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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Addison, Stanley Simpson (1880–1972)

by G. F. James

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Stanley Simpson Addison (1880-1972), administrator and publisher, was born on 14 October 1880 at Aldinga, South Australia, second son of Charley Addison, baker, and his wife Fanny, née Butterworth. Educated at the local state school, Stanley worked on a farm and as a doctor's coachman; in 1901 he became a workshop assistant and eventually laboratory assistant to Professor (Sir) William Henry Bragg at the University of Adelaide. There, Addison studied mathematics and physics (B.Sc., 1908), joined the tennis and lacrosse teams, and was treasurer of the Scientific Society, vice-chairman of the Student Christian Movement and editor of the Intercollegian.

Appointed general secretary of the Australian Student Christian Movement in 1908, Addison developed its publications and, on its behalf in 1910 and 1913, visited the United States of America, Britain, Europe, the Middle East and India. Having been declared medically unfit to enlist in 1914, he joined the Australian branch of the British Red Cross Society in October 1915, and was among those selected and trained to inquire after missing soldiers. He served on Lemnos, at Gallipoli, in Egypt and France, and was mentioned in dispatches. On 8 January 1917 he married Minnie Vera Elizabeth Staley at the parish church, Brondesbury, Middlesex, England; they were to remain childless.

In March 1918 Addison was commissioned temporary sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Briefly attached to the personal staff of his former 'chief' Bragg—then professor of physics at University College, London, who was applying sound-range recording to submarine detection—Addison was directly involved in setting up bases for hydrophone-equipped patrol boats. Invalided from the navy in October 1918, he joined the staff of Professor (Sir) Henry Barraclough and helped to oversee the welfare of some five thousand Australian munitions workers in Britain. While assisting with their repatriation, Addison was transferred in 1919 to the Department of Defence, Melbourne. In 1920 he was appointed O.B.E.

That year he was selected for the new position of assistant-registrar at the University of Melbourne. He established a student employment bureau and, according to W. Macmahon Ball, excited interest in his informal study groups. After council approved the establishment of a bookroom, Addison became an ex officio director and part-time manager in October 1921. A reporter saw him as tall, clean shaven and slightly stooped, with 'round, beaming glasses' and a mild, scholarly face. Seeking further income-producing amenities, Addison found space for a university post-and-telegraph office, for hoods and gowns hire, and for a formalized lecture-note service. The post office, however, was an error of judgement: the small commission on stamp sales met but a fraction of the staffing cost.

Directors agreed that publication of 'university works' was to be the ultimate objective of the bookroom, to which all other activities would contribute. An appeal for funds was disappointing; most early publications depended on authors' assistance. Myra Willard's History of the White Australia Policy to 1920 opened the list of Melbourne University Press publications in 1923. When Addison resigned in 1931 following continued ill health, almost forty items had been issued. The Economic Record was appearing biannually on behalf of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, and agreement had been reached with the Australian Council for Educational Research for publication of its reports and monographs. Both the establishment and the early growth of Melbourne University Press owed much to Addison's initiative and sustained interest.

Secretary (from 1932) of the Victorian division of the Sound Finance League, Addison wrote reviews and broadcast on monetary policy and international affairs. In 1937 he rejoined the Australian Red Cross Society. As secretary-general in 1938-39, he played a major role in preparing its early wartime organization and emergency services. He was assistant-director, Central Bureau for Prisoners of War, in 1940, chief controller of Voluntary Aid Detachments for the Commonwealth in 1942-47, research officer for postwar reconstruction in 1943 and joint secretary of the Australian Council for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in 1944.

Having concluded his Red Cross service on 15 August 1947, Addison moved to Kangaroo Ground and in 1949-56 served on the Eltham Shire Council (president, 1952). He was appointed president of the local war memorial trust in 1957. Survived by his wife, he died on 1 January 1972 at North Balwyn and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Dow (ed), Memories of Melbourne University (Melb, 1983)
  • Australian Red Cross Society, Annual Report, 1915-18, 1947-48
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Sept 1915, 29 Dec 1938, 17 July 1944
  • Punch (Melbourne), 4 Dec 1924
  • S. S. Addison, Brief Outline of M.U.P. Development, 1930 (Melbourne University Press Archives)
  • L. Scott, Outline History of M.U.P., 1960 (Melbourne University Press Archives)
  • University of Melbourne Archives.

Citation details

G. F. James, 'Addison, Stanley Simpson (1880–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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