Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Herbert Robert Seddon (1887–1964)

by Robert I. Taylor

This article was published:

Herbert Robert Seddon (1887-1964), veterinarian, was born on 26 May 1887 at Tauranga, New Zealand, eldest of three children of Robert Seddon, a New Zealand-born bank accountant, and his wife Sarah Louisa, née Swarbrick, who came from England. Educated at Auckland Grammar School, Bert joined the Department of Agriculture in 1904 as a cadet. In 1907 he became laboratory-assistant to J. A. Gilruth. From 1909 he worked in the same capacity in Victoria and studied at the University of Melbourne (B.V.Sc., 1913; D.V.Sc., 1921), where he lectured (1916-17) on veterinary pathology, bacteriology, materia medica and pharmacy.

At the Presbyterian Church, South Yarra, on 28 November 1914 Seddon had married Ethel Marian Munn, a milliner; they were to have a son and daughter before he divorced her. Appointed captain, Australian Army Veterinary Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 15 January 1918, he served in the Middle East and commanded (from July) the 10th Mobile Veterinary Section which cared for camels. In 1919 he attended the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, London. He was demobilized from the army on 3 February 1920 in Melbourne and returned to the university as lecturer in veterinary pathology and bacteriology.

Appointed veterinary pathologist in the New South Wales Department of Agriculture in 1923, Seddon headed operations at Glenfield Veterinary Research Station. Next year he became director of veterinary research. From 1928 to 1936 he was an honorary lecturer at the University of Sydney. By 1936 he had published over 130 papers dealing with diseases of livestock. These included articles on tuberculosis, blackleg, contagious abortion (brucellosis), botulism, sheep blowfly and a wide range of disease conditions, including nutrition and poison plants. He married Verlie Victoria Watts on 12 January 1935 at St Michael's Anglican Church, Sydney.

Seddon was appointed to the new chair of veterinary science at the University of Queensland in 1936. Limited funds and the lack of suitable buildings inhibited his plans for the course, but he carried out his duties single-handed, and with characteristic enthusiasm and energy. The initial classes were held in a converted stable. His lectures reflected his experience and humour. In 1940 five of his first class graduated. A lack of students and staff during World War II forced the school to close in 1943.

From 1937 Professor Seddon was also veterinary adviser to the Department of Agriculture and Stock, government director of veterinary services and a member of the Veterinary Surgeons' Board of Queensland. He served on the National Health and Medical Research Council's nutrition committee and as officer-in-charge (from 1943) of the food section, Rationing Commission, Melbourne. In 1946 he joined the division of veterinary hygiene, Commonwealth Department of Health, Canberra. Eight years later he became technical director of the McGarvie Smith Institute at Ingleburn, New South Wales, and built up an active veterinary practice at Campbelltown.

A foundation member (1921), honorary secretary (1924-28), president (1929-31) and fellow (1950) of the Australian Veterinary Association, Seddon was awarded its Gilruth prize in 1950. He sat on the Australian National Research Council, belonged to Rotary and enjoyed playing golf. Survived by his wife and by the son of each of his marriages, he died on 25 October 1964 at his Campbelltown home and was cremated with Anglican rites. Lola McCausland's portrait of Seddon is held by the University of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Veterinary Journal, vol 35, May 1962, p 300, vol 41, Jan 1965, p 23
  • Australian Journal of Science, vol 27, no 9, Mar 1965, p 252
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4, 16 Jan 1923, 12 Feb 1936
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 7 May 1943
  • private information.

Citation details

Robert I. Taylor, 'Seddon, Herbert Robert (1887–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 May, 1887
Tauranga, New Zealand


25 October, 1964 (aged 77)
Campbelltown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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