RENNIE, Edward Henry (1852-1927)


RENNIE, Edward Henry (1852-1927)
scientist
son of A. E. Rennie, afterwards auditor-general of New South Wales, was born at Sydney on 19 August 1852. Educated at the Fort-street public school, Sydney Grammar School, and the university of Sydney, he graduated B.A. in 1870 and M.A. in 1876. He was a master at Sydney Grammar School for five years and at Brisbane Grammar School for about 18 months, and then went to London to study chemistry. He was for two years assistant to Dr C. R. Alder Wright in the chemical department of St Mary's hospital medical school, did some teaching at the Royal College of Science, South Kensington, and graduated D.Sc. Lond. in 1881. Returning to Australia in 1882 he was two years in the government analyst's department at Sydney, and was then appointed first Angas professor of chemistry in the university of Adelaide. He began his duties in February 1885, and for many years had to work in makeshift conditions. Rennie however, made the best of the position, and also gave much time to the conduct of the university. He was a member of the council from 1889 to 1898, when he resigned because he was leaving Australia for 12 months to study the development of chemical manufacture, and was again a member of the council from 1909 to the time of his death. During 1924-5 and 1925-6 he was acting vice-chancellor. He was also an active member of the council of the school of mines. He was for 36 years a member of the council of the Royal Society of South Australia, was its president from 1886 to 1889 and 1900 to 1903, and vice-president from 1903 to 1919. He was for a time president of the Australian Chemical Institute, and chairman of the state committee of the Commonwealth advisory council of science and industry. In August 1926 he was elected to one of the highest offices open to a scientific man in Australia—that of president of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. Rennie was also a fellow of the Chemical Societies of London and Berlin, and a fellow of the Institute of Chemists of Great Britain and Ireland. Though in his seventy-fifth year he was still carrying on the duties of his chair, when he died suddenly at Adelaide on 8 January 1927. He married a daughter of Dr Cadell of Sydney, who survived him with a son, E. J. C. Rennie, afterwards a senior lecturer in engineering at the university of Melbourne, and two daughters.
Of simple and somewhat austere tastes, and a sincerely religious man, Rennie was much liked by his students and associates. As a scientist he kept abreast of his subject, but had little time for writing and few facilities for research. Some early papers by him will be found in the Transactions of the Chemical Society for the years 1879-82 and a list of his papers in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia is given on page 426 of volume LI. A few of his papers were reprinted separately as pamphlets.
The Register and The Advertiser, Adelaide, 10 January 1927; Transactions and Proceedings Royal Society of South Australia, vol. LI, p. 425; Journal of the Chemical Society, 1927, p. 3189.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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