Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ernest James Goddard (1883–1948)

by E. Clarke

This article was published:

Ernest James Goddard (1883-1948), professor of biology, was born on 10 March 1883 at Newcastle, New South Wales, son of Alfred Russell Goddard, coachpainter, and his wife Elizabeth Jane, née Cowan. Educated at Maitland High School and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1904; B.Sc. 1906, with honours in zoology and palaeontology) he was appointed demonstrator in biology on graduation. As Linnean Macleay research fellow in 1908 he carried out superficial work on the Hirudinea and Oligochaeta for which he received in 1910 the university's first doctorate in zoology. His thesis was published as a series of papers in the Journal of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. At Petersham on 28 April 1910 Goddard married Sarah May Morris of Goulburn; they had no children. Appointed to the chair of zoology in Victoria College (later the University of Stellenbosch), Cape Province, South Africa, by 1922 he had made his department the largest in the country.

Professor of biology at the University of Queensland from 1922, Goddard became in 1927 the first dean of the faculty of agriculture. Active in establishing faculties of agriculture, dentistry, veterinary science and medicine, he also chaired many societies including the Royal Society of Queensland, the Queensland Naturalists' Club, the Queensland branch of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science, the Entomological Society of Queensland and the Australian-American Association. In 1936-39 he was seconded to the State Department of Agriculture and Stock as science co-ordinating officer.

Goddard believed that education should foster individualism and develop the maximum capability allowed by heredity. He was also influenced by the achievements of some American universities in combining theory and practice, and therefore encouraged close co-operation between the university and the agricultural department, advocated close links between the university and the farmer, and promoted extramural education. In newspaper articles, interviews, radio talks and well-attended public lectures, he popularized scientific developments, especially in biology, applicable to primary industry. He urged public support for the University of Queensland and emphasized its importance. He was a member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from its foundation in 1926 until 1941. Public life left little time for personal research though he did supervise important investigations including work on the banana disease, bunchy top.

Short, with piercing eyes and an unruly forelock, Goddard had enormous physical energy and a wide range of enthusiasms. An incisive and forthright lecturer, he was popular both with students and extramural audiences. While setting up a marine research station at Heron Island on the eve of retirement, he died of coronary occlusion on 17 January 1948, and was cremated after a Methodist service.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Marlay, A History of Dental Education in Queensland, 1863-1964 (Brisb, 1979)
  • University of Queensland Gazette, 9 (1948), p 3
  • Brisbane Courier, 7 July 1923, 10 June 1925, 14 Dec 1926
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 3 May 1930
  • Daily Standard (Brisbane), 16 June 1932
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 17 Jan 1948.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

E. Clarke, 'Goddard, Ernest James (1883–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 March, 1883
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


17 January, 1948 (aged 64)
Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.