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Biographical entry Farrer, William James (1845 - 1906)

Born
3 April 1845
Docker, Westmorland, England
Died
16 April 1906
Occupation
Agriculturalist and Wheat propagator

Summary

William James Farrer was involved in developing breeds of wheat to withstand disease (especially rust) and harsh Australian conditions as well as to produce high yields. His most notable achievement was the breeding and establishment of "Federation" wheat. His achievement extended wheat-growing areas, especially in New South Wales, and resulted in Australia's becoming a world leader in wheat exports. William Farrer was in favour of large-scale ringbarking of eucalypts, arguing it would quadruple the carrying capacity of undeveloped bushland.

Details

Born Docker, Westmorland, England, 3 April 1845. Died 16 April 1906. Scholarship to Christ's Hospital, London, where he won a gold and a silver medal for mathematics. Educated University of Cambridge (BA 1868). Arrived Australia 1870. Tutor, George Campbell's sheep station, Duntroon (Canberra), New South Wales; qualified as s surveyor 1875; Department of Lands in the Dubbo, Nyngan, Cobar and Cooma districts 1875-86; bought Lambrigg, on the Murrumbidgee River near where Canberra now stands 1886; private experiments on cross-breeding wheat from 1889; wheat experimentalist, Department of Agriculture from 1898. His best known wheat was "Federation", the leading variety throughout Australia 1910-25 and in 1914, of the 29 varieties recommended for growing in New South Wales 22 had been developed by him. His wheats were not so much rust-resistant as rust escaping be causing of their early maturity. His grave behind his house at Lambrigg is marked with a granite column erected by the Commonwealth Government and there is a bronze bust of him at Queanbeyan, New South Wales. Commemorated by the Farrer Memorial medal for outstanding service to agricultural science in research, administration and education; the Farrer Memorial research scholarship awarded for postgraduate research in agriculture; currency; stamps; various schools; streets; a suburb of Canberra; a flour-mill; and several institutions.

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Australian Botanists - Biographies, MS 064; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • William James Farrer - Records, 1891 - 1905, A3143; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details
  • William James Farrer - Records, 1894 - 1906, A2078; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details
  • William James Farrer - Records, 1867 - 1906; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • William James Farrer - Records, 1898 - 1905, MS 33; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details
  • William James Farrer - Records, 1901 - 1902, MS 2856; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

State Records New South Wales, Sydney Reading Room

  • William James Farrer - Records, 1885 - 1906, 5/3249.1; State Records New South Wales, Sydney Reading Room. Details
  • William James Farrer - Records, 1885 - 1906, 5/3249.2; State Records New South Wales, Sydney Reading Room. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Books

  • Moyal, A. M., Scientists in Nineteenth Century Australia: a Documentary History, Cassell Australia, Melbourne, 1976. Details
  • Russell, Archer, William James Farrer: a Biography, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1949, 226 pp. Details
  • Wrigley, J. and Fagg, M., Eucalypts: A Celebration, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest Australia, 2010, 344 pp. Wrigley and Fagg refer to Farrer's endorsement of the ringbarking of eucalypts on p. 93. Details

Book Sections

  • Hou, Yong Kang, 'William James Farrer, 1845-1906', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. Details
  • Wrigley, C. W., 'Farrer, William James (1845-1906), Wheat Breeder', in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 8, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1981, pp. 471-473. Also available at http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A080498b.htm. Details

Journal Articles

  • Campbell, Walter S., 'William James Farrer', Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 19, 1933, pp. 269-285. Details
  • Cawte, Mary, 'William Farrer and the Australian Response to Mendelism', Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 6, no. 1, 1984, pp. 45-58. Also available at http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/HR9840610045.htm. Details
  • Evans, L. T., 'Respones to challenge: William Farrer and the making of wheat', Journal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science, vol. 46, no. 1, 1980, pp. 3-13. Details
  • Guthrie, F. B., 'William Farrer', Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, June, 1960, pp. 533-538. Details
  • Skelton, C. P., 'The Methods of the Late W. J. Farrer with Some Results of His Work', Sydney Government Printer, 1925. Details
  • Wenholz, W., 'William Farrer. Australia's Greatest Benefactor', The Australian Quarterly, 1930, pp. 91-100. Details
  • Wrigley, C. W., 'W. J. Farrer and F. B. Guthrie: the Unique Breeder-Chemist Combination That Pioneered Quality Wheats for Australia', Records of the Australian Academy of Science, vol. 4, no. 1, 1979, pp. 7-25. Also available at http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/HR9790410007.htm. Details

Online Resources

See also

  • Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Technology in Australia 1788-1988, Online edn, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, Melbourne, 3 May 2000, http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/tia/index_f.html. Details
  • Wrigley, C. M. and Rathjen, A., 'Wheat breeding in Australia', in Carr, D. J. and Carr, S. G. M. (eds), Plants and Man in Australia, Academic Press, Sydney, 1981, pp. 96-135. Details

McCarthy, G.J.