HB Carter & The Merino

H.B.Carter- a personal memoir of the Australian Merino

Australian sheep & wool research 1932-1954

The Australian sheep and wool industry was started by the early pioneers, long before there were government or university scientists interested in what went on in the outback, or the realisation that science could help farmers make more money from wool both for themselves and the nation. H.B. Carter’s ‘memoir’ is a unique account of how, across continents and 3 decades of the 20th century, scientific research uncovered the mystery of how wool was grown on the incredible Merino sheep, and how the Merino's ‘golden fibre’ drove the economy of a nation for many decades. H.B. Carter had a pivotal role in this research, and his detailed report provides a valuable piece of Australian history.

For further reading on this subject see Clive Dalton's Woolshed1 Blog (http://woolshed1.blogspot.com) where there are several stories including:

http://woolshed1.blogspot.com/2011/01/merino-sheep-in-australia-research-of.html
http://woolshed1.blogspot.com/2010/05/merino-sheep-hb-carters-book-on-sheep.html

World centres of sheep and wool research

Soon after the end of World War I, from the early 1920s until the beginning of World War II, the main centres of British research in sheep breeding and wool production were : the Woollen and Worsted Industries Research Association [WIRA] at 'Torridon', Headingley, Leeds, and the Department of Textile Industries, University of Leeds, jointly under Professor A.F. Barker; the Animal Breeding Research Department, University of Edinburgh, under Professor F.A.E. Crew FRS; the Department of Zoology, University of Edinburgh, under Professor J.C. Ewart FRS; and the University College of North Wales, Bangor, under Professor R.G. White.

From various working associations between these institutions a number of the early papers emerged mainly concerned with the fleece characters of various British breeds, but with a sprinkling of studies on the Merino in an elementary way.

Names of researchers

The names of J.A. Fraser Roberts FRS, F. Fraser Darling FRS., Janet S.S. Blyth, H.J.W. Bliss and J.E. Nichols particularly belong to this period. These were later joined with the name of Professor J.E. Duerden, the Yorkshire-born Professor of Zoology, University College, Grahamstown, Union of South Africa. Duerden introduced more specific studies on the Merino in South Africa as the beginning of histological research on the skin of that breed and distinct from the European centres in that field of sheep research centred under W. Spottel and E. Tamer at the Institute of Animal Breeding and Dairying, University of Halle, and directed by Professor G. Frohlich in Germany.

USA Research

In the United States of America studies of sheep breeding, though none involving skin histology, were largely centred under the umbrella of the United States Department of Agriculture Washington D.C, mainly associated with the name of J.I. Hardy of the Animal Husbandry Division. An extension of this work developed by an association of the USDA with the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station, Wooster, Ohio. This was a comparison of the fleece characters of the American Merino and the Tasmanian Fine Merino. Further west at the Wyoming Experiment Station, Laramie, Wyoming, detailed studies of the fleece of the American Rambouillet were also developing under R.H. Burns.

Work at WIRA

Against this general background between 1928 and 1931, J.E. Nichols now at the Wool Industries Research Association [WIRA], Torridon, Headingley, Leeds, conducted an Empire Survey of sheep and wool production for the Empire marketing Research Board. Published in 1932 the references conveyed a reasonable picture of what had been done world-wide up to that date. It was at this point that I completed my degree course in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney.

A. E. & M. Co Ltd

In January 1933 I joined the staff of the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company Limited [later to become the Australian Estates Company], a London-based company with its Australian head office in William Street, Melbourne. Its Australian managing director, G.S. [later Sir George] Coleman was well placed for general discussions on the problems of the pastoral industries with the executives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

This body had been created in 1926 under the Science and Industry Act of 1925. Its head office
was at 314 Albert Street, East Melbourne, with Sir George Julius as Chairman, working mostly from his engineering office in Sydney except for the regular executive meetings in Melbourne.

Dr.(later Sir) David Rivett FRS, as chief executive officer managed the Council's general business from Albert Street, while Professor A.E.V. Richardson was the third executive officer operating from his place in the Chair of Agriculture and Director of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in the University of Adelaide.

Collecting data on Merino studs. HB Carter's photo.
Caption says 'Lunchtime at Chinaman's Yards.
Ewe classing,
Wanganella, March 1951'

J.A. Gilruth

At this time Dr. J.A. Gilruth [former Administrator of the Northern Territory] was the first Chief of the Division of Animal Health, itself one of the first five Divisions formed in CSIR and managed in its early years from 314 Albert Street, East Melbourne. His personal discussions with Mr. G.S. Coleman from time to time led to the suggestion that I should be considered, on graduation, for appointment as a research officer in the A.E. & M. Co. Ltd. on their N.S.W. properties supported by a working liaison with CSIR.

Bench space at McMaster

If necessary, bench space would be provided at the F.D. McMaster Laboratory, built during my student years in the grounds of the Veterinary School, University of Sydney. This was the first unit specially built for the Division of Animal Health in CSIR and was opened in October 1931.

My field headquarters were fixed at 'Tyrie', a 32,000 acre Merino sheep station near Dandaloo on the Bogan River. I took up residence there in March 1933 at a salary of A£200 and A£50 p.a. allowance for keep, a tin-roofed slab hut as 'laboratory' and not much else - certainly no independent transport.

Outback transport

Later that year I invested A£38 in a 1925 Chevrolet 4-cylinder tourer with a canvas top as a demonstration to the Company how such a facility could enable me to work effectively without the complications of calling on the other limited station transport. At that time the only other motor vehicle available was the heavily committed station manager's 4-cylinder Ford A 10-cwt. utility truck.

In January 1934 the Company agreed to provide me with a 1934 Chevrolet 10-cwt. coupe utility truck which I fitted with an extra 10-gallon petrol tank and a 10-gallon water tank. This provided me with long-distance independent transport for the remainder of my time with the Company until my resignation in March 1936. I then passed it over to Mr. J.F. Kennedy B.Sc.(Agr.) Melb., who had been appointed that year as research officer to the Queensland properties.

First detailed study of the sheep’s skin and fleece


An H.B. Carter photo of him set to fleece sample ewe hoggets. Caption
records it was at J. Taylor & Son's stud in Tasmania.
Note that as a scientist you didn't turn up at these studs in rags or dirty clothes.
A neck tie was expected!
Between March and September 1936 I studied without salary in the laboratory room at the F.D. McMaster Laboratory, which I had used on occasions during the previous three years. Here I took my first active steps in the organised microscopic study of the sheep's skin and fleece, which my field observations on the Company's extensive flocks and studs had convinced me were vitally necessary, if advances in Australian sheep production research were to be made.

At hand and by chance was a Doehner 'Lanameter' bought for the Veterinary School c. 1930 by Professor J.D.Stewart, unloved and unused until I took it over. This had been described by H. Doehner (1926) in Zuchtungskunde, 1 : 282-295, and in (1929) Bull. Nat. Assn, Wool Mfrs . It was large and clumsy but enabled a projected image to be studied and measured at a magnification of x 500.

With this I could face the problems of sampling and measuring the fibre diameter and its variation in the raw fleece, and in studying and quantifying in various ways the formal histology of the Merino skin. For this I made use of the facilities in the histopathological unit of Dr. H.R. Carne, lecturer in Pathology and Bacteriology and then established on the ground floor of the McMaster Laboratory.

Resignation from the Company

My resignation from the Company and this period of non-salaried existence occurred in the gamble that my application for the Walter and Eliza Hall Fellowship in Veterinary Science, tenable at the University of Sydney and falling vacant in September 1936 would succeed. This it did and in that month I took secure possession of laboratory space in the McMaster Laboratory after three years of intermittent tenancy.

The Fellowship grant was A£500 p,a., of which A£300 was salary and A£200 for working expenses. My research remit as I submitted it to the Faculty was, broadly, the biological study of the skin and fleece of the sheep with special reference to the Merino. As such it was I think, fair to say, one of the first organised studies in animal production in Australia of the healthy animal, as distinct from the abnormal or diseased subject.

Pioneering nutritional studies

It is important to note here that from about 1930, Hedley R. Marston [later FRS], Edward W. Lines B.Sc., and Allan W. Pierce B.Sc. at the CSIR Animal Nutrition Laboratory, originally under the direction of Professor J. Brailsford Robertson, were publishing papers in the Journal of the CSIR on studies of the basal metabolism if the South Australian Strong Merino, and the effect of various dietary supplements on the growth of wool in laboratory and field experiments.

These were pioneer studies, albeit from the nutritional viewpoint mainly with one type of Australian Merino, namely the Strong Wool stock from the Hawker group of studs, mainly Bungaree and Anama.

The tattooed mid-side patch

An important feature of these experiments was the use made by Hedley Marston of the mid-side tattooed patch for assessing the rate of wool growth during the observation periods on individual sheep in the metabolism cages and the prototype calorimeter. At this time also K. S. Fraser B.Sc. Agr. at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute studied the monthly rate of staple length growth under natural grazing conditions for 15 months at Urrbrae, Adelaide.

Canary stain

About 1933 Dr. J.E. Nichols, having delivered his report on the sheep industries of the Empire, left the Wool Industries Research Association [WIRA] at Leeds to become Professor of Agriculture in the University of Western Australia at Nedlands near Perth. From this centre he initiated experiments with A.W.Stewart, B.Sc.Agr. in the study of wool growth, notably the problem of 'canary stain. Also with W.R. Lang, B.Sc., another graduate of the University, he organised facilities for the microscopic measurement of wool, based on the methods already developed at WIRA in Leeds.

This was largely in response to pressure from E.H.B.(later Sir Edward) Lefroy, stud Merino breeder of 'Colvin' Round Hill, via Moora and large flock properties in the north-west of the state. In his search as a stud Merino breeder for a type of sheep whose fleece would resist the dry heat and dust penetration of those sub-tropical conditions north of Geraldton, Lefroy had become aware of his own ability as an expert classer to identify the fleece type of his most successful sires in this respect.

Fibre uniformity

Under the microscope the essential feature of the successful fleece types was the uniformity of fibre thickness within the staple expressed by a low coefficient of variability in samples of not less than 250 fibres measured at a magnification of x 500. The same approach for the same purpose was developed by Euston Young, general manager of the Australian Pastoral Company in Queensland seeking a Merino fleece adapted to the subtropical conditions of the central and north west of that state.

Both men made effective use of the appropriate laboratory services of W.S. Lang B.Sc., when he moved from the University of Western Australia to the Gordon Technical College at Geelong, as the first graduate scientist to be concerned with the teaching of wool classing in Australia. By comparison C.R. Cowley was still head of the major Sheep and Wool School at East Sydney Technical College in succession to its founder, Alfred Hawkesworth, the author of the text-book, Australasian Sheep and Wool.

Fundamental research - more needed

I had resigned from the A.E.& M. Co. Ltd. because I had come to the conclusion after thee years among the sheep studs and flocks of New South Wales and elsewhere, that a more coherent base of fundamental research was needed if improvement in the quality and quantity of Australian wool production was to be gained.

From a review of the earlier accessible scientific literature it seemed logical to begin with a study of the common integument as that part of the living animal about which so much was not known, either as to its pre- or its post-natal phases of development and maturation, as a prelude to later physiological and genetic research.

Having gained a preliminary insight into the histological problems involved, it seemed that South Africa and especially the Veterinary Research Laboratory at Onderstepoort near Pretoria in the Transvaal, was the most suitable place for fruitful work to begin. As the seat of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Pretoria, with its extensive facilities and wide-ranging background in the zoology of African mammals, it was well placed for comparative studies of the mammalian skin and its pelage.

South African research

This had been recognized in the recent establishment within the campus precincts of the Wool Research laboratory under the direction of Dr. Victor Bosman. This unit was the culmination of Professor J.E.Duerden's pioneer studies of the skin and fleece of the sheep, especially of the South African Merino in the Department of Zoology, University College, Grahamstown.

It was the only other centre in the British Commonwealth (‘British Empire’ at that time) devoted to such studies apart from at Leeds in the U.K. When Duerden returned to England to continue this research in working retirement in a small back building at WIRA, Bosman who had been Duerden's research associate at Grahamstom, was appointed by the Union Government to consolidate and extend the same at Onderstepoort. As such it was an obvious place at which to pursue my own maturing interests.

Study at Onderstepoort

Having convinced the Faculty and the University Senate that at least a period of six months study at Onderstepoort would be useful, I left Sydney early in March 1937 on the Holt Line S.S. Ascanius and a month later landed at Durban. On the way, with several days in port at Adelaide, I was able to talk over research problems with Hedley Marston at his Animal Nutrition Laboratory, during which we found we had much in common in our thoughts about the way ahead for Australian research on the sheep and its fleece.

He was on the point of leaving for a sabbatical year in Cambridge UK at the William Dunn Biochemical Laboratory in Tennis Court Lane under the direction of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins FRS, and the current PRS. As it happened later our ships left Freemantle together on slightly divergent courses across the Indian Ocean. Thus for several days Marston and I exchanged felicities by radio between his Swedish cargo ship S.S. Mirrmbooka, and my Holt Line passenger and cargo vessel, S.S. Ascaniuas.

Three research objectives

At Onderstepoort in the short time at my disposal I was able to do only three things:

(1) to study and photograph a wide range in the patterns of skin folds and wrinkles unusually well expressed in the Merino flock kept as experimental stock at the Laboratory;

(2) to conduct a detailed study of the sampling problems in the micromeasurement of fibre thickness of the Merino fleece staple, using a specimen I had collected the previous year at Merryville stud flock this purpose [see Malan, A, P., Carter H. B., and Van Wyck, C. M. (1938) Onderstepoort J Vet. Sci. 10 (2): 445-466. and

(3) to negotiate the transfer to me of a large series of dated South Africa Merino sheep foetuses, an important by-product of the studies in reproductive physiology by H.H. Curson and J.B. Quinlan, Professor of Veterinary Anatomy.

The latter kindly agreed to my taking them for further study of the prenatal development of the Merino fleece. The original study by Curson and Quinlan had been reported in the Onderstepoort J. Vet. Sci., 2: (2), 657-663, 1934.

From South Africa to United Kingdom

With the active support of Dr. P.S. Du Toit, Director of the Onderstepoort Laboratory, I was able to convince the Senate at the University of Sydney that I should go on to the United Kingdom and begin these foetal studies at WIRA in Leeds where Professor J.E. Duerden was then working in his retirement. Here also Dr. A.B. Wildman had begun the study of the foetal skin of the British breeds of sheep. With this in view the Merino foetuses, formalin-fixed, were sealed in a zinc tank and sent on ahead to await my arrival at WIRA in Leeds.

On 22 September 1937 I sailed from Cape Town on board the Deutsche Ost-Africa Line S.S. Pretoria and early in October arrived at Southampton. On board also was Dr. C.R. Rimington later FRS and Professor of Chemical Pathology at University College, London. For six years he had been an Empire Marketing Board Research Fellow in Plant Toxicology at Ondestepoort, and we had become good friends during his last months there. In London I was met at Waterloo main line station by Dr. Ian Clunies Ross, then in his first year as Chairman of the International Wool Secretariat, lodged at that time in several ground floor rooms in Bush House, off Aldwych.

That same day in these rooms I again met Hedley Marston who had come up from Cambridge. He was horrified to learn that I had traveled on the same ship with Claude Rimington and was on friendly terms with him. Rimington had been a research fellow at WIRA before his South African venture and had engaged for several years in a brisk debate with Marston in the columns of Nature on the role of cystine in the synthesis of wool keratin.

Time at Leeds

With digs, at 1 Ash Grove, Hyde Park, Leeds, close to 'Torridon', I settled in the same upper floor room of the outbuilding overlooking Headingley Lane, formerly used by Professor J.E. Duerden who had died shortly before my arrival from the effects of a fall in one of the Leeds trams; a great loss from my point of view. Incidentally, the same laboratory was several years later occupied by the joint Nobel Prize winners, A.J.P. Martin and R.L.M. Synge, daring their work on what is now known as partition chromatography.

Another disruption in my plans was the long delay in the arrival of my South African Merino foetuses which could not be traced.. They were eventually found with a partially obscured address at the rear of one of the L.M.S. railway goods sheds at Leeds, but far too late for me to begin their study in the laboratory. They were immediately re-addressed to me at the McMaster Laboratory, Sydney, where they fulfilled their posthumous destiny as source material for the definition of the Merino hair follicle group in its prenatal development, first by me and later with Margaret W. Hardy.

Study of follicle patterns

The only constructive work I was able to do was a study of the patterns of follicle arrangement on a series of tanned sheep skin skivers bought from a tannery at Meanwood, Leeds, and which showed clearly the essential follicle population density gradients over the body surface. This helped toward fixing a scheme of skin and fleece sampling and establishing the mid-side position as the single preferred site for most experimental purposes.

My immediate scientific host and colleague at WIRA was Dr. A.B. Wildman, a graduate in zoology under Professor Garstang at the University of Leeds and the last person to work in direct association with Professor Duerden. During our relatively few weeks together, Wildman and I were able to frame a general concept of the hair follicle group to all sheep of the genus Ovis combining our own observational data with that from the material left by Duerden.

Visit to Bangor

Then during November, in the second-hand Standard 7 Tourer I had bought in London, I drove with Wildman to Bangor in North Wales where we spent a week with Professor R.G. White of the University College there, observing and discussing his sheep breeding experiment there. After World War II White became the founding Director of the Animal Breeding an Genetics Research Organisation (ABRO) in Edinburgh in 1946.

Visit to Institute of Animal Genetics

My third and final visit to a research institution concerned with animal breeding at that time was for a few days in early December spent at the Institute of Animal Genetics in its new building within the University campus in West Mains Road under its founding Director, Professor F.A.E. Crew FRS.

When Crew retired after the War to head the Institute of Medical Genetics in Warrender Park, Edinburgh, the building he established in West Mains Road became R.G. White's Animal Breeding Research Organisation headquarters from which several experimental farms in England, Scotland and Wales were administered.

My last week in the U.K. was spent in London seeing much of the International Wool Secretariat at work - Dr. Ian Clunies Ross for Australia as chairman; George Arthur for New Zealand; and Foster Du Plessis for the Union of South Africa. During this time I stayed with the Clunies Ross family at The Mere, Merstham near Croyden, Surrey, and from there left for Southampton on 25 February to sail for the United States.

Hitler and Mussolini

This was at the end of a crisis week in Great Britain, when Anthony Eden resigned as Foreign Secretary in the Neville Chamberlain Government in protest against its appeasement policies toward the dictators, Hitler and Mussolini. On the occasion of Sunday 20 February, I stood with the crowd in Downing Street as it waited for Anthony Eden to emerge from No. 10.

Gracie Fields

A few days later on the following Friday I was on board the Cunard liner S.S.Berengaria (55,000 tons) as she left Southampton to the sound of Gracie Fields singing loud and clear from the dockside, farewell songs to her parents who were among the passengers. Also on board, incognito or almost, was Alexander Kerenski the last President of the Duma in Russia before the Bolsheviks under Lenin took power in October 1917.

After a stormy passage into heavy gales and snow storms adding an extra day to the normal run, on 3 March I exchanged a few early morning remarks with him about 6 a.m. as we stood on deck coming up the Hudson river past the Statue of Liberty - the only passengers above deck at the time. Who he was I only discovered after we had docked, and he became the centre of a horde of New York newsmen.

Holarith card-sorting machine

After a day in New York with time only to visit the vast array of Holorith card-sorting machines in the Metropolitan Life Insurance building, and to meet briefly there A. Lotka, one of the pioneer biostatisticians on its research staff, I left by Greyhound bus for Washington D.C. and the beginning of my trans-continental winter journey by that means.

I spent one week in Washington, staying at Lee House, looked after largely by J.I. Hardy of the Bureau of Animal Industry in the U.S.D.A., a bitterly cold week of icy roads and hazardous driving in Hardy's car. Here I made acquaintance with the two forms of Hardy's fibre cross-section device, the Bausch and Lomb microprojectors, and most important for future sheep research in Australia, the Oster fine animal hair clippers.

I also met Robert H. Burns in the U.S. Department of Commerce at work developing objective wool appraisal methods for customs purposes. I was able also to attend several sessions at a meeting of the American Society for Testing Materials with Hardy who was a member of this influential body.

Wyoming bound

Leaving Washington by Greyhound bus for Wyoming I was in Pittsburgh on March 11 when Hitler entered Austria and established the so-called 'Anschluss' - an event displayed in the largest newspaper banner headlines I had then seen or, indeed, ever since. In Wyoming I stayed in Laramie to see something of the work at the Experiment Station under the wing of Alex. Johnston who was deputising as director during the secondment of Robert Burns in Washington.

Here I had an opportunity to see something of the common flocks of American Rambouillets in winter on a snowbound range and to weigh two rams of the breed - one at 300 and the other at 320 pounds, with their fine relatively short waxy fleeces brick hard under the hand at temperatures below zero Fahrenheit.

Australia bound

After crossing the United States on roads almost entirely under snow I sailed from San Francisco on 30 March on board the Matsen Line S.S. Mariposa, via Honolulu, Pago Pago in American Samoa, Suva and Auckland, to reach Sydney in the last week of April 1938 - a little more than one year away on my A£300 p.a. Fellowship and A£200 expenses, for travel in which the University of Sydney was good enough to fund the difference in exchange between Australian currency and the South African and British, both of which then stood at 25 per cent.

My total travel cost for the main sea, rail and bus fares in this circumnavigation through South Africa, the UK and the USA was £81. 7.10 sterling. Of this total the sea travel across three oceans cost £144 stg., the Greyhound bus ticket across USA just over £8 stg. and the rest for rail travel and accommodation. At the end there was all too little left to finance the ensuing year of the Fellowship for working expenses in Australian currency.

Back at McMaster

At the McMaster Laboratory I settled at first in the ground floor laboratory next to the dark-room in the south-west corner and recently vacated by W.L. B. Beveridge at the end of his footrot research. He had moved to the Walter and Eliza Research Institute in Melbourne to begin his virus work under the influence of its Director, and (later Sir) Macfarlane Burnet OM, FRS. Here my last year as a Walter and Eliza Hall Research Fellow was worked out in the histological study of the skin of the dated series of South African Merino foetuses which had been made available to me by Professor J.B. Quinlan at Onderstepoort.

In this work I had the excellent assistance of Dr. H.R.Carne's histological technician Mr. Len Whitlock and of his senior technician, Mr. Edward Parrish for the photomicrography. At the same time I took the first steps toward a biopsy routine in the collection of fresh skin specimens from a standard mid-side site in sheep flock samples of adequate statistical size and their evaluation under the microscope from histological preparations. This' snippet' method as it came to be called was essentially that used by Spottel and Tanzer (1923), based on the early work of W. von Nathusius (1866).

Here, in the light of the prenatal skin studies of A.B. Wildman with British breeds and myself on the Merino, the use of the terms 'primary' and 'secondary' as exact equivalents for the terms 'leithaar' and 'gnuppenhaar' of Spottel and Tanzer was established in the English scientific literature. This was recorded in a letter to Nature by Wildman and Carter (1939), vol.144: 783-784, and in my paper in August (1939) in the Journal of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research 12 (3) : 250-258.

Early studies of breeding stud merinos

It should perhaps be noted here that the only published evidence of my time with the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company lies in the Australian Veterinary Journal vols.12 and 13, 1936 and 1937, in four papers on work done in association with Dr. W. G. Belschner during his time as District Veterinary Officer at Orange, NSW.

This was an early example of a study directly relevant to the selection and breeding of stud Merino sheep, in this case of those later classified as the Peppin Medium type. It was a comparison of the differences in fleece production between so-called A-type (plain) and C-type (wrinkled) as classified on the degree of breech wrinkliness and the presumed susceptibility to blowfly strike in that region of the body.

They were further subdivided into sub-classes defined as 'long' and 'dense' by Mr. H. Frank Pennefather, stud sheep classes for the Company to whom the study was important for its bearing on his work in that capacity.

The two studs where the research was done were: (1) Oolembeyan, Carrathool near Hay in the western Riverina NSW, and (2) Buckinguy beyond Warren, on the lower Macquarie River NSW. In all some 420 young ewes, lambed in 1933 were involved, selected at the annual classing. The observations were made at two consecutive shearings at each stud, viz: 1935 and 1936.

This work arose out of the general engagement of H. G. Belschner with the problem of the sheep blowfly under the Joint Blowfly Committee, and the natural concern of the A.E. & M, Company and H. Frank Pennefather with its bearing on the direction of the Company's stud breeding policy. This was in the years before the Mules operation had become established as a common practice among Australian Merino flocks.

'Mistress of the Marchant' – Helen Turner

For the presentation of these results we had the advice and help of Miss Helen Turner then in her early years as a biometrician at the McMaster Laboratory and mistress of the only electric machine calculator (a Marchant, I think) to be seen there for some years to come. As such she was joint author with us in the third paper of this series which was, I think, her first appearance in the scientific literature as a working biometrician.

She had earlier spent a thee week holiday on Tyrie station in 1935 seeing something of large flock conditions (some 25,000 Medium Merinos) during my time there as a working base. Later she published a paper in the Australian Veterinary Journal in two parts 'Statistics for the Veterinarian'.

Shortly after in 1938 she was given leave to visit England for a sabbatical year, first with F. Yates at the Rothamstead Agricultural Research Institute, and later with R.A. Fisher at the Galton Laboratory, University of London. Within this period the second World War began and she eventually made a slow and circuitous return to Australia in 1940 by way of the United States and Canada.

Comparing improved versus unimproved pastures

It is to be noted also that during my last year with the Company in 1935 I was able to assist Dr. Ian Clunies Ross, then officer-in-charge of the McMaster Laboratory, by driving him to visit Mr. W.T.(later Sir) Walter Merriman of Merryville, Yass, where we discussed the setting up of a grazing trial to compare the effect of improved versus unimproved pastures on the fleeces of superior Merryville wethers, a question then of much debate among fine wool breeders in Australia.

Fleece density calipers


H.B. Carter using fleece density calipers. Note his truck in the background

In October 1935 with the generous cooperation of Mr. Merriman, the trial was begun on his property. N.P.H. Graham, B.V.Sc and I selected the sheep and did the necessary field work and managed the two shearings in the year over which the trial was run. For this experiment I took the opportunity to study for the first time the problems of fleece sampling in taking specimens for laboratory measurements of various kinds. In this case I used the so-called 'fleece density calipers' on the mid-side site, a clumsy and unsatisfactory instrument intended to define a 1 sq. cm. unit area which I never used again.

The fleece specimens were taken from the special sub-groups which Graham and I had selected at random for this purpose, essentially for the microscopic measurement of fibre diameter, one of the first field experiments in which this was done. At this time Norman Graham was field officer for the Australian Pastoral Research Trust, and in that role had been associated with Clunies Ross for several years previously in managing the grazing trials and related parasitological studies at Gundowringa near Crookwell, NSW, with the Corriedales of Mr.C.E, Prell.

Merryvale finewool trial

In the finewool trial at Merryville, the fibre diameter measurements were done by W. H. Munz , using the same Cambridge Wool Fibre Comparator he had formerly used as a technician in the Animal Nutrition Laboratory. This was in the course of the calorimetric studies with South Australian Strong Merinos under H.R.Marston at Adelaide. Marston had eventually found him to be a most unreliable observer and was glad to let him transfer to the McMaster Laboratory, though he did not tell Clunies Ross this at the time.

It was not long before I too found Munz as an operator to be as Marston had found him. However, good or bad, these were the fibre measurements on which Helen Turner based her statistical reports for the Merryville trial which was published as CSIR Pamphlet No.71 while I was away in South Africa. It was written by Clunies Ross and I had no opportunity to see the text before publication.

At this time Clunies Ross left the McMaster Laboratory to become the first chairman of the International Wool Secretariat. His place as officer-in-charge at the McMaster Laboratory was taken by Mr. D.A. Gill, MRCVS, bacteriologist from New Zealand, who we knew well from the occasion when he took the place of Dr. H.R. Carne as lecturer in the Veterinary Schoo1 during Carne's sabbatical year abroad at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, in 1934.

Fellowship ends

My Walter and Eliza Hall Fellowship ended on 30 April 1939, and on 1 May 1939 I was appointed as Research Officer (wool biologist) in CSIR on a salary of A£500 p.a. from funds made available by the Australian Wool Board. In this development there was some pressure from H.R. Marston for my location at the Animal Nutrition Laboratory in Adelaide of which he was now officer-in-charge. This was after the premature death of Professor J.B. Brailsford Robertson in 1929 and the interim direction of Sir Charles Martin FRS after retirement from the Lister Institute, London.

Dr. Lionel B. Bull was now Chief of the Division of Animal and Nutrition after the retirement of Dr. J.A. Gilruth in 1934. I had first met Dr. Bull that year at Tyrie station during his first orientating tour of the Australian pastoral country new to him.

Attached to animal nutrition

On my appointment to CSIR he briefly succumbed to Marston's pressures and attached me to the Animal Nutrition Laboratory. However with support from D.A. Gill and others, I was able to make the case for my Divisional working base to be at the McMaster Laboratory where I was well placed to develop the histological and allied studies of the sheep's skin, apart from other considerations such as convenient access to the main Australian Merino studs for experimental and survey purposes.

Moved upstairs

With this established I then moved upstairs to the laboratory immediately above my first room, later occupied by C.R. Austin in the first stages of his studies on the physiology of fertilisation, and later the first Darwin Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Cambridge. The old mouse room next door to mine upstairs I also took over as working space for my first histological assistant. This man I found in the 19-year old Walter H.Clarke, son of the chief laboratory technician at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

Clarke was with me for barely a year before he was caught up in the war and left for England in S.S. Queen Mary early in 1940 as technician in 3rd Australian General Hospital based in Surrey near Godalming. Then in September 1941 he was transferred to 5th A.G.H. to serve in the campaign against the Italians in Eritrea and Abyssinia.

Austin's reposting

In 1942 he returned to Australia as sergeant in 5th A.G.H. posted to New Guinea for service against the Japanese. From this he was invalided out unfit with a severe middle ear infection. He returned to me at the McMaster and service with CSIR until his own retirement 35 years later. In his absence I had to train two other assistants, Mr R.T. Rushworth and later Miss Ruth Shaw.

However, although I won the argument about my working base, Hedley Marston and I were able to evolve an experimental plan, which, in spite of the war clouds now so apparent in the Pacific, we were able to set in motion. This was a simple design to compare two contrasting Merino genotypes under two contrasting planes of nutrition during growth from birth to maturity.

Under the prevailing national uncertainty, this seemed the most feasible of the various ideas we had discussed at various times in Australia and at Cambridge in 1937, and again since our return At least the plan would serve as a start in developing methods for more general experimental use when appropriate facilities were available after the war was won - which, with some optimism we always took for granted.

The Adelaide experiment

This 'Adelaide' experiment, as it was known for short, was in the first intention to consist of twin ewe lambs of two contrasting strains - Fine v. Strong - derived from acknowledged studs and all born within as narrow a range of dates as possible. This certainly strained the possibilities of securing twins at that time, especially among the Fine wools. In the end sufficient twins were only found for selection among the Strong wool group in John Hawker's Anama stud near Clare, South Australia.

The Fine Merino group of single lambs I selected from Max Wright's Bickham stud near Blandford, NSW. In all these were some 40 lambs c. 10 days old weaned from their dams and transported by rail to the McMaster Laboratory where they were introduced to bottle feeding.

These I took by sea to Adelaide on board the S.S. Duntroon on C deck for’ard hold, with enough 10-gallon cans of milk and a feeding regime that kept me in active motion between my own 1st class accommodation, with meals at the captain's table and the nursery scene below. The voyage of some five days with one day in Melbourne, observed the rigours of a blacked-out ship at sea in wartime and on the whole was a mystery to most on board.

Animal Nutrition Laboratory's involvement

At Adelaide I handed the lambs over to A.W. Pierce B.Sc. at the Animal Nutrition Laboratory's outdoor single pen unit in the grounds of the Waite Institute at Urrbrae. Pierce and I together managed the working regime from then on. However as the scientist in residence at Urrbrae, Pierce supervised the day-to-day operations of feeding and watering and general care by the assistants.

From the lambs available under these limited selection procedures we were able in the end to establish the groups thus: Fine High = 14; Fine Low = 45; Strong High = 12; Strong Low = 12; Total = 53 in all; rugged and fed in individual brick-floored pens with covered food and water troughs at one end.

Brick paving

The brick paving of this unit is now part of the paving of the car park of the CSIRO Division of Horticulture when I saw it last in 1979. With the lambs all about 6 weeks of age at the beginning of the experimental regime, in the first week of January 1940 all survived in good condition, High or Low plane, to its end three years later in December 1943.

During this time I made 12 visits to Adelaide for periods varying from l0 days to a month at the intervals necessary for the samplings and measurements, operations that took longer at first until they became a matter of routine. Each visit was a 2-day journey by train with some twelve hours in Melbourne during the day each way from Sydney.

These occasions enabled me to spend some time in discussions with my Chief, Dr. Lionel Bull at his Parkville laboratory in in the grounds of the old Melbourne Veterinary School with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, where Beveridge now was just over the boundary wall. During my first few visits to Adelaide I lived in the Botanic Hotel on North Terrace opposite the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, but later in bed and breakfast accommodation in Brougham Place.

Oster small animal clipper


HB Carter's photo of his Oster Clippers ready for field day work
In this experiment I established in Australia for the first time, the regular use of the Oster Small Animal Clipper with its finest cutting head (0000), as the standard instrument for fleece sampling in both field and laboratory experiments. This was especially so when unit areas of skin were defined either by the 10-cm.'fleece calipers' or by the 100-cm. tattooed square.

In this study too for the first time also, I applied the use of the skin biopsy (at this stage still by the relative crude 'snippet' method of von Nathusius) for the histological assessment of the skin structural differences in the two Merino groups and the two nutritional treatments during growth.

Complex of post-war developments

There is no published account of this work beyond the periodical reports, partly due to the overriding effect of the war after 1943, partly due to the administrative separation of Hedley Marston, Allan Pierce, and myself, and each of us in various ways caught up in a complex of post-war CSIR (CSIRO) developments.

The prime data still exists, and in the card and specimen records kept in my cabinets at Prospect, NSW, has served well as a guide in planning field and pen experiments at that Laboratory, enlightening visitors, and in at least two cases, providing earnest seekers after truth, with barely acknowledged fleece specimens for further bench inquiry.

Mobile generator


H.B. Carter's photo of his mobile generator.
Note the rope handles for carrying it.
In my use the Oster Clipper was interchangeable between 24Ov. AC mains electricity at the principal laboratory and a field 240v. AC generator, conveniently carried in a utility truck anywhere in Australia where work among the flocks and studs in sheds, yards, or open paddocks.

This usage was notably important in developing field methods for experimental breeding and grazing studies where bench observations in the main laboratory were involved. It added accuracy to the measurement as well as convenience to the method of collection.

Between the date of my appointment in May 1939 as a Divisional research officer in wool biology in the Division of Animal Health and Nutrition, and the beginning of the Adelaide experiment in January 1940, there was a period of great uncertainty for us all about the future of such work.

The prospect of the coming war was becoming very clear. When Germany invaded Poland and Great Britain a few days later declared war on 3 September 1939, I was away on an extended field trip with Norman Graham B.V.Sc. and Ian L. Johnstone B.V.Sc. We had included the CSIR Field Stations Chiswick at Armidale and Gilruth Plains at Cunnamulla in our itinery.

Mulesing taken seriously

We had spent long discussions over several days with Mr. Euston Young, general manager of the Australian Pastoral Company at Noondoo, his headquarters in Queensland near Dirranbandi. Young was to become a potent figure in the evolution of the pattern of CSIR studies in sheep breeding and related pastoral problems. In fact he had already stimulated the Council to take the Mules operation seriously and it was in this connection that I had first met him in 1934. I was then on the A.E.& M. Co's station west of the Darling on Piangobla having been appointed to the Company in 1933.

Probably with this example before him, Young had requested CSIR to second W.I.B. Beveridge to survey the pastoral and livestock problems of the Company, especially of the large group of holdings known as the Noondoo group stretching some 90 miles along the NSW/ Queensland border. Hence at Young's invitation, my few days at Yeranbah with him and Ian Beveridge exchanging observations and ideas.

Now,some five years later, in 1939, Norman Graham and Ian Johnstone were actively engaged in field work on the application of the Mules operation, and I was established as a research wool biologist in matters of sheep breeding for improvement in fleece growth and wool production - all of us officers of CSIR.

Statistical presentation of fibre diameter

During the next year my relations with Young developed greatly, as he became one of the earliest and most frequent of the visitors to my laboratory as we discussed the implications of his increasing use of W.R.Lang's facilities for fibre diameter measurement and their statistical presentation. Together we considered the possibilities of evaluating important fleece characters in the laboratory as a means of adding insight to what the sheep classer and stud breeder in their various ways, judged what was passing under their hands as they selected or rejected breeding stock.

Young pressed hard on Dr. Lionel Bull, both before and after my appointment, for sheep studies to be done on the Company's sheep stations. He offered extensive resources if someone such as I could be spared to develop such work. The matter had received a stimulus during 1940 in the paper presented by Dr. P.R. McMahon to the Ninth Annual Meeting of Sheepfarmers in New Zealand, describing his work on the progeny testing of Romneys. Euston Young was keen to set about a similar scheme with his Merino stud at Noondoo.

Plan for South West Queensland

As result Dr. Bull conceded his case, and with some statistical advice from Miss Helen Turner, I prepared a plan which seemed feasible to Young for application under the operational conditions of south-west Queensland at that time. The first individual matings began in March/April 1941 under the management of the station staff, and Euston Young's close supervision in person from day to day.

All the field work associated with the subsequent sheep classing, fleece sampling and shearing of the progeny groups themselves was centred at ‘The Shed’ about 20 miles along the Dareel road from the Noondoo homestead.

For this purpose Euston Young and I beside the classing race outside with Ian Johnstone inside the shearing shed, worked as a team with 2 shearers and up to 6 other station staff about the shed and yards at different times over subsequent years. As each sheep passed through the race it was described and classed by Young and duly recorded in the stud books.

It was then held in a fairly standard position by means of a special tipping side to the race devised by me for my clipping of the mid-side fleece samples later to be evaluated at the McMaster Laboratory by my growing team of assistants.

Culling with the microscope

In this way beside the classing race, Euston Young and I were able to discuss each sheep in reasonable detail. Fairly soon I took a microscope as an additional aid with a Hardy rapid fibre microtome to show Young that with many of his top stud fleeces, rams and ewes, lay too many undesirable degrees of fibre variability.

Some were sufficiently clear in cross-section under the microscope as to justify immediate culling. For others, samples were duly sent for measurement by W.R. Lang's facilities at Geelong Technical College, in any case.

Mr Young was now following the example of Sir Edward Lefroy in seeking the same uniform staple type in his stud, which his own experience was confirming as highly resistant to the hot sub-tropical Queensland conditions where the Company's flocks were placed. My own more general field observations were growing in support of the same criteria as essential to high quality Merino wool production.

First progeny tests

The first progeny testing samples from Noondoo came to me in early 1942. By this time I had extended my occupation of the McMaster to several more top floor rooms, including a dark room for measuring fibre diameter with a Bausch and Lomb microprojector at last acquired.

The main emphasis, however, was on the scouring of the approximate 100g. midside samples, clipped by me, for an estimate of clean-scoured yield and hence of clean fleece weight, and also of staple length. This was as far as our limited working conditions at the time would allow.

The data from the matings, the shearing and the laboratory analyses were then analysed statistically by Miss Helen Turner with the few machine calculators then available. Over the years 1941/45 at Noondoo, a total of 1537 progeny of 79 stud rams were evaluated by these progeny tests, slightly less than 20 per ram.

Solid base achieved

The experience gained from this work in the field and the laboratory with the associated statistical procedures was used as a solid base, on which to build the later selective breeding experiments and so-called 'strain' trials at Gilruth Plains, Amidale and Deniliquin after the war.

The report on this work with Euston Young was presented to Dr. Bull under cover of my letter of 21 May 1946 entitled : The Progeny Testing of Merino Rams and Variation in Unclassed Flocks: Report on Investigations at Noondoo, Queensland, 1941-45. H.B. Carter, Helen Newton, and I. L. Johnstone (1946).

It was a difficult operation to pursue under the conditions of the fierce 1943/45 drought and the uncertainties of the war, especially after the entry of the Japanese in December 1941, when so much of Queensland itself, for example, was a zone of war operations. Moreover, for myself, this Noondoo work had to be fitted in somehow with the management of the Adelaide experiment apartment from a variety of my other research engagements at the McMaster.

Duty on Sydney Harbour

Although my activities were classed as a 'reserved occupation' under the man-power regulations, during the whole of 1942 and 1943 as one of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol I spent many nights on duty on Sydney Harbour as someone attested for volunta Psorergatesom duty which usually ran from 6 pm to 6am several nights a week during the most threatening periods in 1943.

In December 1940 another diversion began with the investigation I was asked to make of an abnormal fleece condition which had been a growing source of trouble, particularly among the finewool studs of the Southern Tablelands. This engaged me for the greater part of 1941 with field work in that region among affected flocks on a confidential low key basis and closer study at the McMaster of selected cases. In the end I identified a skin parasite not before found on the sheep genus and certainly new to the galaxy otherwise known in Australia.

Saturday afternoon squirmings

Working from histopathological signs in skin biopsy specimens I confirmed this late one Saturday afternoon by the first observed squirmings of what is now known as the sheep itch mite Psorergates ovis Womersley 1941. I described the adult and the intermediate stages and tentatively diagnosed the genus. This was confirmed by H. Womersley, entomologist at the South Australian Museum, Adelaide, who hallowed it as a new species in his formal paper in the Records of the South Australian Museum, 7 (1): 56, 1941.

My own paper appeared as 'A Skin Disease of Sheep due to an Ectoparasitic Mite Psorergates ovis Womersley 1941., Carter, H.B. (1941). The Australian Veterinary Journal, 17 : December, 193-201.

Delayed by the war

This elucidation of an old mystery did not help the war effort. I had a struggle with Max Henry, Chief Veterinary Officer of the NSW Department of Agriculture, to delay its appearance on the schedule of notifiable diseases until we in CSIR, and also his own research department, had been able to assess its incidence more fully. The whole subject was taken up again some 15 years or so later long after the war by M.D. Murray at the McMaster Laboratory who polished up the details of the life cycle, while N.P.H.Graham about the same time developed a modern rationale for its treatment and control.

Joined by Margaret Hardy

In 1942, following a laboratory talk and demonstration to visiting members of Council of CSIR, among whom was Professor E.J. Goddard, Department of Zoology, University of Queensland, it was suggested that I should be joined later that year by one of his students, Miss Margaret H. Hardy, B.Sc. during her tern as Walter and Eliza Hall Fellow in Economic Biology.

Goddard had deduced from the drift of my talk that she would be a profitable and interested colleague in comparative studies of the mammalian skin along the path I had sketched out to the Council. With an extra desk and another microscope cupboard in my room we launched together on a further study of the histological topography of the developing Merino skin, with my South African expatriates again as the focus of attention.

By this time, of course, my first assistant, W.H. Clarke was away on Army service abroad. My histological unit was operated at this time by Miss Ruth Shaw, and helped from time to time by Mr. Len Whitlock of Dr. H.R. Carne's pathology unit downstairs. It is worth noting here that our microtome was an early Spencer Rotary model which I had managed to acquire on long loan from the Cancer Research Fund people at the Medical School.

