HENRY CHAPMAN, STAR STUDENT
Professor Henry George Chapman was born in England, in 1879. When his family migrated to Australia, Henry attended Melbourne University on a scholarship. He studied medicine, graduating with first – class honours and excelling in anatomy, physiology and pathology. He was described as being tall, ruggedly good looking and with a dominant personality.
During a brief sojourn in Adelaide he married Julie Adelaide Cox. That same year (1903) he joined the University of Sydney. He had become an expert in toxicology, and lectured in pharmacology and plant physiology. A few years later he was appointed honorary pathological chemist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
For a number years Henry and Adelaide Chapman lived in the harbour suburb of Mosman, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. This was where their three children were born; two girls and a boy. At some point they moved to the Blue Mountains, to a house called Hiawatha, in Station Street, Blackheath.
The house was on a large block, conveniently close to the village and the railway station. I wonder if that’s his jackaroo son Rupert in the photo below, herding sheep along the Great Western Highway? I have to say, jackarooing seems an odd occupation for a professor’s son, especially in Blackheath.
CAREER ON THE RISE
In 1915 Chapman was appointed honorary secretary of the prestigious Royal Society. Two years later he accepted the Chair of Pharmacology at Sydney University. Through this role, he was appointed chairman of an inquiry into serious lung disease affecting miners at Broken Hill. His report confirmed that pneumoconiosis was an industrial disease caused by inhaling dust. It was largely through his efforts that the men received compensation and their working hours were reduced. In the midst of a bitter strike at the mines, he deliberately withheld the names of the 251 men involved until it was certain they would receive compensation. The publicity surrounding the inquiry raised Chapman’s profile and certainly enhanced his reputation. When pharmacology and physiology were combined at the university he successfully applied to take over the enlarged role.
In 1926 the university’s Chancellor, Sir William Cullen, raised over £120,000 through public donations for cancer research. The following year Professor Chapman applied for the position of Director of Cancer Research. He stated that he was very interested both in the biochemical aspects of the disease, and its occurrence in particular families. He was appointed after the preferred candidate turned down the position and there were those in the Faculty of Science who had some misgivings. They considered his research methods suspect and disliked his penchant for self promotion.
Meanwhile, Chapman was also involved in some interesting research with the commercial firm of Berlei Limited, the well known brassier and corset manufacturers. The company set out to determine accurate body shapes of women aged from 15 to 65. 6,000 women were measured around the country and results were tabulated by Professor Chapman’s team. Five distinct figure types were identified. The survey became known as the National Census of Women’s Measurements. Another of his long term interests was the science of bread making, a subject he lectured on at the Sydney Technical College.
As time went by, it was felt that Professor Chapman was not putting enough effort into cancer research. This may be why he suddenly reported on an experiment he had carried out himself, albeit a rather strange one. He said he had, ‘macerated a portion of a patient’s own tumour made an emulsion of it , then injected it back into the patient.‘ This, Chapman insisted, was a promising new form of attack on cancer.
Chapman still found time for an active role in the community of Blackheath. He became a patron of the Blackheath and District Horticultural Society, and gave an address each year at the local primary school, during Education Week. His daughter Gladys was in charge of the Blackheath Girl Guides and later became District Commissioner. She married Bob Flynn at St Joseph’s Church, Blackheath in January 1934 with girl guides forming a guard of honour. It was a proud day for the Chapman family.
Later that year a problem arose over the finances of the Royal Society. As Treasurer, Chapman had been called on to provide the auditor, Mr Minell, with information on bonds held on the Society’s behalf at the Union Bank. He continually delayed doing so, and when pushed he sent the following letter;
Dear Mr Minell – I greatly regret the delay in regard to the completion of your audit. My illness has unfortunately prevented me from finding the keys of the strong box at the bank, which seem to have been mislaid some months ago. I shall take steps to get the authority of the council to open forcibly the box at the bank. With apologies for the trouble that you have been occasioned. I am, yours sincerely. Henry G. Chapman. Hon. Treasurer.
Despite Chapman’s assurances, nothing happened. Early on the afternoon of May 25 Mr Minell and other executive officers of the Royal Society took the matter into their own hands. They met at the Union Bank of Australia with a locksmith. When the strongbox was opened, it was discovered that several thousand pounds worth of bonds were missing.
One thing was certain, Professor Chapman would have to be confronted over the missing funds. He was also treasurer of the Australian National Research Council, and there had recently been problems in paying staff.
TO BE CONTINUED. CLICK HERE FOR …..EPISODE TWO