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Wilson, Enid Phyllis (1908–1988)

by Peter Brandon

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Enid Phyllis Wilson (1908-1988), psychologist, was born on 24 June 1908 at Chatswood, Sydney, eldest of three children of Arthur Edmund Carpenter, clerk in the registrar general’s office who was born at Singapore, Straits Settlements, and his Sydney-born wife Catherine Isabella, née Brown.  Enid attended Fort Street Girls’ High School.  At the University of Sydney (BA, 1930; MA, 1932), she lived at Women’s College with the help of a number of scholarships.  She won the Frank Albert prizes for both psychology and anthropology, and gained first-class honours and the university medal in psychology.  Alfred Horatio Martin, who taught experimental psychology and established a laboratory, influenced her.  He was one of the leading advocates of the use of psychometric tests for vocational placement, and outstanding students, such as Carpenter, were involved in his research.

Awarded a Wentworth travelling fellowship in 1932, she spent three years abroad, studying at the University of London, and working under the child psychologist Professor (Sir) Cyril Burt, carrying out clinical research at the Tavistock Clinic, the Institute of Medical Psychology and the East London Child Guidance Clinic. She also studied with Professor James Drever of the University of Edinburgh.  On 22 November 1932 at the register office, Paddington, London, Enid married John Henry Wilson, an Australian dental surgeon.

After their return to Sydney in November 1934, Enid undertook projects for the New South Wales Department of Education and set up a private child psychology practice.  Renewing her association with Martin, she used research grants provided by the university and the Australian Institute of Industrial Psychology to continue her work in this field.  In 1960 she was appointed as director of the AIIP, which Martin had founded in 1927.  This body provided professional information and services in industrial psychology in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.  As a result Wilson travelled frequently, also reporting on staff selection for overseas companies based in Australia and attending conferences, mostly in the United States of America and Britain.  She was a consultant psychologist for the Reserve Bank of Australia and for a number of private firms, including the Bank of New South Wales, Castrol Ltd and British Tube Mills (Australia) Pty Ltd.  Wilson worked at the AIIP into the 1980s.

Enid Carpenter had been appointed as honorary assistant-carillonist in 1931 (carillonist from 1932) at the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon.  While overseas in the 1930s she travelled to Belgium, where she visited the Mechelen Carillon School and its assistant-director, the composer Gustaf Nees.  She still played the carillon in Sydney in the 1950s.

Known for her quiet manner, Wilson enjoyed painting and gardening as well as music.  She and her husband lived at Mosman; in the 1960s she moved to Elizabeth Bay.  Predeceased by her husband (d.1960) and survived by their son, she died on 18 August 1988 at Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Institute of Industrial Psychology, Annual Report, 1968-69, p 1
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1930, p 12
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 1933, p 3
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December 1933, 'Women’s Supplement', p 13
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 October 1960, p 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 1963, p 10
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1964, p 22
  • Sun (Sydney), 27 October 1960, p 64
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 4 August 1963, p 106
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 24 January 1965, p 6
  • P. D. L. Brandon, Alfred Horatio Martin, 1883-1953 (B.Ed. thesis, University of Newcastle, 1993).

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Citation details

Peter Brandon, 'Wilson, Enid Phyllis (1908–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wilson-enid-phyllis-15865/text27066, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 19 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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