The instrument has remained under the hand of Walter Clarke after his return from the Army for all his working life as a histological technician. I last saw it still in use in his laboratory at the CSIRO Animal Physiology building at Prospect Hill on my last visit in 1979.

Wool biology research group formed

With the arrival of Margaret Hardy in September 1942, the first important step was taken in forming a research group under the blanket term 'wool biology', as distinct from my solitary operation as a Divisional 'wool biologist'. In 1945, after her Fellowship had ended, she joined me as assistant research officer on the staff of CSIR, having taken her M.Sc. on the work she had done at the McMaster. Among other things we had let our interest range over the comparative histology of the skin of Australian marsupials, a pursuit frowned on in certain quarters as too far removed from the spirit of the 'war effort' and hence dubbed by us as our 'underground operation'.

Appointing women difficulty

It is a comment on the period, also, that I had some difficulty (particularly with D.A. Gill) in securing Margaret Hardy's appointment as an established member of staff of CSIR on the grounds that she was a woman and therefore a poor investment. In the event she gave us 12 years of her research life, married, reared 3 daughters, continued her career in United States universities as a research biologist in mammalian cytology and tissue culture, to retire as a distinguished Professor of Guelph University in Canada, highly regarded as a pioneer in her special fields.

At this stage there were no single pens for housed individual sheep at the McMaster. The main thrust of the work there had been on internal sheep parasites with experimental studies applied to groups feeding competitively from long troughs in large pens open to the weather. For experimental studies of fleece growth, however, there was no doubt from the experience of the Adelaide experiment alone that individual pen feeding under protected conditions was essential if analysis of the sources of variation between sheep was to be understood. The concurrent studies of metabolism on the Hawker South Australian Merinos by Lines and Marston also emphasised this.

Japanese threat restricts building plans

However, with the Japanese close by in the Pacific war, any argument for special building construction clearly had a hollow ring. Thus it was not until the tides of both the European and the Pacific wars had turned a little more in our favour that optimism about the future was enough for my arguments to be accepted - that an array of single pens in a suitable sheep house protected from the weather was an essential facility, not only for biological studies of fleece growth, but also, indeed, for the more precise work now called for in endoparasitology.

In seeking space within the grounds of the University Veterinary School for this CSIR facility we discovered that a long strip of land 12 feet wide could be claimed along what was the boundary with the university Regiment H.Q. With this available I designed a long narrow unit with two facing lines of single pens and a central alley for the passage of feeding and instrument trolleys.

In all there were some 56 individual pens separated unequally into two groups of 24 (to which I laid claim) and 32 by a feed room with bins for pre-mixed or pelIeted foods, a surgeq on the ground floor, and above a long laboratory for routine egg and larval counts as a much-needed extension for the parasitologists.

Building up in 1944

This building came into existence in 1944, but earlier, in anticipation of such a development with the help of Mr. J.L. Hill, formerly of Martin Freney's fleece chemistry unit, I made a few skin and fleece analyses of nine contrasting Merino types published as a preliminary note in the Journal of the CSIR: (3) 227-232, August 1942, Carter, H.B. and Hill, J.L., ‘A Note on the Biological Analysis of the Merino Fleece'. This with its obvious limitations was a small signpost to what in time it was hoped to extend and improve with the use of the housed single-pen unit conditions.

Against this background it must be noted that the course in Veterinary Science had, at last after long years of debate, extended its course in Animal Husbandry to include special lectures specifically in Animal Production as an extra option. In third I was asked to give a set of lectures on sheep and wool production - the only formal university lectures I ever gave.

Three volunteers

Among the few who opted for this addition in 1941 were three men - K.A. Ferguson, F.E.L.Morley and P.G. Schinckel. Of these three, Ferguson was a free agent; Morley was committed by a studentship to the NSW Department of Agriculture; Schinckel similarly to the Department of Agriculture in South Australia. All three, however, after their graduation at the end of 1942 (and the beginning of the Pacific War) became committed in various ways to the implications of what I had lecture to them about.

Morley at Trangie

Morley focussed on the development and use of the Trangie Experiment Farm for sheep and wool studies under the active encouragement and general direction of Dr. H.G. Belschner. Schinckel set about the same general scheme at Roseworthy Experiment Farm with a good base flock of South Australian Strong Merinos at his disposal.

In each case, however, suitable laboratory facilities were lacking and in each case I collaborated in working out the design of building to accommodate equipment and background facilities (such as a constant climate room for the analytical evaluation of a selection of fleece characters such as my experience at the McMaster had indicated would be needed).

In Schinckel's case this included a histological laboratory for the study of variation in the Merino in which he followed the course initiated by myself and Margaret Hardy expanding our understanding of factors affecting the pre-natal differentiation of the Merino skin with special experimental matings of the Roseworthy flock. Later he was appointed to the CSIRO Department of Physiology at Prospect Hill when I resigned in 1954 to join the Agricultural Research Council in the United Kingdom.

His premature death not many years later was a great loss to the advance of physio-genetic studies on the sheep in CSIRO. Both at Trangie and at Roseworthy, fleece testing facilities, based on the indications from my work at Noondoo using the very improvised means at the McMaster Laboratory, were in full operation before CSIRO had equipped itself for the sheep breeding studies and 'strain trials' at Gilruth Plains, Armidale and Deniliquin - in other words, before the appropriate units to my designs had been built and become operative at the Sheep Biology Laboratory, Prospect Hill, NSW.

Ferguson takes off

K.A. Ferguson, on the other hand, took up the James Ramage Wright scholarship available in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. He used it to study input-output relationships in the feeding of dairy cows, collecting his data from the big Jersey herd of the Kameruka Cheese Company in the Illawarra on the South Coast of NSW. This work was directed by Mr.H.J. Geddes, lecturer-in- charge of the University Farm at Badgery's Creek adjacent to the McMaster Field Station of CSIRO, under the direction of Dr. R.B.Kelley.

Ferguson's tenure of this scholarship ended in 1944. In its later stages he worked on his data at the McMaster Laboratory near my rooms using a calculating machine made available from the several now under Miss Helen Turner's control there as the established CSIR biometrician. With the new array of single pens now coming into use I had, with Margaret Hardy, begun planning an experiment to study in more detail the effects on fleece growth and skin structure of changing planes of nutrition in contrasting sheep genotypes.

This had grown naturally out of the work in Adelaide with Hedley Marston and Allan Pierce from both of whom I was now separated for administrative purposes. This had occurred from Marston's active pressure on the Executive of CSIR for a separate Division with himself as Chief, In this he succeeded and Dr. Lionel Bull now headed what was re-defined as the Division of Animal Health and Production to which I elected to belong.

Marston later evolved as Chief of the Division of Biochemistry and General Nutrition. In the arguments and maneuvers which led to this cleavage, I had been much in the middle during the previous year or so in my regular travels between Sydney and Adelaide via Melbourne. To a degree, this rendered less complicated the agreement from Dr. Bull to my plan for the building of the housed single pens at the McMaster Laboratory. By a fortunate chance, also, the Walter and Eliza Hall Fellowship in Veterinary Science fell vacant in good time for K.A. Ferguson to apply for it.

The B1 experiment

The core of his application was, in fact, to include the study of input-output relations in fleece production in sheep using the general design which I was proposing to start in the new single pens using contrasting breeds. In this way began the association of Ferguson with Margaret Hardy and myself in the experiment thereafter dubbed ‘B1’ or, in common parlance, the 'Bloody First' experiment in more senses than one in the new pen unit.

For this I selected as contrasting breeds young maiden ewes (a) from the historic Camden Park flock as the fine-wool growing extreme for comparison with (b) Corriedale ewes of the same age from a well-known stud near Trangie, NSW. In both cases the smooth skin was an advantage in the periodic sampling technique for evaluating fleece growth.

Twelve ewes into three groups

Twelve ewes of each genotype were used, each divided into three groups of from: High to Low; Uniform Intermediate; Low to High; according to levels of food supply on a pre-mixed ration of high Nitrogen content. The sheep averaged 2 years of age when the experimental regime began in July 1945 to end in November 1945.

The main results were published as K.A. Ferguson, H.B. Carter, and Margaret M. Hardy (1949) in the Australian Journal of Scientific Research, Series B, Biological Science 2 (1): 42-81 , by
which time both Hardy and Ferguson were at work in Cambridge on some of the first post-war
CSIR studentships to become available for research abroad.

B1 triggers other research

This B1 experiment served as a springboard for many things in the development of physiological research ideas. However not least was its value in providing the disciplined training of a group of technical assistants in basic methods of sheep management in single pen housed conditions, but also in an array of laboratory and statistical methods of general application in the years to come, at what was then hopefully conceived by me as the Sheep Biology Laboratory, later to be built at Prospect Hill, NSW.

Inevitably this was duly categorised by Hedley Marston as a 'dismal Prospect' which calls for a return to what was, in fact, the dismal period of 1942/43. This was, indeed, the very nadir in our research morale set in the gloom of the Pacific war for Australia, aggravated by the widespread severity of the 1940/45 drought, to say nothing of the outlook in the European war.

Clunies Ross returns from IWS

Dr. Clunies Ross in 1941 had returned from his contract period as Chairman of the International Wool Secretariat safely enough, although his young colleague, the South African representative, A.Foster Du Plessis, was lost at sea on his journey home. Clunies Ross had now become Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science leaving D.A. Gill as officer-in-charge of the McMaster Laboratory. However, after the Japanese entry into the war, Clunies Ross became Director of Scientific Manpower for the Commonwealth Government with his offices in the Sydney Morning Herald building, then on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets.

He took with him Miss Helen Turner as his organising statistician. D.A. Gill became involved in committee work under the Department of War Organisition of Industry, leaving Hugh McL.Gordon as acting officer-in-charge. Martin R. Freney, who had been at work with M.Lipson on fleece chemistry, but latterly on the development of an unshrinkable process for wool, had formed a testing laboratory in a factory building near Central Station at 17 Randle Street taking Lipson with him.

Keratin and Keratinisation

Edgar Merce B.Sc., who had begun work as a biophysicist with us to study the natural wool fibre from that point of view, had also left us for the National Standards Laboratory elsewhere in the University grounds. Here he applied his science more directly to war priorities, such as problems of illumination in submarines and the co-ordination of coastal gunfire.

Later, at the National Standards Laboratory, he became the custodian of the first electron microscope in Australia and used the wool fibre as has main material for its application to the study of natural structures. For this I supplied him with authentic and well-defined fibre specimens from our experimental sheep. His book ‘Keratin and Keratinisation: an essay in molecular biology.(1961)’ records his progress as an authority in this field over the previous 15 years or so.

Altogether during the critical year of 1942 in particular there were few enough people to serve the fire-watch duties in the University buildings in the crisis period after the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942. This was only partly relieved by the battle of the Coral Sea on 7-9 May 1942 and the defeat of the attack on Sydney Harbour by the Japanese 8th Submarine Flotilla on the night of 31 May/1 June when thee midgets penetrated as far as USS Chicago moored by Garden Island and S Canberra in Farm Cove.

On watch for Japanese midget submarines

This was one of my nights on patrol and our boat had just been relieved of duty when the defence action against the midgets broke out in the Garden Island Farm Cove area not long after we had passed through. During that year I spent many such nights either on board a Naval Auxiliary Patrol launch or sleeping on a camp bed in my laboratory at the McMaster.

[My wife who had been senior resident medical officer at Crown Street Womens’ Hospital, Surrey Hills, was still in residence there when our eldest son was born on 24 May. With him she spent some hours in the air-raid shelter at the hospital during the air-raid alarm the night before the submarine attack.]

This disruptive pattern of life and work continued with gradually lessening pressure until late in 1943. Any optimism for future research developments was severely damped with a large part of the Sydney population evacuating themselves elsewhere in any case. This depressing scene was not much improved with a million or so American troops, as well as the returning Australian 7th Division, unloading by night under the eyes of our patrol boats from the former trans- Atlantic liners: Queen Mary; Queen Elizabeth I; Mauretania; Aquitania; Nieuw Amsterdam and so on - apart from the battered survivors of the Coral Sea engagement tucked away in quiet coves around the harbour foreshores.

CSIR Bulletin 164

However, it was in this almost surreal atmosphere that I drafted the modest results of some of my Walter and Eliza Hall Fellowship work into what became CSlR Bulletin No.164, 'Studies in the Biology of the Skin and Fleece of Sheep' published in 1943 by photolithography under the wartime economy of the time. It still smells to me of the engine fumes of the patrol boats where so much of it was drafted in the small hours of our harbour rounds between watches on deck or at the helm.

It was in this same period also that, on my way from the University to the Naval Patrol Base at Rushcutter's Bay, that I frequently stopped between 5 and 6 p.m. at the Sydney Morning Herald building for short discussions with Clunies Ross in his Manpower Office. On these occasions I sketched out many of my ideas for fume research developments which later became incorporated in the case made out by CSB and Clunies Ross to the Commonwealth Government.

This led eventually to the passage of the first Wool Uses Promotion Act of 1945, and hence the release of extended funds for post-war research on both the primary and secondary aspects of the Australian sheep and wool industry.

First rough sketches

However, it was on one very wet and windy day in March 1943 over lunch in my room with Douglas Blood (lecturer in veterinary pathology) and Robert Steel (lecturer in veterinary surgery) from the Veterinary School, that I first sketched out my ideas on paper as a rough drawing for a conjunction of laboratory facilities and animal accommodation that would enhance the range and precision of experimental work possible and render it free from the hazards and errors of the operations within the grounds of the School as they then were. This incidentally was about the week when Darwin was again bombed on 15 March 1943.

These first few lines I refined that night into form from which an architect's perspective could be developed. Eventually this was done for me by Charles Hurst, a former student of my father at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, under Professor Leslie Wilkinson. Hurst was then on the staff of the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing, at Bryant House, 83 Pitt Street.

We worked up the details together over coffee at Mockbell’s basement cafĂ© near by. This perspective sketch, dated January 1944 served to concentrate a number of ideas relating to the research developments on the physiology and genetics of sheep in a central biological laboratory for basic work linked with a range of field stations for more extensive experiments under pastoral conditions.

Carter’s ‘hair pin factory’

This was one of the main themes which I discussed with Clunies Ross in 1943 during my evening vistes en route to the Naval Patrol base in Sydney and in my talks with Dr L.B. Bull as I passed through Melbourne to and from Adelaide. With Bull these were augmented during his occasional visits to the McMaster when we had dinner together in the evenings and drew a breath of fresh air in relative quiet on the Cremorne-Mosman ferry.

