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White-Haney, Rose Ethel Janet (Jean) (1877–1953)

by H. Trevor Clifford

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

Rose Ethel Janet (Jean) White-Haney (1877-1953), botanist, was born on 11 March 1877 at the Melbourne Observatory, South Yarra, seventh of eight children of English-born parents Edward John White, astronomer, and his wife Sarah Susanna Catharine, née L'Oste. 'Jean' was educated privately until the age of 15, and then at Presbyterian Ladies' College, and the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1904; M.Sc., 1906; D.Sc., 1909). She taught science at P.L.C. After sharing (1906) the MacBain research scholarship in biology she was awarded, two years later, a Victorian government scholarship. Under the direction of Alfred Ewart she investigated the enzymes and latent life of seeds. The work was published (1910) in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. She was elected (1908) a member of the Royal Society of Victoria, and in 1908-11 her research papers on bitter pit in apples and the formation of red wood in conifers appeared in its proceedings.

In 1912 the Queensland Board of Advice on Prickly Pear Destruction appointed White officer-in-charge of its experimental station at Dulacca, about 261 miles (420 km) west of Brisbane. She arrived at the undeveloped site in July, and immediately began studies on the control of Dulacca pear (Opuntia inermis), working in a tent until the laboratory building was completed several months later. During the next four years she conducted more than ten thousand chemical poisoning experiments and tested fungal cultures imported from overseas by Thomas Johnston and Henry Tryon. She also demonstrated the efficacy of the cochineal insect Coccus indicus (Green) as a controlling agent for Opuntia monacantha, a species of prickly pear that was widespread in North Queensland.

On 22 February 1915 at Holy Advent Church of England, Malvern, Melbourne, White married Victor William Haney, an American-born agricultural chemist. Her marriage did not affect her employment, but the station at Dulacca closed in 1916. In her final report she concluded that arsenic pentoxide was superior to other chemicals in destroying the pear, but that, given the cost of poisoning, the only real solution lay in discovering 'some parasitic insects or organisms capable of bringing about the destruction of the different species of prickly-pear as completely as the Coccus indicus (Green) has done for the monacantha species in North Queensland'. Eventually the moth Cactoblastis cactorum, introduced to Queensland in 1926, controlled prickly pear.

White-Haney lived for a short time in Western Queensland before moving to Brisbane. She was a founding member (1919) of the Lyceum Club (secretary 1922-24, president 1924-26), a committee-member (1925-26) of the Queensland Bush Book Club, and a fund-raiser (1924-29) for Women's College, University of Queensland. She attended the 1926 Pan-Pacific Science Congress in Tokyo, and two years later was employed on a short-term contract by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to study the pasture weeds Noogoora and Bathurst burrs. This was her last scientific project. In 1930 she joined her husband who had returned to the United States of America some years earlier. She visited Australia in 1936. Survived by her husband and their two sons, she died on 21 October 1953 at Camarillo, California, and was buried in Inglewood Park cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Kelly, Degrees of Liberation (Melb, 1985)
  • Australian Journal of Science, 17, no 1, 1954, p 24
  • Nature (London), 9 Oct 1954, p 676
  • Queenslander, 24 Nov 1927, 29 May 1930
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 6 Nov 1953
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Nov 1953.

Additional Resources

Citation details

H. Trevor Clifford, 'White-Haney, Rose Ethel Janet (Jean) (1877–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/white-haney-rose-ethel-janet-jean-12015/text21549, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 27 August 2016.

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

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