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Biographical entry Halford, George Britton (1824 - 1910)

26 November 1824
Petworth, Sussex, England
27 May 1910
Inverloch, Victoria, Australia
Anatomist and Physiologist


George Halford became the first professor in medicine at an Australian university when he was appointed Professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology at the University of Melbourne in 1862. His reputation as an experimental physiologist was a key factor in his being offered the position. The number of medical students expanded rapidly, increasing the teaching load such that in 1882 he was restyled Professor Physiology while the teaching of anatomy fell under a new chair. Halford retired from teaching in 1897 and resigned his chair in 1903. Women were first admitted to study at the University in 1880, nine years after Halford first proposed that they should be allowed to do so. Halford's research took a back seat to his teaching although he found time to work on treatments for snakebite and was vociferous in his opposition to the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. The Halford Oration was established by his family in 1928: it was delivered at the Institute of Anatomy, Canberra, until 1948 and thereafter at the University of Melbourne.



Education - Member, Royal College of Surgeons, London
Education - MD, St Andrews University, Scotland
Education - Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (LSA)
Education - Member, Royal College of Physicians, London
1862 - 1882
Career position - Professor Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology, University of Melbourne
Award - M.D (ad eund.), University of Melbourne
Career position - Vice-President, Royal Society of Victoria
Career position - Member of Council, Royal Society of Victoria
Career position - Vice-President, Royal Society of Victoria
Career position - President, Professorial Board, University of Melbourne
Career position - Member of Council, Royal Society of Victoria
1876 - 1886
Career position - Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne
1882 - 1903
Career position - Professor of Physiology, University of Melbourne
1890 - 1896
Career position - Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne
Life event - Retired from teaching
Life event - Resigned the Chair of Physiology

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • George Britton Halford - Records, 1860 - 1949; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Butcher, Barry W., 'Gorilla Warfare in Melbourne: Halford, Huxley and 'Man's Place in Nature'' in Australian Science in the Making, R. W. Home, ed. (Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 153-169. Details
  • Russell, K. F., 'Halford, George Britton (1824-1910)' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 4 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972), pp. 321-322. Details

Journal Articles

  • Kenny, A. L., 'The Halford Oration: Halford the Man', Medical Journal of Australia (1941), 129-134. Details
  • Osborne, W. A., 'George Britton Halford: His Life and Work', Medical Journal of Australia (1929), 64-88. Details
  • Stawell, R. R., 'The Halford Oration. The Foundations of the Medical School and the Future of Medical Education', Medical Journal of Australia (1931), 1-8. Details


See also

  • Science and the making of Victoria, with Royal Society of Victoria, 2001, Details
  • Barrett, J., 'The Halford Oration. (The Progress of Medical Science from Professor Halford's arrival in Australia to the Present Day)', Medical Journal of Australia, 2 (1932), 707-718. Details
  • Moyal, Ann, with Robert E. Marks, 'The scientists and Darwin's The origin of species in nineteenth century Australia: a re-evaluation', Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 152 (1) (2019), 5-26. Details

McCarthy, G.J. and Helen Cohn