Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Byron Lionel Stanton (1891–1963)

by Gregory Haines

This article was published:

Byron Lionel Stanton (1891-1963), physician and pharmacist, was born on 7 July 1891 at Palmerston North, New Zealand, son of William Shepherd Smith Stanton, a general dealer from England, and his New Zealand-born wife Annie Ada, née Brown. After the family moved to Melbourne, Byron was sent to Scotch College. He proceeded to the College of Pharmacy, where he was influenced by Frank Cole, Daniel McAlpine and William Osler, and topped his final year (1913). In 1915 he entered the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1921), but he interrupted his course and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1916.

As a staff sergeant, Australian Army Medical Corps, Stanton dispensed medicine aboard troop-ships and in England before being discharged in Melbourne on 19 September 1917. Two years later he was appointed lecturer in pharmacy and materia medica at the university, and found himself teaching his own classmates. He was also the Pharmacy Board of Victoria's representative on the faculty of medicine. In 1927 he was made head of the department of materia medica at the College of Pharmacy. There he became a confidant of the dean Alfred Sissons. He was to retain his posts at the university and the college until 1963.

Following his graduation, Stanton had worked as a resident medical officer (1921-22) at the Melbourne Hospital, and as a resident medical officer (1922-24) and assistant-pathologist (1925) at the Children's Hospital. On 25 March 1926 at Auburn he married Alice Mary Mills with Presbyterian forms. He travelled to England and qualified as a member (1926) of the Royal College of Physicians, London, then built up a practice as a consultant in Melbourne. In 1943 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

While in England, Stanton had met W. H. Martindale who authorized him to handle all queries in the Australasian region relating to the Extra Pharmacopoeia. He later served as the British Medical Association's representative on the Australian committee which helped in the revision of the British Pharmacopoeia. In 1930 he was elected a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria. During World War II he headed a group which produced the Emergency Formulary of Australia (Sydney, 1941) and the Australian War Pharmacopoeia (Melbourne, 1942). Much of this work was carried out at his Camberwell home, as was his work for the Medical Equipment Control Committee. He contributed to The Australian and New Zealand (later Australian) Pharmaceutical Formulary and was largely responsible for its 1947 edition. With his vast knowledge of the nature, action and use of drugs, he served on numerous bodies, among them the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

An eloquent speaker who showed 'flashes of pungent humour', Stanton was interested in painting, bookbinding, origami, botany, literature and music; he enjoyed playing the piano at gatherings of his friends, many of whom were former students. His greatest love, however, was his 'digest of digests', materia medica; he had difficulty in accepting that, from 1963, it was no longer to be taught as a separate subject. For all his brilliance, energy and organization, he failed to realize that materia medica had become turgid, ravelled and too reliant on memory. He died on 20 April 1963 at Kew and was cremated; his wife and their daughter survived him. The College of Pharmacy, Monash University, holds Laurence Pendlebury's portrait of Stanton.

Select Bibliography

  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1 (Syd, 1988)
  • G. Haines, A History of Pharmacy in Victoria (Melb, 1994)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 4 Jan 1964, p 22.

Citation details

Gregory Haines, 'Stanton, Byron Lionel (1891–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 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]


7 July, 1891
Palmerston North, New Zealand


20 April, 1963 (aged 71)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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