Physical chemistry laboratory, polarimeters in use, c.1913

Academic Staff


Back in 1910 when the Old Chemistry building was first completed, the department had just two permanent academic staff - Professor Evans* and Samuel Page*, a demonstrator (at that time, if a department had a professor, other academic staff were called demonstrators; the title ‘lecturer’ was given to the head of a department without a professorial chair).

When Evans and Page both retired at the end of 1922, Henry George Denham* was appointed to the chair, and in 1923 he appointed John Packer to the position of lecturer. Packer was the first staff member who was not a Canterbury College graduate, having instead studied at the University of Melbourne, and he succeeded Denham as the head of the department in 1944. With the appointment of H N Parton* as a lecturer in 1930, Chemistry became the first department in the College to have three academic staff members.

*UC graduates


Staff and students in the main laboratory, c.1913


Later appointments include R J McIlroy in 1941, B D England and C J Wilkins* in 1945, M L McGlashan* in 1947, and J Vaughan, B R Penfold*, A J Beckwith, J M Austin* and M T Christensen* in 1949. Over the remaining years until 1966 when the department still occupied the Old Chemistry building, the new staff appointed in response to increasing student enrolments included W S Metcalf, A Fischer*, R D Topsom*, J E Fergusson*, M P Hartshorn, L F Phillips*, D N Kirk, G J Wright*, A Metcalfe, G A Rodley, D A R Happer*, G O Osborne, H K J Powell, K R Ryan, R F C Claridge, D A House and K E Richards.

By the end of 1966 when it moved to the Ilam campus, Chemistry was the largest department in the university.

In the years when there were only a few permanent staff members in the Chemistry Department, many senior students played significant roles in tutoring undergraduates and leading classes in the laboratories - a practice that continues to the present day. In 1947, F Downing, a glassblower from England, was the first technical staff member appointed to the department, and he was followed over the next nineteen years by a growing number of other support staff working in the areas of mechanical and electronic administration.

*UC graduates