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Hugh Kingsley Ward (1887–1972)

by Frank Fenner and P. M. De Burgh

This article was published:

Hugh Kingsley Ward (1887-1972), bacteriologist, was born on 17 September 1887 at Petersham, Sydney, youngest of eight children of New Zealand-born Frederick William Ward, editor of the Daily Telegraph, and his wife Amy Ada, née Cooke, from New South Wales. Leonard Ward was his brother. Hugh was educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney (M.B., 1910) where he graduated with first-class honours. Awarded the 1911 Rhodes scholarship for New South Wales, he proceeded to New College, Oxford. There he experimented with serological tests for syphilis and in 1913 gained diplomas in anthropology and public health. He rowed in the Australian VIII at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm and for Oxford in 1913 and 1914.

Appointed lieutenant, Royal Army Medical Corps Special Reserve, on 5 August 1914, Ward arrived in France a week later. He became regimental medical officer of the 2nd Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps. In April 1915 he was promoted captain. He was wounded in action several times and in 1916 won the Military Cross for showing 'an utter contempt for danger' while attending to wounded men. Taken prisoner at Nieuport, Belgium, in June 1917, he was released in March next year. He was gassed at Arras, France, but continued to serve. For his repeated acts of gallantry he was awarded two Bars to his M.C. and twice mentioned in dispatches.

On demobilization, Ward resumed his experimental work at Oxford. He was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship (1923-24) to conduct research in the department of bacteriology and immunology at Harvard University in the United States of America, then headed by Hans Zinsser. He returned to Oxford then in 1926 joined the staff of Harvard at Zinsser's invitation. There he studied streptococci and persuaded a young John F. Enders to research infectious diseases; Enders was later to win a Nobel prize for culturing poliomyelitis viruses. At St George's Church, Montreal, Canada, on 9 May 1927 Ward married with Anglican rites Constance Isabella Brougham (d.1971), a librarian and daughter of Ernest Brougham Docker.

In 1935 Ward became Bosch professor of bacteriology at the University of Sydney. He gave undergraduate teaching a high priority, designing a course that took clinical disease as a starting point rather than micro-organisms. His opportunities for personal research were constrained by World War II and its aftermath of large student numbers, but he inspired students to take a B.Sc. (Med.) degree in bacteriology; they included Donald Metcalf, J. F. A. P. Miller and (Sir) Gustav Nossal, three major figures in medical research in postwar Australia.

A man of vision, personal integrity and charm, Ward did not seek recognition and was embarrassed by praise. He played a major role in local and national medical and scientific affairs, and, at the University of Sydney, in sport (the gymnasium was named in his honour) as well as academic matters. With his close friends (Sir) Macfarlane Burnet and Esmond Keogh, he formed a powerful trio of microbiologists who greatly influenced medical research in Australia. He was a founding member (1936) of the National Health and Medical Research Council. As chairman (1952-53) of the Australian National Research Council, he prepared the way for the smooth transfer in 1954 of many of its functions and awards to the newly formed Australian Academy of Science. He served on the interim council (1948-51) and the council (1951-53) of the Australian National University.

Retiring in 1952, Ward resigned from over thirty committees. From 1952 to 1969 he was a medical officer with the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, publishing (with R. J. Walsh) his only book, A Guide to Blood Transfusion, in 1957. In his later years he read widely on the arts, current affairs and history. Survived by his son and daughter, he died on 22 November 1972 in Sydney Hospital and was cremated.

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)
  • J. A. Young et al (eds), Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine (Syd, 1984)
  • G. L. McDonald (ed), Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, vol 1, 1938-75 (Syd, 1988)
  • F. Fenner (ed), History of Microbiology in Australia (Canb, 1990)
  • Australian Journal of Experimental Biology and Medical Science, vol 41, Aug 1963, p 381
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Nov 1972.

Citation details

Frank Fenner and P. M. De Burgh, 'Ward, Hugh Kingsley (1887–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 28 May 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]


17 September, 1887
Petersham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 November, 1972 (aged 85)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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