Key 77: Faculty of Medicine [iii] 1944-1976/Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology 1963; 1971


The post-war period was one of spectacular growth and development for the Medical faculty born of the great strain imposed by the rise in student numbers and community demand for more doctors. Controversial quotas were imposed for the first time in 1946 and soon became a fact of life since facilities for medical education were expensive and slow to build. Government input, especially from the Commonwealth government increased to meet this demand, but much of the post-war expansion in the medical faculty at the level of professor was made possible by private endowments.

Following a public appeal the long-standing need for clinical professors of Surgery and Medicine was satisfied with the appointment of R.R.H. Lovell as professor of Medicine located at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Maurice R. Ewing as professor of Surgery at the Alfred Hospital in 1955 (later transferred to the R.M.H. with the establishment of Monash University). Previously this work had effectively fallen to the Stewart lecturers.

Professor Maurice Ewing, 1979
Professor Maurice Ewing, 1979.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-2296]

A second chair of Medicine was established at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1957. Other clinical chairs followed in rapid succession: Ophthalmology (1958) which in 1963 was amalgamated with the position of director of the Ophthalmic Research Institute in the Eye and Ear Hospital to be known as the Ringland Anderson chair; Child Health (later Paediatrics 1959) with the support of Mrs H (later Dame Hilda) M. Stevenson, Psychiatry (1964) (Dr Una Porter and E.A. Cato), Radiology (1965) supported by donations from Kodak and Edgar Rouse, chairs of Medicine and Surgery at the Austin Hospital and Surgery at St Vincent’s (1966), Otolaryngology (1969) established with funds raised publicly from Maude Gibson, Community Medicine (1975) and Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine (1976).

Dame Hilda Stevenson, 1973
Dame Hilda Stevenson, 1973.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-2252]

The pre-medical school expanded to encompass a new chair of Pharmacology (F.H. Shaw 1954) and second professors in Biochemistry (Medical) (1964), Anatomy (1966), Pathology, Microbiology (Medical) and Physiology (1967).

Many of the clinical chairs incorporated a strong research element as well as teaching while the faculty also established additional research departments and facilities. A bequest of £40,000 from Dr Frank Haley made possible the creation of a chair of Experimental Medicine. In a tripartite arrangement with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Royal Melbourne Hospital it was taken up by the director of the Institute, (Sir Frank) Macfarlane Burnet in 1944. In 1961 funds raised by Kenneth Myer and Ian Potter and a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation supplemented by Commonwealth and State funds allowed the building of laboratories in experimental physiology, opened in 1963.

Howard Florey Institute
Howard Florey Institute
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Media Photograph Collection, Photograph No 17418]

In 1971 this became the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology - a separate institute with close affiliation with the University. Support from the pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp and Dohme made possible the establishment of an Independent Pharmacological research unit led by a professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 1973.

R.D. (Pansy) Wright installed as Chancellor
Consultant to the Howard Florey Institute, and former professor of Physiology, R.D. (Pansy) Wright installed as Chancellor, 1980.
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-1805]

All this growth placed huge demands on the University’s requirements for capital works which was complicated by the Faculty’s determination to be relocated to the south west corner of the campus opposite the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The new biochemistry building (1958) was the first of a series of buildings erected between the Baillieu Library and Royal Parade. It was followed by the Howard Florey Institute building (1963), Microbiology (1965), the Brownless Medical Library (1967) and the tri-radiate building for pre-clinical teaching facing Grattan Street (1968).

Aerial view showing the Medical precinct building in stages of completion, 1960s
Aerial view showing the Royal Melbourne Hospital (right foreground), with Medical precinct building in stages of completion, including Biochemistry and the Florey Institute, and the early stages of the main building on Grattan Street, 1960s. [Source: University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue, UMA-I-1840]
The main Medical building from the Royal Parade and Grattan Street intersection, 1970
The main Medical building from the Royal Parade and Grattan Street intersection, 1970
[Source: University of Melbourne Archives, T.C. Chandler Collection]