Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Max Henry (1883–1959)

by Robert I. Taylor

This article was published:

Max Henry (1883-1959), veterinary surgeon and army officer, was born on 14 June 1883 at Glebe, Sydney, son of Arthur Henry, who had emigrated from England and become registrar in insolvency, and his native-born wife Martha, née Skillman. Max attended The King's School, Parramatta, as a day-boy (1896-1901) and in 1901 enrolled at the Royal Veterinary College, London, where he won three medals. Qualifying in July 1906, he was admitted to membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and undertook postgraduate courses in pathology, bacteriology and tropical diseases.

Henry returned to Sydney and joined the Department of Health in 1907 as dairy supervisor for the Bega area. Next year he transferred to the stock and brands branch of the Department of Agriculture as a veterinary surgeon; he lectured at Hawkesbury Agricultural and Sydney Technical colleges. On 4 August 1910 he married Denise Ramsden Wood at St Paul's Anglican Church, Carlingford. He submitted a thesis to the faculty of veterinary science at the University of Sydney (B.V.Sc., 1912).

A captain in the Militia, Henry was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 11 November 1914 and was posted to No.1 Veterinary Section which established a veterinary hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt. In March 1916 he was promoted temporary major and made assistant (later deputy-assistant) director of veterinary services, 5th Division. Three months later he was sent to France where he was observed on one occasion looking 'miserably cold despite his sheep skin jacket, riding his horse through the mud and slush of the ''Somme" area, trying to help his V.O.'s do something to ameliorate conditions arising from their wretched environment'. Promoted lieutenant colonel on 1 May 1918, Henry won the Distinguished Service Order (1919) and was mentioned in dispatches four times for his work on the Western Front. His appointment terminated in Sydney on 8 July 1919.

He rejoined the Department of Agriculture and on 1 January 1924 was appointed chief veterinary surgeon. Henry inherited a very small staff which had provided poor service to stock-owners. Despite opposition and discouragement from those he was endeavouring to help, his energy, imagination, integrity and perseverance enabled him to establish an effective veterinary service and to reduce losses due to disease and poor animal husbandry. He encouraged research, expanded laboratories and field-stations, and earned an international reputation in epidemiology and as an administrator. In 1940 the department was reorganized and he was appointed chief of the division of animal industry. His major regret was that he had failed to eradicate the cattle tick.

Despite his heavy workload as chief veterinary surgeon, Henry had resumed his Militia service in 1921 and was assistant-director of veterinary services in New South Wales in 1922-40. He lectured at the university from 1922, mainly on veterinary jurisprudence and epidemiology, and acted as an external examiner. In 1924 he was foundation president of the Veterinary Surgeons Board. A member of the Royal Society of New South Wales, he also belonged to the Rotary Club of Sydney.

Largely through Henry's efforts the Australian Veterinary Association had been established in 1921. He was foundation honorary secretary (1921-24), federal council-member (1924-34 and 1941-46), editor of its journal (1925-28) and president (1926-28 and 1944). In 1938 he visited Europe, Britain and North America, and attended the Thirteenth International Veterinary Conference, in Switzerland. He was elected a fellow of the A.V.A. in 1945 and awarded the Gilruth prize in 1953. Following his retirement from the department in 1947, he acted as general secretary to the association until 1949. The R.C.V.S. bestowed its diploma of honorary associateship on him in 1954.

Max Henry was a tall, well-built man, with a strong moustache and in later years a small, neatly trimmed beard. His innate shyness made him appear brusque, but he was gentle and modest. He loved light opera and the theatre, as well as bush life and camping, and had a real interest in native plants extending back to his youth. Survived by his wife, son and three daughters, he died at his Chatswood home on 9 June 1959 and was cremated. His son John followed him into the veterinary profession. The A.V.A. library was named the Max Henry Memorial Library and is housed at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, Menangle.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Hall and A. Cousins (eds), Book of Remembrance of the University of Sydney in the Great War 1914-1918 (Syd, 1939)
  • Australian Veterinary Journal, 20, Feb 1944, p 180, 23, Aug 1947, p 226, 29, Aug 1953, p 231, 35, June 1959, p 304
  • World Veterinary History Association (Denmark), Historica Medicinae Veterinae (issue published by World Veterinary Congress, Perth), Aug 1983, p 17
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Nov 1920, 12 May 1938, 14 May 1954
  • W. L. Hindmarsh, Reminiscences (Australian Veterinary Association History Collection, Harden, New South Wales)
  • J. Henry, Recollections of Max Henry as a father (typescript, held in ADB file)
  • The King's School, Parramatta, Sydney, Archives.

Citation details

Robert I. Taylor, 'Henry, Max (1883–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 June, 1883
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


9 June, 1959 (aged 75)
Chatswood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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