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White, Montgomery (1905–1955)

by Robin Bruce

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

Montgomery White (1905-1955), agricultural chemist, was born on 8 August 1905 at Fischerton, Tate Tin Mines, near Chillagoe, Queensland, fourth of five children of Ernest White, a storekeeper from Cornwall, and his Queensland-born wife Caroline Ann, née Montgomery. Monty attended several state schools in North Queensland and Townsville Grammar School. In 1924 he won an open scholarship to the University of Queensland (B.Sc., 1927; M.Sc., 1929). He was awarded research scholarships in 1928 and 1930, and in 1929-30 had a part-time post in the chemistry department. On 18 July 1930 at the university's King's College, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, he married with Methodist forms Jessie Isabella Smart, a schoolteacher. That year he won an 1851 Exhibition scholarship. He took it up at University College, London (Ph.D., 1933) and pursued a chemical investigation of vitamin B2.

Employed by the Queensland Meat Industry Board as an expert in animal nutrition, White was sent from England to the United States of America to inspect production facilities run by some of the large meat companies. On his return to Queensland he became biochemist at the board's abattoir at Cannon Hill, Brisbane, managed by Ernest Sunners. At the same time he tutored in science at King's College. In 1936 he joined the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock as an animal nutrition officer; he worked on the drought-feeding of sheep. Five years later he was appointed the department's agricultural chemist. He travelled widely in the State, and developed a detailed knowledge of the livestock industries. Under his leadership there were significant advances in the understanding and treatment of animal-nutrition problems in Queensland, such as copper and cobalt deficiencies in sheep and cattle, and fluorosis in sheep. In 1939 he was a specialist lecturer in agriculture at the University of Queensland. He was a member (1947-53) of the university senate and the faculty of agriculture.

White was active in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, serving as vice-president (1951-53) and president (1953-55) of the Queensland branch, and national vice-president in 1955. That year he was elected a fellow of the institute. He helped to introduce a technical college diploma in Queensland which acted as an acceptable qualification for admittance to the R.A.C.I.

Warm-hearted and loyal, White had many friends. With his wide range of scientific interests and encyclopaedic knowledge, he inspired and encouraged all who associated with him. He regularly gave practical advice to farmers and graziers, and strongly influenced the development of the pastoral and agricultural industries of Queensland. Despite serious illness he continued to work as the State's chief agricultural chemist until three weeks before his death. Survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters, he died of cancer on 22 September 1955 at his Hawthorne home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • P. J. Skerman et al, Guiding Queensland Agriculture, 1887-1987 (Brisb, 1988)
  • P. J. Skerman, The First One Hundred Years (Brisb, 1998)
  • Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Proceedings, 11, 1955, p 206
  • University of Queensland Gazette, no 33, 1955, p 10
  • Livestock Bulletin, 49, 1956, p 136.

Citation details

Robin Bruce, 'White, Montgomery (1905–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/white-montgomery-12012/text21541, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 25 March 2019.

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

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