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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Stewart, James Douglas (1869–1955)

by Robert I. Taylor

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

James Douglas Stewart (1869-1955), veterinary surgeon, was born on 18 August 1869 at Windsor, New South Wales, second son of John Stewart junior, a veterinary surgeon from Edinburgh, and his Parramatta-born wife Jessie, née Walker. James was educated at Sydney Grammar School and then articled to an accountant for three years. Entering the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, Edinburgh, in 1890, he passed its examinations with three gold medals and was admitted to membership of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, in May 1893.

Back in Australia, Stewart assisted his father at Windsor and in 1894 founded the Veterinary Medical Association of New South Wales. Next year he became honorary veterinary surgeon to the New South Wales Zoological Society and in 1896 assistant teacher, later lecturer, in veterinary science, farriery and meat inspection at Sydney Technical College. As veterinary officer in the Department of Agriculture from 1898, he organized the colony's veterinary services, published in the New South Wales Agricultural Gazette and initiated measures to control the scourges of tuberculosis and ticks in cattle. He was appointed chief inspector of stock in 1907. On 4 September 1901 at Randwick he had married with Presbyterian forms Edith May Forsyth, daughter of John and niece of Archibald Forsyth.

In 1909 Stewart accepted the foundation chair of veterinary science at the University of Sydney (B.V.Sc., 1911). During World War I student numbers dropped to four; but for Stewart's 'courage and determination', the school might have closed. He lectured on every subject in the curriculum and it was some time before he could devote his attention to the study of veterinary medicine. From being a captain in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps, he was promoted major; he was also director of veterinary services of the Australian Military Forces at Headquarters in Melbourne. With (Sir) Thomas Lyle and (Sir) David Masson, he served on the executive committee of the Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry.

President of the Australian Veterinary Association in 1922, he secured the passage of the 1923 Veterinary Surgeons Act and sat on the Veterinary Surgeons Board (president, 1931-34). 'Always insistent that the veterinarian must take his place as the scientific equal of the members of any of the scientific professions', he was president of the veterinary science section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1926 and of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1927-28.

Retiring in August 1939, Stewart maintained his lifelong interest in horses: he was veterinary surgeon to the Australian Jockey Club (1908-53), and a founder and director of the club's apprentices' school of which he was an honorary instructor from 1940. He was, in addition, a founder and director of the Corps of Commissionaires for ex-servicemen.

The recipient of many honours, Stewart was an honorary life member of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales (1935), a fellow (1936) and honorary associate (1954) of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, and fellow of the Australian Veterinary Association (1941) which awarded him the Gilruth prize in 1953.

Survived by a son and three daughters, Stewart died at Darlinghurst on 17 September 1955 and was cremated. A pioneer in veterinary education in Australia and New Zealand, he was a man of vision, action and achievement. His portrait by Norman Carter is held by the University of Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Veterinary Journal (London), 36, 1893, pp 34, 65
  • Australian Veterinary Journal, Oct 1935, p 173, Oct 1955, p 271, 11 Mar 1988
  • University of Sydney Veterinary Association, Centaur, 1939, 1955
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Mar 1926, 5 May 1927, 7 Jan 1929, 25 Mar 1932, 3 Apr, 5 May, 19 Aug 1936, 25 Aug 1939, 26 Nov 1940, 1 July 1950, 14 May 1954, 18 Sept 1955
  • Country Life, 7 Oct 1955
  • Austrailan Veterinary Association historical collection (Austrailan Veterinary Association Archives, Artarmon, Sydney, and Harden, New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Robert I. Taylor, 'Stewart, James Douglas (1869–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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