Later Bull enobled Charles Hunt’s sketch as ‘Carter’s hair pin factory’ but, though he was skeptical at first about the scale of my plans, in the end he fought them through long arguments with the CSIR Executive to a general acceptance as a working possibility.

Search for a site

The upshot was that in the late 1944, Bull gave me permission to seek a possible site for such a laboratory within the Sydney metropolitan area. This turning point came on Saturday over afternoon tea at D.A. Gill’s house on the North Shore line in October of that year. After lunch I had taken Dr Bull in my wife’s car with Clunies Ross in the dickie seat looking after our young son Brandon (now FRS), on a tour of the possible sites for such a laboratory, with a land area of about 100 acres within a 20-mile radius from the University of Sydney.

This was to prove that such a thing was possible on what Bull always sarcastically referred to as the ‘unprofitable shales and sandstones of County Cumberland’. With my ‘hair-pin factory’ on the carpet between us, and the evidence of the afternoon’s drive fresh in mind, Bull finally conceded the argument with the remark –‘All right, build any kind of private hell you want’.

So it was that eventually on 24 September 1945 I wrote my ‘Report on a Proposed Site for a Central Biology Laboratory (Sheep and Wool) at Prospect Hill, NSW’ after locating it with Mr C. Brent (Chief Surveyor) and Mr P. Davidson (Chief Property Officer) of the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing.

Former American camp found

As a result in due time the present site (a former American army camp) of some 115 acres was compulsory acquired under the appropriate Act for the sum, as I recall, of A£4,600. Thus from February 1944 on, I was increasingly involved with the planning in principle and later in great detail, of the research programme and of the laboratory which was to accommodate it.

Initially the largest laboratory of the Division of Animal Health and Production, and commonly known as the Sheep Biology Laboratory, it is now styled the Ian Clunies Ross Animal Research Laboratory, headquarters of the CSIRO Division of Animal Physiology. Until 1954 it evolved under the direction of Dr L.B. Bull, , latterly under Mr. D.A. Gill in that office.

New sense of urgency

With the end of both the European and Pacific wars successfully in May and August 1945 and a post-war crisis for the Australian wool industry clearly apparent in the accelerated rise of man-made fibres, notably from the industrial appearance of Nylon in 1940, a new sense of urgency seized the Executive of CSIR, under the stimulus of Dr Clunies Ross now back at his desk as Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science in Sydney. In July 1946 he finally left Sydney to take up his appointment to the Executive of the CSIR at 314 Albert Street, East Melbourne where more than any other member he took responsibility for the further growth of the wool research programme.

Concept of a central laboratory

Within the Division of Animal Health and Production, following acceptance of the concept of a central biological laboratory, a new appointment was proposed as a step toward its ultimate organisation and staffing. The work at Noodoo had served to underline the need for an efficient fleece analysis service if sheep breeding experiments on a large scale were to be set up.

The rising use of mid-side tattooed skin patches and fleece studies in association with the grazing experiments of the Division of Plant Industry, notably those initiated by R.Roe at Gilruth Plains and Chiswick, Armidale , added a further demand which my limited resources at the McMaster Laboratory were unlikely to cope with for much longer. So a separate Fleece Analysis Laboratory was proposed to serve until it could eventually form part of the larger laboratory yet to be built at Prospect Hill.

Accordingly Dr. G.M. Briggs, Chief of the Division of Physics at the National Standards Laboratory and I were deputed to find a man to head such a unit. In late 1945 Mr. N.F. Roberts, a physicist from the research laboratory was given the task.

In April 1946 a former Defence Department building No. 109 in the munitions complex at Villawood was occupied and adapted for this purpose pro. tem. This was broadly of the same design and organisation as those I had established with Schinckel for Roseworthy and with Morley for Trangie.

Kiwi Pat McMahon appointed

About this time also the retirement of C.E. Cowley as bead of the Sheep and Wool Department at the East Sydney Technical College raised the opportunity for further developments in that quarter. So, in March 1946, I was asked to form a committee of the NSW Public Service Board with Professor Clunies Ross (as he still was) to consider the new appointment.

Accordingly we brought forward the name of Dr. P.R. McMahon of New Zealand as someone to be invited to apply in the clear absence of any other person among the applicants suitable to develop this new opportunity. This appointment was confirmed in July and later that month he was introduced in person to the Public Service Board as one of a group of official New Zealand visitors and the matter clinched. In March 1947 he arrived to begin his work at East Sydney.

Climate rooms

Another development in 1946 with which I was closely concerned was the concept of a set of climate rooms for the proposed laboratory at Prospect Hill and the development of research in the climate physiology of the sheep and its adaptations to the physical as distinct from the biotic factors in the environment.

It had also registered with me from general field observations of fleece growth under varying seasonal conditions but also from the implications of A.Stewart’s work in Western Australia on 'canary stain' in the fleece, as well as the several apparent interactions between fleece types and climatic conditions.

Lee had returned to Australia from a wartime association in the United States with the Office of the Quartermaster-Genera1 on the physiological problems in human adaptations and special clothing needs in the various service arms and theatres of war. I had known him slightly in Sydney before the war and I renewed my contact in May 1946 when I spent several days with him at his Department in Brisbane, discussing comparative climate physiology in general and the development of suitable research facilities for the study of the sheep in particular.

On my return to Sydney I prepared a long memorandum to Dr. Bull with the substance of our joint ideas recommending the development of experimental climate rooms at the Prospect Hill laboratory.

A further consequence of our talks in Brisbane was a conference on Animal Physiology which I organised in the Veterinary School at the University of Sydney on 5–8 November 1946. This gathered about 50 interested scientists from Australia and New Zealand in the main lecture theatre there with the problems of climate adaptation in sheep and cattle as the central theme.

Appointed OIC Wool Biology Laboratory

Toward the end of 1946 my own responsibilities were focused when I was appointed officer-in-charge of what was known as the Wool Biology Laboratory within the Division for the next 7 years. For this purpose CSIR took over the top floor laboratory premises, which had formerly been occupied by Martin Freney at 17 Randle Street, Sydney, during his period with the Australian Wool Appraisement Commission during the war.

My occupation came into effect in February 1947, and by degrees the facilities and assistant staff that had been assembled to serve the Noondoo work and the B1 experiment were transferred to the new address. However, my original two rooms on the top floor of the McMaster Laboratory I still retained for the histological use of Margaret Hardy, and for K.A. Ferguson and myself from time to time, as the data from the B1 experiment were prepared for publication and the main conclusions drawn.

Farewell to South African foetuses

Earlier Margaret Hardy and I had written a long farewell to my South African Merino foetuses. This appeared in 1947 as CSIR Bulletin No. 215, Hardy, Margaret H., and Carter, H.B. The hair follicle group and its topographical variation in the skin of the Merino foetus.

With this background the subject of skin tissue culture and its experimental possibilities had grown in discussions between Margaret Hardy and myself over the past year or so as the pattern of histo-differentiation in the Merino foetus had become clear.

Accordingly in 1947 she applied for and was granted one of the first post-war CSIR studentships and on 9 August sailed on board M S Stratheden for England. She carried a general plan we had devised to attempt the in vitro growth of the sheep's wool fibre and its cytological study in depth. Working at the Strangeways Laboratory in Cambridge under Dr. Honor B. Fell FRS, and the general supervision of Professor J.E.Gray of the Department of Zoology she gained her Ph.D. on the successful tissue culture of mouse skin and hair.

Redesign of McMaster Lab

She returned to Sydney in 1951 after a period at the Medical Branch Laboratory, Galveston, Texas under Dr. Charles Pomerat. In her absence I redesigned my original laboratory at the McMaster, and it was fitted and ready for her to continue her tissue culture research in 1951. Here the first Merino wool fibres and associated glands etc. were cultivated in vitro to be reported in her joint paper with A.G Lyne, Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, 9 (4) : 559-574, 1956.

With Margaret Hardy about to leave for a period in England, I was able to appoint another young zoologist to the staff of the newly recognised Wool Biology Laboratory - Mss Pamela Davidson B.Sc., an honours graduate and University medalist (like Margaret Hardy) from the University of Sydney, Department of Zoology under Professor P.Murray.

As an assistant research officer her long-term remit was to become wise in the histological and cytological mysteries of the mammalian skin as a future colleague of Margaret Hardy. However, under the existing pressures of the expanding research programme, she assisted me in laying foundations of work for a study of the Merino stud flocks of Australia and the use of stud book statistics for this purpose.

Mapping of sheep population and wool production

However, more immediately, between us we devised a mapping system for presenting the sheep population and wool production statistics collected on a shire basis from time to time in NSW. For this we produced two sets of maps comparing the shire data for 1936 with those of a decade later, 1946.

With these examples I took up the matter of extending this procedure to the whole of Australia as it provided a succinct and useful guide over time and space relevant to a wide range of research purposes associated with problems of sheep breeding and production.

First effective meeting

The first effective meeting to this end was at the School of Agriculture, University of Melbourne, in January 1948, with Professor S.M. Wadham and Dr. P.S. Lang of that University; Mr. K.M. Fraser of the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics; Dr. L.B. Bull and myself of CSIR.

Eventually the maps for NSW prepared by Pamela Davidson and myself were published in 1951 as the first of a series for each state separately as publications of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics under the direction of Ms Peter Reid in Canberra.

It was not until August 1952, however, after a meeting in Canberra between Dr. Frenzel of the Ministry of National Development, Peter Reid and myself, that reasonable agreement was achieved on a map suitable for the whole of Australia to serve the statistical maps in conformity with those used for the national mapping in other ways. This was never achieved in the way I had hoped but was published by the Australian Wool Realisation Commission as Australian Wool, 1947-49.

Statistical Analysis No.4, in November 1949 was appreciably larger (and with a different grouping of shires and county areas) than those published by the Bureau of Agricultural as ‘Sheep distribution in Australia 1950’, in September 1956. However the main aim of for the Australian sheep industry was broadly served.

Post-war remodeling of the Department

In January 1948, also in Melbourne, I had my first meeting with D.L. Beattie of the Division of Industrial Development, a post-war remodeling of the Department for the War Organisation of Industry Beattie was officer-in-charge of the Materials Handling Branch of the Division of Industrial Development in Sydney, and had just completed a reconnaissance survey of the working practices of the Australian sheep industry at all stages from sheep handling on the farm or station, to the ultimate sale and disposal of the wool clip at the seaports.

This had been done in association with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Australian Wool Realisation Commission and I was brought in to represent CSIR. - soon in 1948 to become CSIRO. Eventually the work of this committee and the activities of Beattie and its henchmen boiled down to a printed report ‘Materials Handling in the Wool Industry 1952’ issued from what had now become the Department of National Development in the Commonwealth Government.

Ferguson moves to Cambridge

In 1948 K.A. Ferguson was established with me as CSIR research officer in the Wool Biology Laboratory and soon After was granted leave to go to Cambridge (as with Margaret Hardy) on what was now a CSIRO studentship. Again as with Hardy his experimental plan had evolved specifically from the earlier studies on wool growth with me, notably on all the variety of questions that emerged from experiment B1.

In August 1948 for academic protocol he became a member of Christ’s college but as a married man lived elsewhere in Cambridge. For research purposes he had working accommodation at the Veterinary School in Milton road by courtesy of the Professor of Animal Pathology, W.I.B. Beveridge, formerly my colleague at the McMaster Laboratory in touch also in 1934 at Noondoo.

The pituitary gland

Ferguson's research was directed at elucidating, initially, the functions of the pituitary and the thyroid glands and later the adrenals in the regulation of wool growth, under the supervision of Lord Adrian, the Professor of Physiology and at that time also the President of The Royal Society. In the course of this work, on which he gained his Ph.D., he devised for the first time a successful operation for hypophysectomy in the sheep a difficult subject for this piece of surgery but which was essential for analysing the effects of the various pituitary components.

Apart from his studentship grant, Ferguson's work in Cambridge 1948-51 was supported by funds allowed in my Wool Biology Laboratory estimates through which were paid to the University of Cambridge enough for a laboratory assistant's salary and for the purchase and maintenance of experimental sheep, mostly pure Lincolns for good experimental reasons.

Ferguson returns to Sydney

He returned to Sydney in February 1952 to continue work on my staff but with laboratory space in the new Department of Veterinary Physiology provided by Dr. C. W. Emmens. At the same time he had the use of the same single pens and a surgery at the McMaster Laboratory which he had formerly used in the experiment B1.

He was joined at the new Department of Veterinary Physiology from the Wool Biology Laboratory by a very promising young laboratory assistant, W.T.Outch, who had worked under Walter Clarke but whom I had encouraged to specialise in biochemistry during his day-release and night courses at the Sydney Technical College against the day of Ferguson’s return.

Experimental sheep on the move

The main plan of the experiment B1 ended in November 1946 about the time that I had delivered the resolutions of the August conference on Animal Physiology to Dr. Lionel Bull in Melbourne. At this conference, arising from discussions with Professor D.H.K. Lee, I had made arrangements for a pair of sheep from each of the six groups in B1 to be sent to him at Brisbane for study under the controlled atmospheres in his climate rooms at the University. In this way physiological advantage would be taken of their contrasting genotypes and the three levels of nutritional equilibrium achieved in each.

From Sydney to Brisbane by truck

In February 1947 R. F. Reik took the 12 sheep by truck from Sydney to Brisbane where he was joined by Margaret Hardy for observations on them in a series of short-term exposures to a range of temperatures and humidities. These were reported by Reik and Hardy in the Australian Journal of Agricultural Research1 (2) : 217-230. 1950.

Later in the year Reik and I continued work with the same animals on their standard diet in the periods of 30-day exposures to sustained atmospheres : hot-dry ; warm-temperate ; hot-humid - with complete fleece analyses for each period; daily records of individual food and water intakes with the associated clinical responses in heart rates, respiratory rates and body temperatures.

The results were never published except as a report. They remained as useful foundations for later studies, particularly in relation to the phenomenon of sweating in the sheep as developed by Ferguson, and its relation to fleece discolorations and their variation over the range of Australia environments.

Translations of German texts

In 1947 also I was able to complete my supervision of the translations by M. F.C. Rose of a series of German texts particularly related to the earlier European studies of the skin and fleece under the names of W. Spottel, E. Tanzer, G. Frohlich, C. Kronacher and G. Lodermann. For this I had obtained A£500 from CSIR. These texts covered the essence of all Continental research in this field as published up to 1929 and the 8 volumes of Mr. Rose's typescript translations are now in the library at Prospect Hill.

