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Reginald William (Reg) Mungomery (1901–1972)

by K. C. Leverington

This article was published:

Reginald William (Reg) Mungomery (1901-1972), entomologist, was born on 11 March 1901 at Childers, Queensland, fourth child of Queensland-born parents John Mungomery, blacksmith, and his wife Julia, née Sale. Reg developed a love of science, especially biology, at Childers State School (dux 1915). He continued to excel at Maryborough Grammar School (Melville gold medallist 1917) and at the Charters Towers School of Mines where he was awarded Browne memorial medals and gained a diploma in metallurgical engineering, chemistry and mining surveying (1920).

Lack of prospects in his field obliged Mungomery to work on the family farm. He found a job with the Commonwealth Prickly Pear Board at Rockhampton about 1923 and with Mount Isa Proprietary Silver-Lead Ltd in 1924. Next year he joined the entomology division of the Queensland Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations and was posted to Meringa, near Cairns. He took charge of a new laboratory at Bundaberg in 1926. At Christ Church, Bundaberg, on 10 December 1930 he married with Anglican rites Martha Nicolson Clement, a music teacher. Again based at Meringa from the mid-1930s, he moved to Brisbane in 1945 as officer-in-charge of the division of entomology and pathology. In 1964 he was promoted assistant-director of the B.S.E.S.

Although he had no formal tertiary training in biological sciences, Mungomery made a major contribution to research into controlling pests and diseases of sugar-cane. Particularly notable were his studies of Perkinsiella saccharicida: in 1933 he and Arthur Bell proved that this leaf-hopper was the vector which transmitted Fiji disease. Before the advent of chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides, grubs and other soil-inhabiting insects were fumigated with carbon disulphide. Mungomery explored ways of mechanizing and improving the process. In 1945 he began laboratory- and field-experiments with benzene hexachloride; the preparation proved to be successful and cheap, but it was withdrawn for environmental reasons in the 1980s.

Despite his success with insecticides, Mungomery preferred taking biological measures to control pests. In 1929 he had recommended that research be undertaken on the use of parasitic fungi to kill cane-grubs, but detailed work was not initiated until the 1970s. He was sent to Hawaii in 1935 to collect specimens of the giant American toad, Bufo marinus, for breeding and testing in Queensland as a predator of insect pests in sugar-cane fields. The toad proved less useful than had been hoped, and itself became a pest. Following his transfer to Brisbane, Mungomery oversaw the operations of the regional Cane Pest and Disease Control boards.

Mungomery was a perfectionist who loved his work. He expected his staff and associates to have similar standards, and was always willing to help and encourage junior colleagues. As a child he had stuttered; he overcame the affliction by sheer determination, but in later life lapsed into a slight stammer when engaged in vigorous debate. A runner, high-jumper, footballer and cricketer in his youth, he later enjoyed gardening, photography and playing the violin. He retired in 1968. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 25 March 1972 in Brisbane and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Annual Report of Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, Parliamentary Papers (Queensland), 1926, 1927, 1929, 1930, 1935, 1936, 1944-45, 1946, 1952
  • Mungomery papers (Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations Library, Brisbane)
  • private information.

Citation details

K. C. Leverington, 'Mungomery, Reginald William (Reg) (1901–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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