Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2014 Issue
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1900s -1920s: The reputation grows

Library, 1906, originally housed in the Mitchell Building

Library, 1906, originally housed in the Mitchell Building

Dr Helen Mayo OBE

Dr Helen Mayo OBE

Braggs' laboratory, 1900

Braggs' laboratory, 1900

Rowing Club

Rowing Club

The international status of the University of Adelaide continued to build during the early 1900s. In its 50th year in 1924, more than 100 degrees were conferred for the first time. They joined a graduate community of some 1,450 people, many of whom had gone on to positions of leadership locally, nationally and internationally. The distinguished graduate list included Sir Douglas Mawson, who led the world's first scientifically oriented exploration of Antarctica, while in 1915 William and Lawrence Bragg jointly won the first of five Nobel prizes awarded to the University's alumni.

The physical character of the campus was also changing. Generous gifts resulted in many new buildings, including the newly completed Elder Hall, the Darling Building (in honour of Sir John Darling, Chair of BHP), and the Physics Building, gifted by the State Government for the University's Golden Jubilee. Peter Waite's bequest of his Urrbrae estate - handed over to the University in 1923 - was a gift of unprecedented magnitude and marked the creation of one of Australia's most celebrated agricultural science research and teaching centres.

Pioneer of women's and children's health

Helen Mayo was a remarkable woman in a professional and academic world heavily dominated by men. She graduated from medicine in 1902 with distinction, becoming the University of Adelaide's second female medical graduate. With her friend, social worker Harriet Stirling, she established her first clinic for mothers and babies in 1909 which later grew into the Mothers and Babies Health Association in 1927, serving the whole State. Dr Mayo was elected to the University Council in 1914, serving until 1960. She died in 1967.

Various places bear her name in recognition of her enormous and varied contribution, including the original University Mayo Refectory in Union House, rooms at St Ann's, Helen Mayo House for new mothers with mental health problems at the Women's and Children's Hospital, and the federal electorate of Mayo in the Adelaide Hills.

Today, the University's Robinson Research Institute continues the tradition of groundbreaking work in this area. The Institute comprises internationally renowned researchers in human reproduction, pregnancy and child health with a focus on the early stages of life to improve the health and wellbeing of children and families across generations, in Australia and around the world.

First female Doctor of Music

Music was part of Ruby Davy's life from an early age. She began teaching the subject at just 13 in her mother's Salisbury School of Music and graduated from the Elder Conservatorium of Music in 1907. She was a regular performer and also taught from a studio at Allan's Music Shop in Rundle Street. In 1913, at the age of 30, Ruby began her Doctorate of Music, studying violin, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, kettle drums and other instruments of percussion. She graduated as Australia's first female Doctor of Music in 1918 and went on to open a music school in Melbourne. Ruby died in 1949 and left 300 to the University to provide a scholarship which survives today as the Dr Ruby Davy Prize for Composition.

Icons of sporting achievement

In 1910, the Governor of South Australia Sir Day Bosanquet, opened the University's first sporting grounds and facilities. The University Oval, grandstand pavilion and boat shed are icons of sporting achievement of the past century which were used by many of the University's greatest sportsmen and women. Thirteen benefactors donated 100 each to pay for the new pavilion, while a generous contribution of 750 from Robert Barr Smith led to the construction of the boat shed.

A formidable father-and-son team

University of Adelaide mathematics and physics lecturer William Henry Bragg and his son Lawrence (William Lawrence) are recognised as one of the most scientifically brilliant teams in history. They were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for their discovery and experimentation of X-ray crystallography. Their discovery was so significant that 100 years on it still affects many aspects of our lives from determining the structure of DNA and proteins, to developing new drugs and chemicals. The Braggs are still the only father-and-son combination to win a prestigious Nobel Prize.

The University and the Great War

By November 1918 the War had claimed the lives of 63 staff, students and graduates with many more injured among a total of almost 500 who served in some capacity. The University archives contain a fascinating set of records relating to their military service, including several hundred letters from the families of serving staff, students and graduates.

Milestones and achievements

1900 Elder Hall opens

1905 First 'Prosh' procession organised by the Adelaide University Union which involved a parade and stunts organised to raise funds for charity

1908 Blues Awards established for outstanding sporting achievement

1911-1914 Sir Douglas Mawson's epic journey of exploration to Antarctica

1915 William Henry Bragg and his son Lawrence jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics

1919 Faculty of Dentistry established

1920 Sir Douglas Mawson appointed Professor

1920 Graduates Association of the University of Adelaide founded

1923 Thorburn Brailsford Robertson produced the first insulin in Australia in the University of Adelaide's Darling Building

1924 Waite Agricultural Research Institute established

1924 University Golden Jubilee


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