Big personal demands

1948 was a year of heavy physical demands in travel and strains on my patience in the diversions from my own work that this entailed. Apart from the developments now under way at Prospect Hill which engaged me in debates about building designs and site lay-out with the CSIR architect, W.R. Ferguson, and at the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing on the 13th floor of Bryant House, 83 Pitt Street, there were time-demanding visitors from overseas at awkward moments to whom I was required to play official CSIRO host and guide for example - Dr. H.P. Donald and Professor J.L. Lush.

Start of Strain Trial

However, this was the year in which the 'Strain trial ' began with the committee meeting held in my office at 17 Randle Street, Sydney, on 10 and 11 February, 1948. These had been preceded by similar meetings held at the same place with R.Roe and others of the Division of Plant Industry about the design and management of a grazing trial at the CSlRO Field Station at Armidale involving fleece measurements.

The 'Strain trial' proposed by Dr. R.B. Kelley, however, was the major burden of these February meetings at the Woo1 Biology Laboratory and they determined the selection of Merino studs from which the experimental sheep were to be bought.

My general proposals for the particular Medium and Strong Wool studs were accepted. The Fine Wool representative Dr. Kelley, typically, had pre-empted the discussion by committing CSIRO to Bereen, a minor stud of its type, having met the owner and breeder on some social occasion and clinched the arrangement in such a way that we could do nothing to reverse it.

So, in my view, the Fine Wool 'strain’ was the weak member of the grand design and not generally well regarded by the industry at large as were the other two. It then became my task to negotiate the selection, purchase, sampling, allocation and delivery of the stud sheep (rams and ewes) from the properties of origin to the CSIRO field stations in Queensland (Cunnamulla) and New South Wales (Armidale and Deniliquin) where the trial was to be run in the years to come. But this was later in the year.

Travel for routine skin and fleece sampling

In early (5-10) March with K.A.Ferguson, I drove the 500-odd miles to and from Wanganella for what had become my routine skin and fleece sampling of a random sample of the unclassed ewes during the classing by M. H.Frank Pennether and their recording by M. Thomas Austin in the stud record books. This was done in a fashion comparable to that followed by Mr. Euston Young at Noondoo.
HB Carter's photo of fleece sampling on stud farms.
Carter is second from left.

H.P. Donald tour

From 16 March to 24 April I was largely engaged with Dr. H.P. Donald from the ARC'S Animal Breeding and Research Organisation, Edinburgh, during his Australian visit to study our approach in animal breeding research. This involved flying with him to Gilruth Plains near Cunamulla, Queensland, where J. F. Kennedy and I introduced him to the breeding plans and 'Strain trial' proposals which I was, even then, already helping to establish as a working operation with the flocks for mating, lambing, fleece observations etc., along the lines which I had developed in the progeny testing work with Euston Young at Noondoo, from I941-45.

In May and June I was under treatment at intervals for troublesome nasal polyps which were not helped by long drives over dusty roads. At this time, however, I was able to continue discussions with Professor D.H.K. Lee and his staff in Brisbane on the climate room studies made with the former B1 sheep and on the plans for climate room units at Prospect Hill.

J.L. Lush tour

Then, in August, Professor J.L.Lush of Ames, Iowa, USA arrived as an invited adviser to CSIRO on our plans for animal breeding research with sheep and cattle in particular; but as an uninvited complication in my arrangements for the purchase and distribution of the stud sheep for the 'Strain trials’.

Busy travel schedule

On 4 September I left Sydney in my 30-cwt Chevrolet, with two assistants, for South Australia and on Sunday afternoon 5 September arrived at 'North Bungaree' station where, on 6, 7 and 8 September, with the owner M.S. Hawker, I selected, sampled and bought for 8 guineas a head 240 young stud ewes and 6 stud rams at 100 guineas each.

On 9 September I left 'North Bungaree' for Roseworthy Agricultural College to see the progress of P.G. Schinckel's fleece analysis and skin histology unit. I then went on to Adelaide where I spent an hour or so with Hedley Marston at the Animal Nutrition Laboratory while the truck was being serviced and the tanks filled at the Commonwealth garage.

I left Adelaide at 5.30 pm. that same day, 9 September, to drive all night by way of Renmark, Mildura, Balranald, Hay and Wagga, to reach Sydney before lunch next day, 10 September. In all I had covered 2300 miles in 4 days driving with myself at the wheel throughout, broken only by 3 days work in the sheep yards at North Bungaree .

On 29 September I left Sydney again in the same 30-cwt. truck, alone, to meet Professor J.L. Lush at Delliniquin to introduce him to the operations of important Merino and other studs, starting nearby with Boonoke and Wanganella. From here we traveled north to Egelabra at Warren and Beulah, CharIes Carroll's Corriedale stud near Trangie. Here we also visited the NSW Department of Agriculture Experiment Farm where F.C. Morley was developing a fleece testing laboratory, similar to Schinckel's at Roseworthy, in association with his sheep breeding facilities.

We reached Sydney again on 8 October with another 1500 miles or so of dusty driving behind me. Then on 10 October I left Sydney by truck again for Bereen, the Richardson Finewool stud near Barraba, to select, sample and buy the rams and ewes for the Fine group in the 'Strain trial', returning home after another 760 miles driving alone on 13 October.

End of bush travel

These intermittent bursts of bush driving ceased for this year when, on 31 October, I drove west out to Narromine where I had arranged for the transport of the various 'Strain trial' sheep groups to take place - those from North Bungaree, Boonoke, and Bereen - by sorting them in the railway trucking yards and re-loading them for their final destinations in NSW and Queensland. After two days hot work in the trucking yards I was home again late on the night of 2 November.

Personal research deferred

Apart from the physical drain of this combination of field activity and managing the office and laboratory routines so largely interrupted in 1948 there was also the frustration of having to defer my own research plans in other ways. In particular I had intended to begin a field sampling survey of the skin and fleece characters among a range of dominant or highly influential Merino studs - 'parent studs', as our later stud analysis defined them - with whose breeders in general over the years I had developed a good relationship, such as Wanganella. In any case, this had to fit in with other experimental demands on the limited staff time and facilities available for the laboratory procedures necessary, histological, physical and chemical.

Early in 1949 I was fortunate in securing the interest and active assistance of R.A.Daly during his final honours year in the Faculty of Agricultural Science and to secure his appointment as an assistant research officer in CSIRO after his graduation with 1st class honours in 1950. With increasing competition for the still very limited number of housed single sheep pens at the McMaster Laboratory, I secured 16 for a modest but fairly intensive study intended as a small model for what in principle could be extended when the larger facilities should become available at Prospect Hill.

Sheep needed for four-breed comparison

This was to be a straightforward comparison of four breeds of sheep under individual unrestricted feeding conditions on a diet comparable with what we had used in the experiment B1 but complete as a single pellet.

The breeds I chose were the Fine NSW Merino (Merryville) and the opposite extreme the Lincoln (Bontharambo). Regarding these as the parent breeds in crossbreeding I then chose the Corriedale (Pulgandra) as the first cross and the Polwarth (Stony Park East) as the backcross to the Fine Merino.

In early June 1949 I visited these studs and bought from each 6 young ewes at about 12 months of age, taking skin and fleece samples from a further 21 of each breed unclassed taken at random through the drafting race. All this was done with R.A. Daly as assistant and for the next three years he proved an extremely capable young colleague. When I left Australia he resigned from CSIRO. In later years he became a senior figure in the Commonwealth Department of Industry and Commerce at Canberra.

I returned from this round of purchases late on Friday 10 June 1949. On Saturday morning 11 June I was visited at the Wool Biology Laboratory in Randle Street by a Mr. Blackman who proved to be Secretary to the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Public Works at Canberra.

He told me that the Committee proposed to meet in Sydney on Monday 20 June to consider the CSIRO proposed Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect - a plan already under development. I telephoned Melbourne immediately and spoke to Dr. Ian Clurnies Ross, as Chairman of the Executive of CSIRO, and my Chief Dr. L.B. Bull, as the two people most immediately concerned.

The committee’s plans

It appeared that this was the first intimation that anyone had received of the Committee's plans and I was given authority to do everything possible to assist in preparing the case for CSIRO and to give evidence as a representative scientific officer at the Sydney meeting. In the language of Caesar: 'Omnia Carteri agenda uno tempore’; and for the next week I spent an intense few days with the staffs of the Chief Architect and Chief Engineer of the Department of Works and Housing at Bryant House in Pitt Street preparing the formal statement on the building programme with a brochure of plans and elevations for the use of the Committee.

Then, on the afternoon of Friday 17 June I had my first meeting with the Parliamentary Committee itself for their inspection of the facilities and the research work at the Wool Biology Laboratory. The next morning, Saturday 18 June, in Commonwealth transport that I had arranged, I conducted the Committee on a tour of inspection of the McMaster Laboratory, the Fleece Analysis Laboratory at Villawood, and the site of the proposed Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect Hill. All this happened under the most villainous weather conditions - intense rain all day with 745 points recorded officially at Sydney between 9.0 am and 3.0 pm.

Evidence to formal committee

On Monday 20 June the formal meeting of the Committee took place in the Cabinet room on the 7th floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building in Martin Place. Here I gave my evidence during the morning after the Director of Public Works, the Chief Engineer and the Chief Architect had given theirs. The following Saturday 25 June the Committee sat in Melbourne where evidence was taken from Dr. Clunies Ross as Chairman of the Executive of CSIRO, Dr. L.B.Bull as Chief of the Division of Animal Health and Production, Mr. W.R. Ferguson as CSIRO Architect, and Mr. Douglas Boyd as Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. No one else was called and on the evidence of these eight witnesses the Committee under Senator Charles Lamp submitted its report to Parliament in Canberra, dated 22 September 1949.

This approved all that had been done and was proposed, and it recommended a higher priority as a work of major national importance in the Commonwealth building programme of those very difficult post-war years. For me this was the culmination of six years of argument and discussion within CSIRO, since it was on the basis of my plans and line of thought that the case for the new laboratory was prepared and carried though to this point of final Parliamentary approval.

Comparison of Merino and other breeds

During this year, however, in spite of the mid-year pressures relating to the Prospect laboratory I was able to begin my flock sampling plan for the comparative study of the Merino and other sheep breeds, using the techniques in the field and the laboratory that I had evolved since 1939 when I joined CSIR. Apart from the systematic use of a simple fleece caliper which originally defined 1 square inch at the skin surface but later 10 square centimetres I had, from 1944, begun the standard use of the skin trephine of diameter 1 cm for taking the biopsy specimens needed for the histological study and evaluation.

Cork boring tool for skin biopsy


H.B. Carter's photo of his skin sampling tool.
Apart from its use in flock sampling studies I had established its use in laboratory work for measuring a variety of experimental effects. As an instrument it had in fact evolved from my first tentative adaptation of the well-known laboratory brass cork-borer in my search for a neater and more useful method of biopsy than the clumsy and histologically less-satisfactory 'snippet' technique. In 1945 the first set of graduated sizes in stainless steel was made at the workshop of the National Standards Laboratory.

The working drawings of this simple gadget were done in the same drafting office that was at the same time engaged in the drawings for the first interferometer. radio telescopes designed by D1 J.L.Pawsey FRS in his classic work on Dover Heights, Sydney, near the Harbour entrance. From this grew the study of some of the first radar signals reflected from the moon - an amusing contrast in scientific technology.

Sampling Merino studs

The first Merino stud sampled using my routines for fleece and skin specimens from a standard right mid-side site in a random group of 21 unclassed ewes (c. 10-12 months old) was the Peppin Medium Boonoke flock on 21 June 1946. The next was the Peppin Medium Wanganella stud on 21 June 1947. Both of these are now recognised as the original Parent studs of the modern Australian Merino derived from the Peppin stock purchased in 1878 by the Falkiner family in the case of Boonoke and by the Austin family in the case of Wangella.

However, my skin and fleece analyses nearly 70 years after this division showed that significant differences in certain skin and fleece characters had begun to appear from the differing nature of the selective breeding applied. The third flock sample collected in this way was from the historic Camden Park Merino original stud, near Camden, NSW, on 10 October 1947.

This last clearly defined the significant difference in a range of skin and fleece characters under selective breeding between the prototype Australian Fine Merino of the early 19th Century and the Peppin Medium Merino types which had evolved in its last decades.

Application of statistics


The wool sample taken from the tattooed mid-side patch on which
all
the fleece measurements and statistical analysis was done.
The process of applying this statistical sampling of Merino studs and the stud flocks of other breeds continued as targets of opportunity until my last chance for this in July 1952, with the sampling of the Suffolk stud at the State Research Farm, Werribee, Victoria. Other Rock samples were collected for me by proxy by several close colleagues well practiced in my techniques, e.g. K.A. Ferguson during his time abroad - from the Swedish Landrace flock at Strangness in Sweden and the Welsh Mountain flock at Trawscoed in Wales; while P. G. Schinckel sampled for me three of the Parent South Australian Strong Merino studs.

Publication of skin biopsy technique

A formal account of the biopsy method in practice was not published until 1959 in two papers by H.B. Carter and W.H. Clarke in the Australian Journal of Agricultura1 Research 8 : (1). 91-108 ; 109-119.

The skin biopsy method had, of course, been applied at 6-week intervals between JuIy 1945 and November 1946 in the course of the B1 experiment with the Camden Park Fine Merinos and the Beulah Corriedales. The same procedures were applied for the first time also in the study of stud ram progeny groups at Wanganella in March 1948 and continued for the ensuing five years.

Sampling cattle skin

Another application of the skin biopsy trephine was its use in the study of cattle skin which I began with Dr. D.F. Dowling who, on returning from his studentship in Cambridge, had a desk in the Wool Biology Laboratory for a short while. He had first become associated with us assisting in the B1 work before he left Australia to secure his Ph.D. under Sir John Hammond at the School of Agriculture, Cambridge.

This was his pioneering work on the reciprocal transfer of fertilised ova between genetically black and genetically white rabbits - one of the very first successful demonstrations of fertilised egg transplants in mammals and published in the Cambridge Journal of Agricultural Research 1951.

Sampling stud Devon cattle

Our first cattle skin samplings were made on the stud Devon shorthorns at Havilah in 1950, later extended by Dowling to cover a range of other breeds of Bos taurus and Bos indicus which he, as a prominent Queensland breeder of stud Shorthorns himself was able to organise. Our first paper was published in the Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, H.B. Carter and D.F. Dowling, 1954, 5 : (4) 745-754.

Dowling later was active in the development of tropically adapted cattle in CSIRO experimental breeding at Townsville, but was himself an active breeder of such cattle from Bos indicus x Bos taurus hybrids on his own property at Muttaburra in NW Queensland.

