Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Herbert Eric Dadswell (1903–1964)

by L. T. Carron

This article was published:

Herbert Eric Dadswell (1903-1964), wood scientist, was born on 5 March 1903 at Newtown, Sydney, only child of Herbert Edward Dadswell, a native-born clerk employed by the Sydney Morning Herald, and his wife May, née Walton, from England. Herbert senior rose to be secretary of John Fairfax & Sons Pty Ltd and was a prominent member of the Congregational Union of New South Wales. Educated at Newington College and the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1925; M.Sc., 1927), Eric studied organic chemistry, and played tennis, golf and cricket.

In 1926 the recently established Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization from 1949) selected Dadswell as one of its first overseas research students. He sailed for the United States of America in November, entering the Forest Products Laboratory at Madison, Wisconsin, then the world's leading institution of its kind. On 4 June 1928 in a civil ceremony at River Falls he married Inez Margaret Williams, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin.

Returning to Australia in April 1929, Dadswell was appointed to C.S.I.R.'s division of forest products. Initially attached to the Australian Forestry School in Canberra and based in Melbourne from June 1930, he embarked on investigations into the anatomy, chemistry, identification and utilization of wood which became his life's work. He studied many genera of the south-west Pacific region, particularly the genus, Eucalyptus, on which he published more than one hundred papers. In 1931 he was placed in charge of the division's research into wood structure. The University of Melbourne awarded him a D.Sc. in 1941 for a thesis and published work on the structure, identification and properties of Australian timbers.

Widely respected for the breadth and depth of his knowledge, Dadswell lectured at North American universities and in 1955 was Walker-Ames professor of forestry at the University of Washington, Seattle. His laboratory in Melbourne attracted guest-workers and students from abroad. From 1935 he had been an Australian delegate at international congresses, on forestry as well as forest products. An office-bearer in learned and technical societies, he was a foundation member (president 1950) of the Australian (and New Zealand) Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association, and a council-member (president 1962) of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. For his contribution to forest products research, he was awarded Queen Elizabeth II's coronation medal in 1953. Next year he was appointed assistant-chief of C.S.I.R.O.'s division of forest products and was promoted to chief in 1960.

In his later years Dadswell found recreation in gardening and trout-fishing. His social life revolved around his family and professional colleagues, and he was a generous host to visitors from overseas. Survived by his wife and their two adopted sons, he died suddenly of hypertensive coronary vascular disease on 19 December 1964 at East Ringwood and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Foreword to H. E. Dadswell, The Anatomy of Eucalypt Woods (Melb, 1972)
  • CSIRO Forest Products Newsletter, no 315, Jan-Feb 1965, p 1, no 350, Apr-May 1968, p 4
  • CSIRO Archives, Canberra
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

L. T. Carron, 'Dadswell, Herbert Eric (1903–1964)', 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]


5 March, 1903
Newtown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


19 December, 1964 (aged 61)
Ringwood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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