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Biographical entry Penfold, William James (1875 - 1941)

27 November 1875
Brampton, Cumberland, England
26 October 1941
Camberwell, Victoria, Australia
Bacteriologist and Medical scientist


William Penfold was the first Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), having been invited by the Australian Government to accept the position on the strength of his international reputation as a bacteriologist and in preventive medicine. His research before coming to Australia was wide-ranging and included typhoid, cerebral meningitis, and dysentery. As Director his task was to manufacture biological products for human use. He established and equipped laboratories, trained staff, and by 1919 was producing influenza vaccine. Seeking more opportunity for research, Penfold became Director of the Baker Medical Research Institute at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, in 1926. Here he established an effective bacteriological and biochemical services, and integrated them with the Hospital's pathology department. His research included pioneering work on anaerobic bacillary infections, means of reducing diabetic mortality, and the prevention of gas gangrene. Penfold was active in the foundation of Victoria's State Cancer Research Committee and the Australian Medical Research Council.



Education - MB ChM, University of Edinburgh
1896 - 1909
Career position - In clinical practice Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom
Education - Diploma of Public Health, Bachelor of Hygiene, University of Durham
Education - Licentiate and Member, Royal College of Physicians, London
1909 - 1916
Career position - Bacteriologist, Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London
1916 - 1926
Career position - Director, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories
1926 - 1938
Career position - Director, Baker Medical Research Institute
Life event - Retired
1938 - 1941
Career position - Foundation Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Archival resources

Private hands (Lindsay, P.)

  • William James Penfold - Records, 1875 - 1911; Private hands (Lindsay, P.). Details

Published resources


  • McDonald, G. L., Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (Sydney: Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 1988), 332 pp. Details

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • 'In Memory of William James Penfold', Australian Journal of Science, 4 (6) (1942), 192-193. Details
  • Willis, R. A. and Sch├╝tze, H., 'William James Penfold 1875-1941', Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology, 54 (2) (1942), 267-276. Details
  • Willis, R. A. et al., 'Obituary: William James Penfold', Medical Journal of Australia, 1941 (2) (1941), 657-60. Details


McCarthy, G.J. and Helen Cohn