In 1950 also I had appointed Mr. J. Elliott B.Sc., a graduate in zoology from the University of Sydney, to commence physiological studies on the functions of the skin and fleece in the heat regulation of sheep in association with Dr. K.A. Ferguson developing my preliminary studies with R.F. Riek in Brisbane. They were successful in showing the existence of a ' sweating' mechanism in the Merino responsive to thermogenic and pharmacological stimuli; but before this could be developed further, Elliott was seconded elsewhere.

Release of rabbit myxomatosis virus

Under Mr. F.N. Ratcliffe, Head of the new Wild Life Survey Section, the release of the virus of rabbit myxomatosis had been finally authorised at several sites along the Murray River near Albury and Corowa in northern Victoria and southern NSW. After a long quiescence to the point where CSIRO was about to declare the virus of no avail it sprang to life so that by December 1950 the Murray River valley reeked with dead rabbits.

So, at Ratcliffe's emergency telephone call from Canberra I allowed John Elliott to join the Wild Life Survey team grappling with the field emergency of this dramatic ecological situation. Elliott was already largely fitted for this sort of work from war service in one of Ratcliffe's malaria-control units during the Pacific War.

B.F. Short's appointment

In 1951 I appointed Dr. B.F. Short to a research position which had been open for a year or so. Short was originally an M.Ag Sci. from the University of New Zealand who had held a CSIRO studentship for two years under Professor J.E. Nicholls then in the Chair of Agriculture at Cardiff in Wales. Here Short had gained his PhD. on the ecology and variations in the fleece characters of the Welsh Mountain breed of sheep in South Wales.

To begin with, as an orientating study of some significance to the Australian sheep industry, he collaborated with me in completing the analysis of the 30-year records of the Australian Merino Stud Flock Register whose volumes from 1921 to 950 I had, with the interested support of the Association itself, gathered for this purpose at the Wool Biology Laboratory.

I had begun this in a preliminary way with Miss Pamela Davidson during our first examination of the sheep industry statistics and the preparation of statistical maps now under the wing of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Pamela Davidson herself was now at work in the tissue culture laboratory at the McMaster with Dr. Margaret Hardy as was the original intention of her appointment.

Merino stud book analysis

This Merino stud book analysis established clearly for the first time the breeding structure of the stud population and fitted neatly into the statistical presentation of the Australian sheep population as a whole. This was a matter in which, over the previous five years, I had been collaborating with the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The stud book analysis reached printed form as B.F. Short and H.B. Carter, 1955, An Analysis of the Records of the Registered Australian Merino Stud Flocks, CSIRO Bulletin No.276.

Then, also in 1951, Dr A.S. Fraser arrived in Sydney as one of the first CSIRO officers of the new Animal Genetics Section (as it was then called) to be established under Dr. J. Rendel and lodged in the University for the time being. Fraser, like Short, was a graduate of the University of New Zealand sand recently taken his Ph.D. in the University of Edinburgh on the fibre types and fleece structure of the young Romney lamb. For this he used data collected during his period of baptism in this field as an assistant to Dr. F. W. Dry at Massey Agricultural College.

Dr Dry and fibre types

Dry himself was one of the pioneers in the study of fibre types and fleece structure from the University of Leeds. Rendel and Fraser had been appointed as a result of Dr. Clunies Ross's visit to the Institute of Animal Genetics under Professor C. Waddington FRS at West Mains Road, Edinburgh. Fraser came a year in advance of his immediate chief, James Rendel, and was an early and frequent visitor to Margaret Hardy at the McMaster and to me at Randle Street.

At one period he spent an intensive month at the Wool Biology Laboratory, looking over our specimens and the data derived from our various experiments stored in our card files. Some of this material we later found he incorporated without permission in one of his early papers published in Australia without acknowledgement of source. This, I later found, was in effect a repetition of what he had attempted to do in Edinburgh with some of F.W. Dry's Romney data from New Zealand.

Rendel and Ferguson return

Early in 1952 Dr. J. Rendel arrived soon after the return of Dr. K.A. Ferguson from Cambridge when both were found research accommodation by Dr. C. Emens in the Departmen of Veterinary Physiology for the time being. My first contact with Rendel was in March 1952 when Ferguson and I had arranged to visit Wanganella for my regular sampling of the progeny groups of young unclassed stud ewes there. At the last minute Rendel asked if he could join us as his own proposal to visit the Bundemar stud of E.I. Body had come to nothing - as he had been warned.

So in the week of 6-12 March he was at Wanganella as an extra guest of T.S. Austin with his first opportunity to see one type of Australian Merino at close quarters and to observe a stud master and prominent stud sheep classer at work. However, after a brief hour or so with us in the classing yards on the first day he confined himself to studying the stud records in the office at the homestead for the rest of our stay.

Sir William Slater visit

On 23 and 24 March I was asked by CSIRO to be host to Sir William Slater, Secretary of the Agricultural Council In the United Kingdom. (He later became Head of ARC). He had been attending the Commonwealth scientific Conference in Canberra and was taking the opportunity while in Australia of extending his knowledge of our research aims and ideas.

I spent the whole of Monday 24 March with him at the Wool Biology Laboratory, the McMaster Laboratory and at the building site at Prospect Hill. Our day together finished late with dinner at The Hermitage in Angel Place. On this occasion the ground was laid for my later emigration to the United Kingdom in 1954. The previous month, incidentally, I had been able to renew my acquaintance with Dr. P.J. Du Toit, Director of Ondestepoort Veterinary Laboratory, Pretoria, another delegate to the scientific conference at Canberra as Chairman of the CSR, South Africa.

A complicated year

Altogether 1952 was another complicated year with diversions from my own particular research interests. In March I was invited by the Rural Bank of NSW to prepare an exhibit in their pavilion at the Sydney Show Ground for the week of the Sydney Sheep Show and Ram Sales in the last week of May.

For this R.A.Daly and I prepared a series of panels showing the development of the skin follicle population in relation to fleece differentiation among the various sheep breeds taking as our type material the data from our comparative study of the Fine Merino Polwarth, Corriedale and Lincoln.

The display proved to be for us both, an extended tutorial over the first three days to some 1200 stud and flock sheep breeders as individuals or in small groups. The following week I gave a Country Hour broadcast on the ABC - 'Measurement and the Fleece' - and for the BBC -'The Sydney Sheep Show and Ram Sales'.

Visitors from the Indian sub continent and Turkey

At the same time I was engaged with the arrival of visitors from the' sub-continent of India' - Kaul from Kashmir; Sumra from Pakistan; Narayan from India; and later, Karabell from Turkey. A used the Laboratory at Randle Street as their base for varying periods ranging from weeks to months. Narayan and Karabell in particular carried away details of our procedures in the field and the laboratory with skin and fleece specimens. The results appeared in later years as papers in a variety of Indian and Turkish scientific journals.

Sampling progeny of American Rambouillet rams

Immediately after the Ram Sales, by an arrangement with Irwin Maple Brown, its owner, I visited the Springfield stud to sample the first-cross progeny of some American Rambouillet rams which had been imported by Ray Bladwell, manager of the Farmers and Graziers branch at Gouldburm in early 1951.

R.A. Daly and I had analysed the skin and fleeces of these five young rams, two of which were mated with Springfield ewes, and the other three with Merryville ewes selected by W.T. Merriman himself. The Springfield matings only was I able to follow up with skin and fleece samplings of the dams and their crossbred progeny by virtue of Maple-Brown's active interest.

Twenty years later I was to be engaged in the same way in evaluating the remote descendants of this crossbreeding which had become established as the Fonthill stud under the management of Jim Maple-Brown, now in the saddle as the owner also of Springfleld itself. The genetic effects of the original Rambouillet cross were evident still in the Fonthill stock by the slightly greater size and plainer body, but with a lesser fleece density and tendency to yolk discolouration.

The latter characters were shown in the skin and fleece analyses of 1970 by the smaller secondary/primary follicle ratio in the skin specimens and the wax-suint ratios in the fleece analyses of the Fonthill stud compared with those of the Springfield stock.

Last extended travel trip

Keeping for the moment to my mid-year fieldwork after the Ram Sales I left Sydney on Sunday 20 July alone in my laboratory truck, the hard-worked Chevrolet truck, for my last extended exercise of this kind - as it was to prove - and for which my field diary notes survive. The heavy rains which, for the past year or so, had been enlivening the Australian interior by spreading the various mosquito populations with the rabbit myxoma virus in all directions had, on this occasion, spread flood waters across much of the Riverina.

Thus it was that I could not reach Wanganella until the afternoon of Tuesday 22 July after a slow circuit south though Urana, Berrigan, Finley and Deniliquin - two days of slow travel on very wet and pot-holed roads, often for many miles by guess and by God, on roads awash with 1 to 2 feet of water testing to the limit the relatively good engine clearance of the truck. This was a painful contrast to my usual 10 hours of driving from Sydney to the same stud in the more usual dry conditions.

Travel schedule

From Wanganella I went south into Victoria where, in the last week of July and just before the Melbourne Sheep Show and Sales, I made the last of my stud flock unclassed young ewe samplings - though at the time I hoped it was merely a large step toward a more comprehensive and complete series. From my notes the sequence was:
  • 24 July near Beaufort, Mawailok (Phillip Russell) and Stoneleigh (Frank Taylor);
  • 25 July near Skipton and Mortlake, Yangerawill (Claude Notman) and Bannongill (C.S. Carr, manager);
  • 26 July, near Mortlake Nareeb Nareeb (Miss Beryl Beggs) and Chatworth House (the Misses Moffatt and D. McCulloch, manager);
  • 27 July (Sunday) near Mortlake, Wooloongoon (Polwarths, Bill Weatherley);
  • 28 July, Mortlake to Lismore, Jellalabad (Polwarths, old Gerald Cumming and his son Hector Cumming, with a sample of the early Fine Merino Sir Thomas' wool; Titanga (old Western District Fine Merinos, Dr. P. S. Lang);
  • 29 July, Hesse, Barunah Plains (Jim Russell);
  • 30 July. Carrisbrooke, Lochinver (English Leicesters, Ian Williamson);
  • 31 July. Geelong, Werribee State Research Farm, D.Wishart of the Victorian Dept. of Agnicdtwe). I carried with me on this occasion a set of coloured slides and a small projector which worked off my portable generator. Thus, I was able to give the breeders whose flocks I was sampling a sort of tutorial explanation of the research background and the sheep breeding possibilities ahead..

Melbourne sheep show

On 1 August I visited the Melbourne Sheep Show and that evening, at Scot's Hotel, Collins Street, attended as a member the AGM of the Australian Stud Sheepbreeders Association. On 2 August I attended a meeting of the Corriedale Sheepbreeders' Association at the Federal Hotel. On Sunday 3 August I spent the morning successively with O. McL. Falkiner of Boonoke stud at Menzies Hotel and Sandy Beggs of Nareeb Nareeb at the Windsor.

Later I took lunch and spent the afternoon with Dr. Clunies Ross and family at Deegdene. On Monday 4 August I spent the whole morning with Dr. L.B. Bull at CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory, Parkville and the afternoon with Barry McMillan et al. at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Bourke Street. At both places the mapping of the Commonwealth sheep and wool statistics and the organisation of a pastoral survey of Tasmania were discussed.

Fine-wooled Tasmanian studs

The evening I spent with J.M. Taylor of Winton stud, Tasmania, how the Fine Tasmanian Merino studs, none of which were in the published of the Australian Merino studs could be officially included. Later that night I raised with T. S. Austin, its managing director, the possible analysis of the stud records of Wanganella which I had been studying for some and developing with him much as I had done with Euston Young, at Noondoo.

Mapping and printing sheep and wool statistics

On Tuesday 5 August I spent the morning at CSIRO Head Office with John Nicholls of the Publications Section and Barn McMil1an of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics discussing the mapping and printing problems of the Australian sheep and wool statistics. The afternoon again I spent at the CSIRO Parkville Laboratory with Dr. Bull and the evening at a meeting of the Victorian Merino Sheepbreeders’ Association at Scott's Hotel.

More Prospect Lab discussions

The following morning, Wednesday 6 August, I spent again with Dr. Bull at Parkhill discussing research developments and the future of the Prospect Laboratory. In the afternoon I spoke to the scientific staff at CSIRO Head Office at 314 Albert Street on the purpose and working methods of my recent round of skin and fleece samplings on the studs of the Merino and other breeds. For this B1 again used my set of prepared colour slides in much the same way as I had with the sheepbreeders on the studs.

On Thursday 7 August I left Melbourne for Canberra where the following morning, Friday 8 August, I had further discussions on the mapping presentation of the Commonwealth sheep and wool statistics with Mr. Peter Reid, Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and Dr. Frenzel who was concerned with the mapping plans of the Ministry of National Development.

I drove on to Sydney later that day after three fairly strenuous weeks of driving, work in the sheep yards or paddocks, with my sampling equipment, as well as discussions at all hours of the day and night, scientific and general, related to sheep breeding research, both in the field and the laboratory.

Sampling lambing ewes

From 17 - 23 September I was at Wanganella during the lambing. This visit was to watch T.S.Austin’s system at work, whereby between 2 and 3 thousand stud breeding ewes, having been individually mated by hand service, were duly lambed and each lamb tagged with its own serial number and year of birth, the number of its sire and the grade of its dam. This also afforded a unique opportunity for observing the range of birthcoat types in the Medium Peppin Merino within 24 hours of birth for photography and for taking skin specimens from the newborn.

During the same visit I worked through the stud books transcribing the records of lambing from 1943 to 1947 inclusive as a first step toward organised work on these unique flock statistics, on the lines of my discussions with T.S. Austin recently in Melbourne. This visit also enabled me to begin a series of notes in direct conversation with Austin on the various stud procedures that yielded the data in many of 8 different sets of record books.

These were intended eventually to show the evolution of the various procedures and types of record since 1894 when Wangella was established in the single-family ownership under Albert Austin and his sons, now known as Austin-Wanganella Co. Ltd.

Uncompleted notes

These notes, though extensive, were never completed due to the onset of poor health in Tom Austin the following year and my leaving Australia in April 1954. Later, in the analysis of the Australian Merino Stud Registers (1921-50, Short and Carter (1955) Wanganella was established clearly as the original Peppin Medium Merino Parent stud.

This in principle was the reason why I had selected it for close study from year to year by means of skin and fleece sampling of random samplings of unclassed young ewes for the field development of these techniques. At the same time the progeny groups of individual sires yielded the base statistics for a range of skin and fleece characters.

More work on Prospect Lab

However the year 1952 was a busy one for me in other ways, closely connected with the development of the Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect Hill. Up to 1951 I had been the only scientific officer engaged with the concept and planning of this development actually on the spot in Sydney.

