Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Adolph Bolliger (1897–1962)

by R. Bhathal

This article was published:

Adolph Bolliger (1897-1962), biochemist, was born on 8 October 1897 at Zürich, Switzerland, eldest son of Adolf Bolliger, master baker, and his wife Thekla Eugenie, née Ackermann. Educated at Baden and at Zürich Gymnasium, young Bolliger matriculated at the University of Zürich in 1917. His studies there were interrupted by military service with the Swiss Army and by a semester at the University of Geneva (1918); in 1919 he entered the University of Basle (Ph.D., 1922). On 1 August 1922 at the registry office, Zürich, he married Clara Coradi. After working in the chemical and dye industry at Konstanz, Germany, in 1923 Bolliger migrated to the United States of America. As a biochemist, he specialized in cardiovascular disease at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit. In 1926 the American Medical Association awarded him and two colleagues silver and gold medals for their research.

A meeting with the Australian surgeon Gordon Craig led Bolliger to accept a proposed post at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He arrived in Sydney with his wife and two sons in July 1928. Two years later he was appointed director of the Gordon Craig Research Laboratories at the University of Sydney. He had a wide-ranging interest in medical and biological subjects which left him open to some criticism on the ground of superficiality. Individually and jointly he published over 170 papers and short communications, including studies in analytical and organic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and experimental pathology. Bolliger was naturalized in 1935. Divorced in Switzerland, he married a laboratory technician Dorothy May Dark on 16 October 1937 at the district registrar's office, North Sydney; they were to have three sons.

From 1938 Bolliger turned his attention to various aspects of the life of marsupials. His work on hormone-produced changes in the sex organs and their accessories of the possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, was significant. In 1955 he was appointed reader and two years later the university conferred on him a D.Sc. for his chemical studies of integuments and his observations on marsupials. Active in a range of scholarly societies, Bolliger contributed papers at scientific meetings in Australia and abroad. He was a member (from 1933), a councillor and president (1945-46) of the Royal Society of New South Wales, presided over section N of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Perth in 1947, and was a founding member (1958) of the Australian Mammal Society. Awarded the (E. H.) Rennie and the Henry G. Smith medals respectively in 1936 and 1947 by the (Royal) Australian Chemical Institute, he also received the local Royal Society's medal for 1961.

Bolliger had a charming personality, but his hearty manner tended to overwhelm some people. His main recreations were hiking and skiing, and he belonged to the Swiss Club of New South Wales. After Dorothy's death in June 1961, he married a 28-year-old secretary Jocelyn Anne Elliot on 28 September 1962 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Goulburn Street, Sydney. Survived by his wife and by his five sons, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 22 October 1962 in Sydney Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal and Proceedings, 96, 1962-63, p 171, 97, 1963-64, p 126
  • Australian Journal of Science, 26, no 2, 1963, p 42
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 27 Apr 1963, p 635
  • University of Sydney Union, Union Recorder, 26 Sept 1963, p 227
  • Royal Society of New South Wales Archives (Sydney)
  • naturalisation file, A440/1 item 51/12/1922 [34/10485] (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. Bhathal, 'Bolliger, Adolph (1897–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 October, 1897
Zurich, Switzerland


22 October, 1962 (aged 65)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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