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Biographical entry Agar, Wilfred Eade (1882 - 1951)


27 April 1882
Wimbledon, England
14 July 1951
Kew, Victoria, Australia


Wilfred Agar was Professor of Zoology at the University of Melbourne from 1919-1948 where he introduced the disciplines of cytology and genetics. A graduate of King's College, Cambridge, he demonstrated in zoology in Glasgow and spent some time in Paraguay prior to coming to Australia.


Wilfred Agar obtained a Masters of Arts (zoology major) from Kings College, Cambridge. Upon completing his studies he had a brief stint in the Natural History section of the British Museum, then took up a demonstrating job with the Zoology Department of the University of Glasgow in 1904. This was the start of a distinguished career in teaching and research in genetics and cytology. His early work was on the embryology of the lungfishes Lepidosiren and Protopterus which led to a fellowship from King's Collage and funding from the Royal Society and the Balfour Fund, Cambridge for an exploration to the very inhospitable and inaccessible Gran Chaco in Paraguay.

In 1915 Agar's research was halted when he was enlisted to fight in World War I. He was made captain of the 5th Battalion and sent to Gallipoli (June 1915) and Egypt. While in Egypt (Alexandria) Agar become ill (enteric fever) and was sent back to England where he remained in army service until 1918. He migrated to Australia with his wife and children in 1919 to take up the Chair of Zoology at the University of Melbourne. This was a hectic role in the early days as Agar was the sole lecturer and main practical teacher. Agar eventually employed more staff to cover some of these duties so he could start up his research again. He was one of the first in Australia to discuss gene inheritance in cattle which lead to the introduction of applying genetic selection in animal breeding. During his 30 odd years at the University, Wilfred Agar rejected three offers to chair at British universities, he was a long-term council member, dean of the faculty of science twice, chair of the professorial board and councillor, then president, of the Royal Society of Victoria. During 1923-47 Agar and family lived in one of the original professors' houses, which he and his wife named 'Clyde'. His watercolour of Clyde' was used by the University of Melbourne Alumni and Development Unit for its 1997 Christmas card.


Education - Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Zoology completed at University of Cambridge, UK
1904 - 1914
Career position - Zoology Demonstrator at Glasgow University, Scotland
Education - Master of Arts (MA) in Zoology completed at the University of Cambridge, UK
Career position - Expedition to collect samples for cytology in Gran Chaco, Paraguay
1907 - 1913
Award - Fellow of King's College Cambridge, UK
Life event - Married Elizabeth MacDonald in Glasgow
1914 - 1918
Career position - Captain of the 5th Battalion with the Highland Light Infantry
1918 - 1919
Career position - Zoology Demonstrator at Glasgow University, Scotland
c. 1919
Education - Doctor of Science (DSc) received in Glasgow
1919 - 1948
Career position - Professor of Zoology at the University of Melbourne
Career position - Cytology text book published in London
1927 - 1928
Career position - President of the Royal Society of Victoria
1931 - 1934
Career position - Chairman of the Professorial Board of the University of Melbourne
Award - Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Career position - A Contribution to the Theory of the Living Organism published in Melbourne
Award - Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Wilfred Eade Agar - Records, 1907 - 1951, MS 001; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • Agar, W. E., 'Obituary: Dr. Georgina Sweet', Australian Journal of Science, 9 (1) (1946), 15. Details
  • Kerr, J. G., 'Obituary: Professor W. E. Agar', Nature, 168 (1951). Details
  • Tiegs, O. W., 'Obituary: Wilfred Eade Agar', Australian Journal of Science, 14 (2) (1951), 49. Details


Resource Sections

See also

Digital resources

Wilfred Eade Agar


McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci