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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Veitch, Robert (1890–1972)

by J. C. H. Gill and Peter L. Lloyd

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

Robert Veitch (1890-1972), entomologist, was born on 15 August 1890 in Edinburgh, son of John Veitch, solicitor, and his wife Ann Campbell, née Sinclair. Robert was educated at Daniel Stewart's College, the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh (B.Sc.Agr., 1911; B.Sc.For., 1912). He worked for a year at the Imperial Institute of Entomology, British Museum, London, before joining the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd at Suva, Fiji, in July 1914. Engaged in field studies as an entomologist in Fiji, New South Wales and Queensland, he also visited and worked at experiment stations in the United States of America and Hawaii. On 1 March 1919 at Lautoka, Fiji, he married Alice Esmee Berry (d.1964).

In July 1925, after Henry Tryon's retirement, Veitch was appointed chief entomologist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, Brisbane. An able administrator, he oversaw the expansion and decentralization of entomological research in Queensland, assigning his subordinates to the major cropping areas of the State. He encouraged local insect collecting expeditions; in 1932 a new species of 'moss bug', Hemiodoecus veitchi (Hackeriella veitchi), was named after him. Contributing thirty-six articles on agricultural pest control to the Queensland Agricultural Journal between 1926 and 1941, he also produced three handbooks. With J. H. Simmonds he wrote Pests and Diseases of Queensland Fruit and Vegetables (1929).

A fellow (1914-60) of the Royal Entomological Society of London, and of the Linnean Society of New South Wales (from 1917), Veitch was active in Brisbane scientific societies, serving as president of the Entomological Society of Queensland (1932) and the Royal Society of Queensland (1935-36). He was founding vice-president (1935), and president (1936), of the Queensland branch of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science. Officially sponsored consultations in 1936 between Veitch and Professor E. J. Goddard led to the establishment of the division of plant industry (research) within the department. With Veitch as director, the division's activities expanded to include advisory and regulatory services. In 1947 he was appointed assistant under-secretary (technical) to Arthur Bell.

Veitch's official retirement was postponed until 31 December 1956. He was dedicated to his work and the department was reluctant to lose his expertise. Recalled as a part-time consultant for three days a week after Bell's death in 1958, he ceased working on 30 June 1960. A man of medium height and solid build, he appeared on first meeting to be a dour, hard-headed, canny Scot. Once his confidence had been won, however, he turned out to be warm, kindly and approachable, with a puckish sense of humour. He died on 22 September 1972 at Clayfield, and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His estate was sworn for probate at $105,497; childless, he made bequests to family members and Scottish charities, and left the residue to the Presbyterian Church for St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, Brisbane, and to the Library Board of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • Changing Patterns in Entomology (Brisb, 1974)
  • Queensland Agricultural Journal, 25, no 2, 1926, p 104, 37, no 5, 1932, p 262
  • Entomological Society of Queensland, News Bulletin, no 90, 1972, p 21
  • J. C. Gill, 'Robert Veitch 1890-1972', Queensland Heritage, 3, no 10, 1979, p 4
  • Veitch personal file, RS14417/1/277, A/54249 PSB 7883 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill and Peter L. Lloyd, 'Veitch, Robert (1890–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 October 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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