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Sir Gordon Roy Cameron (1899–1966)

by Patricia Morison

This article was published:

Sir Gordon Roy Cameron (1899-1966), pathologist, was born on 30 June 1899 at Echuca, Victoria, son of George Cameron, a Methodist minister from South Australia, and his English-born wife Emily, née Pascoe. Roy was educated at Mitiamo, Lancefield and Dunkeld state schools, Kyneton High School and the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1922). Before completing a year's residency at the Melbourne Hospital, he was appointed in 1923 Stewart lecturer in pathology at the university and resident medical tutor at Queen's College. Inspired by Professor Sir Harry Allen towards pathology, prodded by Dr R. H. Strong towards experiment, and assisted by senior technician William Dickinson (who supplied a makeshift animal-house and a colony of guinea-pigs), Cameron pioneered experimental pathology with prize-winning studies of the pancreas.

In early 1925 he succeeded (Sir) Macfarlane Burnet as first assistant to Charles Kellaway and deputy-director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute; Cameron specialized in islet regeneration after partial pancreatectomy. From late 1927 he worked for a year under Ludwig Aschoff at Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, and next under A. E. Boycott, professor of morbid anatomy at University College Hospital Medical School, London (D.Sc., 1929). There he chose to remain, despite poor health and previous firm intentions to return to Melbourne. A bachelor, he lived with Boycott's laboratory assistant Fred Crews and his wife, who devoted their lives to him.

At U.C.H.M.S. Cameron was Graham scholar in pathology in 1928-30, Beit fellow for medical research in 1930-33 and—after a term as pathologist at Queen Mary's Hospital—reader in pathology from 1934 to 1937 when he succeeded Boycott in the chair. From 1929 Cameron had pursued extensive, fundamental research on liver diseases and pulmonary oedema. Although a scientific liberal, he was a technical conservative, highly resistant to appeals for expensive modern equipment, yet his laboratory drew aspiring experimental pathologists from all over the world, among them Australians such as George Christie and Donald Wilhelm. Assistant-editor (1932-55) of the Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology, Cameron sought at least one paper from his department for every issue.

In 1939-45 he was seconded to the Chemical Defence Experimental Station at Porton, Wiltshire, to work with the physiologist Sir Joseph Barcroft on the effects of war gases; evenings were spent in 'deep reading' for Pathology of the Cell (London, 1952). Considerable government service followed with the Chemical Defence Board (1945-46), the Agricultural Research Council (1947-56) and the Medical Research Council (1952-56). He had returned to his chair at the University of London in 1945; next year he also became director of the Graham department, U.C.H.M.S. Cameron retired from both positions in 1964.

A meticulous scholar who published 145 scientific papers, he was erudite in the literature of pathology and of Renaissance Italy, in addition to being a mathematician and a pianist. Cameron was of medium build and fit when young; he grew ponderous in body and manner, but retained a keen delight in human absurdity. Bored by politics, he was a benevolent conservative who was firmly attached to the British Empire. He was knighted in 1957. A fellow (1946) of the Royal Society, he was one of its Royal medallists in 1960. Sir Roy took great pride in being foundation president (1962) of the (Royal) College of Pathologists which has a bust of him by R. B. Claughton. Restricted by illness from 1956, Cameron made his only return visit to Australia in 1962 to accept an honorary LL.D. from the University of Melbourne. He died of ischaemic heart disease on 7 October 1966 at Finchley, London.

Select Bibliography

  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-70
  • Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, The Melbourne School of Pathology (Melb, 1962)
  • F. M. Burnet, Changing Patterns (Melb, 1968)
  • F. M. Burnet, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute 1915-1965 (Melb, 1971)
  • K. F. Russell, The Melbourne Medical School 1862-1962 (Melb, 1977)
  • British Medical Journal, 15 Oct 1966
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 28 Jan 1967
  • Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (London), 14, 1968.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Patricia Morison, 'Cameron, Sir Gordon Roy (1899–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 June 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]


30 June, 1899
Echuca, Victoria, Australia


7 October, 1966 (aged 67)
Finchley, London, England

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