This was not remarkable, as I had formulated the original proposal in 1943 when it received official recognition under the Divisional direction of Dr.L.B. Bull and of the Executive of CSIRO under the Chairmanship of Sir David Rivett FRS effectively in 1945, when I was formally instructed to seek a suitable site near Sydney on which it could be built.

From that year, in close and frequent discussions with Bull as my Chief, I had the working responsibility in Sydney for all the major early developments on the site to the point where it was possible to use it as a research facility with my group at the Wool Biology Laboratory as the first incumbents.

Summary of work on Prospect Lab

In summary this activity covered:
  • The broad concept and lay-out of the general plan of the building; the finding of a site with a report recommending its acquisition, dated 24 September 1945:
  • Leading to its acquisition for A£4,600, gazetted 5 September 1946 (Commonwealth Gazette No. 167);
  • The layout and subdivision of the site; the development and preliminary drawings of the building complex;
  • A model from June 1945 to the visit of the Standing Committee on Public Works, July 1949, conjointly with the CSIRO architect in Melbourne and the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing in Sydney;
  • The mobilising and presentation of evidence to the Parliamentary Committee in July 1949;
  • The detailed design particularly of the two sheep houses with their array of 154 single pens (in all 11 groups of 14 in each group with an exterior exercise yard), a food depot at one end and laboratory working space at the other (over-all length 252 feet, width 40 feet); the acquisition (most reluctantly on my part in signing the official requisition documents) of the two big Hawkesley pre-fabricated aluminium frame buildings which were the first laboratory structures erected as an easement of the long delays in orthodox construction in the early post-war years;
  • The preliminary design of the climate rooms evolved with Professor D.H.K. Lee, and later their more detailed operational construction with Mr. R. Morse, CSIRO engineer and his staff, who later developed the 'Climatron' for the Division of Plant Industry at Canberra;
  • The design of the building to accommodate the Fleece Analysis Unit with its own constant climate room.

Formation of Sheep Biology Laboratory Committee

With all these developments well forward the Divisional situation was formalised by the formation of a Sheep Biology Laboratory Committee in late 1951 under the chairmanship of Mr. D.A. Gill as Assistant Chief of the Division.

This was followed in 1952 by the appointment of Professor C. W. Emmens of the University Department of Veterinary Physiology to be Acting officer in charge (part-time) of the new Laboratory now so close to an operational beginning. Neither Gill nor Emmens had played any part in the creation of the new Laboratory and it was my difficult task to brief them both, in frequent meetings, on the essential concepts and purpose in its development in which I had been so closely involved during the previous seven years.

First experimental sheep arrive

Then on 8 October 1952 the first experimental sheep arrived at Prospect Hill and on 17 October the Fodder Storage Building and the first Sheep House were officially taken over from the builders. Thus from this date the research use of these new facilities began.

It was not, however, until 9 March 1959, when it was officially opened by Lord Casey as the 'Ian Clunies Ross Animal Research Laboratory' that the main intentions of the original concept were reasonably mature.

New Director- Dr Ian W. McDonald

By then it was directed by Dr. Ian. W. McDonald (appointed 1955) as Chief of the Division of Animal Physiology (See Nature, 17 September 1960, 187, 980-982). At that time the staff had grown to 46 graduate scientists and 56 technical assistants, and the construction cost had reached A£240,000. These funds had been made available to CSIRO by means of the Wool Use Promotion Act of 1945 and the Wool Industry Fund Act of 1946.

With accommodation for 300 sheep in single pens in the two sheep houses and 700 sheep outside in the experimental paddocks it was all a marked advance on the facilities with which the work or 'wool biology' had begun in my few single pens at the McMaster Laboratory nearly 15 years before.

First experiment

The first experiment using the new range of single pen facilities to some effect was that conducted during 1953-54 using stock of Egelabra blood and designed to study the influence oi the thyroid on the development of wool follicles in the Merino lamb. This was briefly reported in Section L to the ANZAAS meeting of January 1954, but published as a paper by Ferguson, Schinckel, Carter and Clarke, in the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences 9 (4) : 575-5 85 (1956).

Meanwhile, at the Wool Biology Laboratory in Randle Street, Dr. Arthur A. Dunlop, another New Zealander, had been appointed specifically to conduct the affairs of the 'Strain trials' and the allied breeding work of the field stations at Cunamulla, Armidale and Deniliquin, with which I had been concerned from their beginning in February 1948. Dunlop had take his PhD. in America in animal breeding and as a population geneticist of the Lush school was able to deal with the accumulating data, using desk space at Randle Street as his working base.

Tissue culture staff

Then, in 1952, Miss Pamela Davidson resigned from CSIRO to become Mrs Barratt of Mary Street, Longueville, after five very useful years with us, especially latterly with Margaret Hardy in our tissue culture laboratory at the McMaster. In her place I was able to appoint Mr. (later Dr.) A.G.Lyne, B.Sc. Hons. of the University of Hobart, with whom I had kept in close touch since I had met him in Tasmania several years before.

I had been much impressed with his work, as a zoologist, on the pelage and integument of the Tasmanian monotreme and marsupial fauna. Of these he had a unique collection covering a wide range of species each represented by pouch embryos almost complete as a development series.

Much of this material, which he had collected by his own nocturnal hunting, he used for his doctoral thesis in the Department of Zoology in Cambridge (largely at his own expense) under Professor J.E. Gray. This work he had amplified by tissue culture studies at the Strangeways Laboratory under Dr. Honor B. Fell FRS. Here he had met Dr. Margaret Hardy and he was therefore an excellent colleague for her in the- place of Pamela Davidson.

He joined Hardy in what were my original laboratory rooms which had now become devoted to cytology and tissue culture and together they elucidated the fine detail of the pre-natal development of the wool follicle population and associated structures of the Merino and clarified its terminology.

First research report of glands in mammals

In 1956 they jointly presented an account of the development of wool, mainly primary, follicles in tissue culture in which sebaceous and suderiferous (apocrine) gland differentiation was reported for the first time in any mammalian species.

In this work they had the technical assistance for the rigorous laboratory routines involved of Miss Margaret Heidemann whom I had appointed for this purpose. These papers by Hardy and Lyne were published in the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences 9 : (3) 423-44 1 and (4) 559-574.

I encouraged Margaret Heinemann to study for her B.Sc. at the University of Sydney which she succeeded in gaining. In 1959 she was co-author with Lyne on the pre-natal development of the skin and hair in cattle (Bos taurus L.) published in the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, 12 : (1) 72-95, and for which there seems to have been no former account in the literature.

This enabled a comparison to be made for the first time on the detailed events in pre-natal development of the skin and hair in two separate genera in the sub-family Bovidae which, in principle, Lyne had covered in his earlier paper comparing the growth of the marsupial Trichosurus vulpecula pre- and post-natal, in comparison with the mammals, mouse, sheep, ox
and man in Growth, 21 : 164-195, (1957).

Research staff

In 1961-62 A.G. Lyne was a Fulbright Research Scholar in the Biology Department at Brown University, U.S.A. In 1959 he was a founder member of the Australian Mammal Society and its first Secretary-Treasurer to become its President 1964-66. His Presidential address in Hobart in 1965 was 'The Development of Hair Follicles' published in the Australian Journal of Science, 28 : (10) 370-374 (1966).

Thus, by 1953, apart from myself, the scientific research staff assembled under the roof or management of the CSIRO Wool Biology Laboratory to be incorporated eventually in the new Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect Hill consisted of the following :
  • Dr. Margaret H. Hardy - experimental histology (tissue culture and cytology of the mammalian skin).
  • Dr.Kenneth A. Ferguson - experimental physiology (the endocrines and the physiology of wool follicles and skin glands).
  • Dr. Brian F. Short - flock population analysis and genetic anomalies of fleece growth ( e.g.low S/P groups in the Merino).
  • Dr. A. Gordon Lyne - experimental histology of the skin (tissue culture and comparative histodifferentiation in mammals and marsupials.
  • Mr. John Elliott - experimental physiology (heat regulation and fleece growth, climate room studies.
  • Mr. Robert A. Daly - comparative studies of fleece production (breed comparisons in single pens and re-elated field studies) and serving us all in the management of the laboratory office and its facilities our very competent New Zealand secretary, Miss Noeline Schwann.

Dedicated technicians

With us, over the years, grew a small but dedicated group of technical assistants on whom the success of the experimental work depended - in the laboratory the variety of histological procedures and the exacting routines of the tissue culture and cytological studies, the chemical and biochemical analyses and related physical tests and observations; in the sheep pens and paddocks the feeding and management of the experimental stock with the associated collection of blood samples, skin and fleece at the laboratory or elsewhere on field stations or in the course of particular surveys. This was especially so in the housed single pens, a regime now so essential in the expanding programme of physiological and comparative studies of a range of sheep genotypes.

The most senior and central figure was Mr. Walter M. Clarke, my first technical assistant appointed in 1939, and to whom the success and reliability of the range of histological procedures was due in their various experimental applications. Under him in various kinds of work these names are to be remembered as recurring in the acknowledgements of papers, as well as in co-authorship from time to time in some cases : Miss E. Baynes, Miss V. Croydon; Mss J. Grogan, Miss E MacIntosh, Miss E.D. Richards, Miss N. Humphrey, Miss F. Luce, Miss J. Bathgate, Miss C. Bathgate, Miss M. Heidemann; Mr. W.T. Outch, Mr. W.S. Blair.

Of these Miss Elizabeth Baynes was a stalwart pioneer among the group in adding the University course in Mathematical Statistics to her training with some distinction. Later she developed Reyneaux disease and we lost her pleasant presence and various abilities when, on medical advice, I was able to arrange her transfer to the warmer climate of Brisbane. Here she helped to establish a working laboratory in sheep and wool research for Mr. George Moule in the Queensland Department of Agriculture.

Miss June Grogan was also a pioneer in gaining her B.Sc. degree at the University, initially by periodic release from her laboratory duties and then leaving us for the last few terms of her course to return as an assistant with aan enhanced level of responsibility and collaboration The same procedure was made possible also for Miss Margaret Heidemann during the period of her work in tissue culture and cytology with Drs. Hardy and Lyne.

ln principle the same pattern was observed with Mr. W.T. Outch whom I encouraged from the beginning of his appointment as a junior assistant to follow a Science course at the Sydney Technical College, mostly at night but with up to one day release a week from hs laboratory duties as needed for his practical classes. By this means he gained hs B.Sc. when the College became the new university of Technology, transformed now into the University of New South Wales.

Miss Jeanette Bathgate worked closely as an assistant to Mr. W.H. Clarke to become a very competent histological technician. With him she developed the frozen section technique for skin samples as the demand increased for a more rapid method than the standard one of formalin fixation. With this skill at command she later joined the staff of the Animal Genetics Section at the University when the Wool Biology Laboratory moved out to Prospect Hill. In due time she was joint author of the paper by Nay, Bathgate and Beeston on a frozen section technique for sheep skin in the Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 10 : (6) 886-892 (1959).

Move from Randle Street to Prospect Hill

With the move from Randle Street to the Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect Hill, Walter H. Clarke himself became an important lynchpin in its development as a functioning research unit. Classified there as a Scientific Services Officer he was made officer-in-charge the combined Sections of Histology and Fleece Metrology (formerly the Fleece Analysis Laboratory under Norman Roberts).

Of this work some 60 per cent was done for what became the Division of Genetics elsewhere under Dr. J. Rendel, and about 35 per cent for the Division of Physiology under Dr. I. W. McDonald within the laboratory itself the rest for various other outside bodies. By 1965 an Autoradiography Section had been added to his responsibilities.

In 1973 he went as an FAO sheep and wool consultant to Uruguay where he initiated in the University Faculty of Agriculture a similar unit to that at Prospect: fleece testing for the sheep breeders and a histological laboratory for the research scientists concerned with breed and fleece improvement. During his time in South America he was also invited by the Peruvian Government to advise them on the development of suitable testing facilities for the classing and disposal of the national wool clip to the English and Swiss buyers.

Foundations laid for CSIRO

Thus in his ultimate role as Scientific Services Officer in the Laboratory at Prospect Hill, Clarke carried to fulfillment what he had begun in my rooms at the McMaster from his first days with me as a young man of 19, interrupted only by his 3 years war service abroad with the 3rd and then the 5th Australian General Hospitals, 1940-43 - Southern England, 1940-41; Eritrea and Abyssinia, 1941-42; New Guinea. 1943.

Invalided out from New Guinea with a severe middle ear infection late in 1943 he has been, ever since to his retirement after 35 years laboratory service, a solid and reliable figure round whom has grown the present array of laboratory services available to a range of research studies in the CSIRO Divisions of Animal Physiology and Animal Genetics.

Thus, briefly and in a general way, were foundations laid for the evolution of research in CSIRO in relation to the biological problems of the Australian sheep and wool industry. The pattern from this had developed essentially during the Divisional direction of Dr. Lionel B. Bull 1934-54, and my association with him over the same period, i.e. to his retirement in 1954 and my resignation from CSIRO in the same year to join the ARC's Animal Breeding Research Organisation at Edinburgh in Great Britain.

The Sheep Biology Laboratory at Prospect Hill, which Dr. Bull and I had together laboured to bring into being, became formalised as headquarters of the Division of Animal Physiology in 1955 under the direction of Dr. Ian W. McDonald as Chief, to be transformed and opened officially in 1959 as the Ian Clunies Ross Animal Research Laboratory.

At the same time the Animal Genetics Section became the Division of Animal Genetics under Dr. J.M. Rendel with its home base elsewhere in County Cumberland, although in my original concept animal physiology and animal genetics were intended to work together as an integrated research field.

Isolated labs centralised

Eventually, in CSIRO as a whole all, the separate Divisions and isolated laboratories concerned with animal research were gathered in 1974 under the Animal Research Laboratory Research Committee with Dr. K.A.Ferguson as Chairman, more recently consolidated as the Institute of Animal Sciences with Ferguson as Director. With his retirement more changes of a wide ranging character have occurred in Australian scientific research, not least in CSIRO, but these are beyond the range of the present subject.

Effectively now, the McMaster Laboratory in the University of Sydney has been closed as a CSIRO establishment and its staff incorporated with that of the Prospect laboratory. So too has the Division of Animal Genetics ceased to exist as a separate entity elsewhere and its staff also has now been brought under the one scientific direction at Prospect Hill.

There have even been questions at Government level whether the Ian Clunies Ross Animal Research Laboratory should continue to exist and whether it could not be sold or otherwise disposed of as a CSIRO asset, if the pages of Nature within the past year are to be believed.

H. B. Carter
17 April 2000

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