Life Sentences - ADB Lives in Mortar at ANU

Life Sentences - ADB Lives in Mortar at ANU
Robert Garran 1932 [detail], National Library of Australia, 51773727

Professor Melanie Nolan, reveals former ANU illuminaries who have Australian Dictionary of Biography entries, first published in ANU Reporter, Autumn 2009, p 8

ANU Reporter readers are presumably interested in people who have had some connection with the University. If they were to search ADB Online, however, they would find that the ANU is mentioned in just 96 biographies. This is because the university has only been in existence since 1946 and, to date, subjects included in ADB Online died before 1981. 

People with surnames beginning A-K who died between 1981 and 1990 are included in volume 17. There you will find economist Sir John Crawford (1910-1984), international relations professor Hedley Bull (1932-1985), political scientist L. F. Crisp (1917-1984), historian W. Keith Hancock (1898-1988) and physicist Sir Leonard Huxley (1902–1988). This volume is published but not yet online.

ADB staff are in the throes of editing entries L-Z for volume 18, to be published in 2012. The likes of economic historian, Noel Butlin (1921-1991) and poet Judith Wright (1915-2000) will not appear until volumes 19 and 20, due for publication in roughly 2015 and 2019 respectively. You don't just have to be dead to appear in the ADB–you have to be long dead.

Many important national figures in the second half of the 20th century received their education or honorary degrees at the ANU, or played a significant part in developing the University, and are included in the first 16 volumes online. Two indices of a person’s importance are an ADB article and a large building, institution or road named in his or her honour.
Australian prime ministers who contributed directly to the creation of the ANU are enshrined in the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Chifley and Menzies libraries. Stanley Melbourne (Viscount) Bruce (1883-1967), prime minister from 1923 to 1929, was the University’s first chancellor. He not only provided a generous endowment, but felt so connected to the institution that he asked for his ashes be scattered over its grounds. Many thought it was fitting that the first residence - Bruce Hall - should be named after him.

More recently, some buildings have been named after female academics and administrators, such as mathematician Hanna Neumann (1914-1971), and Judith Wright.
A disproportionate number of ANU alumni in the ADB sat on the interim council in 1946-1951. For example, Sir Douglas Berry Copland (1894-1971) was an academic, economist, bureaucrat, diplomat and founding vice-chancellor from May 1948. He oversaw the interim council and an academic advisory committee, as the idea of the ANU was embodied in buildings, research and education. The Copland Lecture Theatre is part of his legacy in masonry.

Medical scientist Howard Walter (Baron) Florey (1898-1968) has had a suburb in Canberra and a research institute in Melbourne named after him, and his likeness adorns the Australian 50 dollar note. The ANU honoured him with the name of a lecture theatre and a professorship in the John Curtin School of Medical Research as well as an eponymous lecture and a travelling fellowship.
Perhaps Sir Robert Garran (1867-1957) is the great overachiever in terms of ANU accolades. A lawyer and public servant, who served on the interim council from 1946 to 1951, he became the university's first graduate when he was awarded an honorary LL.D. A Canberra University College (now ANU) chair of law, one of the halls of residence, a road on campus, and an annual oration of the Royal (Australian) Institute of Public Administration all bear his name.

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