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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ryley, John William (1926–1992)

by Bryan Woolcock

This article was published online in 2016

John William Ryley (1926–1992), veterinarian, was born on 14 August 1926 at Atherton, Queensland, the third son of English-born parents Frederick Ryley, dairy farmer, and his wife Minnie, née Cheesbraugh. Educated at All Souls’ School, Charters Towers, John finished second in his class and joined the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock (later the Department of Primary Industries) in 1943. He studied science part time at the University of Queensland and in 1945 was awarded a state scholarship to study veterinary science at the University of Sydney (BVSc, 1949). He returned to the department as a veterinary officer in 1949.

On 8 April 1950, at St Mary’s Church of England, Atherton, Ryley married Marjorie Doreen Marchant. Posted first to Atherton and later to Roma, he spent several years in the field before moving to the Animal Health Station (later the Animal Research Institute) laboratory at Yeerongpilly where he quickly earned a reputation as a talented diagnostic and research pathologist. With G. C. Simmons in 1954 he published ground-breaking research demonstrating that Leptospira pomona caused abortion in pigs. Moving to husbandry research, he worked on artificial breeding of cattle in Queensland, the feeding of cattle in drought, and pig and poultry nutrition. Progressing into administration, as deputy director (research) he led a distinguished group of researchers in a wide range of animal sciences. Approachable, dedicated, and supportive of younger colleagues and students, after thirty-seven years of devoted service in the department, he finished his career as assistant director general, retiring in 1986.

Ryley represented the department at national and international conferences aimed at improving the productivity of flocks and herds. He was a member of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee, Pig Research Council, Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee, and Poultry Research Council. His other professional appointments included president of the Queensland Veterinary Surgeons Board (1979–86), State (1960) and national (1971–72) president of the Australian Veterinary Association, fellow of the AVA, and foundation fellow (1972) and council member (1972–75, 1986–89) of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.

Elected to the senate of the University of Queensland by graduates in 1968, Ryley enjoyed a close association with the university. He was a member of the board of the faculty of veterinary science, foundation chairman of the committee on postgraduate veterinary science, and part-time lecturer and examiner of undergraduate and postgraduate students. In 1987 he was awarded the OAM. The following year the university conferred a DVSc (honoris causa) upon him.

Crushed against a rail by a bull in the late 1950s, Ryley suffered the burden of ever-worsening physical disability. He never complained, and enjoyed golf and later lawn bowls. Following a severe stroke he died on 9 August 1992 in Brisbane and was cremated. His wife, daughter, and two sons survived him. The John Ryley memorial prize in pig medicine at the University of Queensland commemorates his work.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Veterinary Journal. ‘President of the Australian Veterinary Association, 1971–72.’ 47, no. 12 (December 1971): 615–17
  • Laws, L. ‘John William Ryley.’ Australian Veterinary Journal 69, no. 12 (December 1992): 340
  • Queensland Country Life. ‘Scholarships in Vet. Science.’ 1 March 1945, 4
  •   Ryley, J. W., and G. C. Simmons. ‘Leptospira pomona as a Cause of Abortion and Neonatal Mortality in Swine.’ Queensland Journal of Agricultural Science 11 (1954): 61–74 .

Citation details

Bryan Woolcock, 'Ryley, John William (1926–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 22 October 2020.

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