Key 20: Chemistry 1882


In addition to McCoy’s classes in Chemistry, classes in theoretical and applied chemistry were offered to Medical students from 1862 by the Government Analyst, Dr John Macadam. On his death in 1865 these were taken over by J. D. Kirkland, subsequently appointed professor of Chemistry in 1882.

Prof John D. Kirkland, c1878
J.D. Kirkland with chemistry students, c1878.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-1235]

Kirkland also developed the University’s first course in metallurgy. The facilities for teaching chemistry were housed in the Medical School.

Old Chemistry Building, 1903
View of Old Chemistry Building, 1903.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-1151]

In 1877 a new laboratory relieved over-crowding, but by 1883 this too was stretched beyond capacity. The new professor convinced the Buildings Committee to include larger laboratories in the new Medical School building, but he died in 1885 before these plans came to fruition. It is Kirkland’s successor, a dynamic young chemist from Great Britain, Dr [Sir] David Orme Masson, who is generally acknowledged as the ‘founder of the Melbourne School of Chemistry’ and credited with the provision of new facilities within a few years of his arrival in 1886. These comprised a long, Renaissance-style, single storey extension to the north of the Medical School along 'The Avenue' [Tin Alley] completed in 1890.

Masson, along with professors Spencer and Lyle brought science teaching in the University into line with the latest developments elsewhere and raised the status and quality of the discipline both inside and outside the University. 'They believed that graduates and advanced students as well as the teaching staff should prosecute original research. Masson argued that no university should be merely a second-hand Science shop'.

Professor David O. Masson, c1920s
Professor David O. Masson, c1920s.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-1438]