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Harold Addison Woodruff (1877–1966)

by Norah L. Killip

This article was published:

Harold Addison Woodruff (1877-1966), veterinary pathologist and bacteriologist, was born on 10 July 1877 at Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, son of Herbert Woodruff, engineering draftsman, and his wife Mary, née Addison. Educated at Wesley College, Sheffield, Harold graduated at the Royal Veterinary College, London (M.R.C.V.S., 1898), and tutored in surgery there in 1898-99. After a short term as professor of veterinary science and bacteriology at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he returned in 1900 to the Royal Veterinary College as professor of materia medica and hygiene. He ran the extensive out-patients clinic from 1900 until 1908 when he was appointed to the chair of veterinary medicine. In 1912 he graduated M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. (London).

Next year Woodruff came to Australia as professor of veterinary pathology and director of the veterinary institute at the University of Melbourne. In October 1915 he joined the Australian Imperial Force and served in Egypt and France as a major in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps (A.D.V.S. 3rd Division). Because the decline of the veterinary school was troubling the university council, he was permitted to return to Melbourne in 1917. President of the Veterinary Association of Victoria (1920-22) and of the Australian Veterinary Association (1922-23), he gave the presidential address to Section L of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1920 and 1922.

On the closure of the veterinary school in 1928, Woodruff was offered the post of director of the bacteriology department; he was promoted professor in 1935. Under his somewhat rigorous régime the department steadily expanded and the teaching of bacteriology was given a firm foundation. Apart from his influence on the careers of several famous scientists, Woodruff's most notable success was to establish the Public Health Laboratories (now the Diagnostic Unit) within the bounds of the university. Throughout his career he published monographs, pamphlets and articles on veterinary, medical and theological issues.

Raised in the tradition of the Methodist Church, on his arrival in Victoria Woodruff was at once involved in many aspects of its work. He held a weekly prayer-meeting for students and in 1931 acquired land from Professor Henry Payne at Healesville to build a Student Christian Movement camp. At conferences of the Australian S.C.M. (of which he was State and national chairman) he proved a popular group leader. A councillor of Queen's College, University of Melbourne, he served as acting master in 1928. Concerned for world peace, he spoke on the issue on radio and belonged to the League of Nations Union (president, 1938) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. He felt so strongly about the dangers of Fascism that he toured the mining towns of Gippsland in 1934 to warn against racial discrimination. In 1946 he urged the abolition of the White Australia policy.

Requested to remain at his post, he delayed his retirement until 1944. In 1948 the university purchased his portrait (by Malcolm Hone) which was hung in the foyer of the lecture theatre named in Woodruff's honour in the new microbiology building. He maintained his interests in the church, the peace movement and music, and was elected chairman (1946) of the Zoological Board of Victoria; he was also able to give more time to his garden and to walking with the Wallaby Club. A firm believer in outdoor activities, he had ridden his horse to work from Kew until 1927. He was about 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, grey eyes and a direct gaze. His manner was energetic and firm, his opinions forthright: both indicated the extent to which he was imbued with the Methodist doctrine of assurance.

When Woodruff arrived in Australia he was accompanied by his wife Margaret Ada, née Cooper (d.1916) whom he had married at Finchley, Middlesex, England, on 11 July 1908. On 24 June 1919 he married Isabella Scott Scoular Glaister at Queen's College. A founder of the Invergowrie Homecraft Hostel and its chief examiner in 1928-49, she was a founder and councillor of the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy and president (1931-33) of the Lyceum Club. After her death on 3 March 1954, Woodruff returned to Britain. He died in Edinburgh on 1 May 1966, survived by two sons of his first marriage who became eminent medical practitioners.

Select Bibliography

  • J. M. Gillison, A History of the Lyceum Club (Melb, 1975)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 4 Mar 1967
  • Pastoral Review, 19 July 1966
  • Herald (Melbourne), 23 Apr 1925, 30 Jan 1946
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Dec 1934, 8 Dec 1949
  • Faculty of Veterinary Science minutes, 1906-69, and Registrar's correspondence (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Norah L. Killip, 'Woodruff, Harold Addison (1877–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 July, 1877
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England


1 May, 1966 (aged 88)
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland

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