contributed to the reputation of the Baker Institute. In 1969 Rouse was appointed C.B.E. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on Christmas Eve 1974 in East Melbourne; his body was bequeathed to the University of Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (Melb, 1955)
  • J. Ryan et al, Australasian Radiology (Syd, 1996)
  • A. Tate, Shadows and Substance (Syd, 1999)
  • Journal of the College of Radiologists of Australasia, 6, no 1, June 1962, p 7
  • Australasian Radiology, 19, no 2, June 1975, p 114
  • private information.

Citation details

Audrey Tate, 'Rouse, Edgar John (1894–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 9 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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