- SMITH, John McGarvie (1844-1918)
- metallurgist and bacteriologistwas born at Sydney in 1844. At 13 years of age he had to make his own living, and having learned the trade of watchmaker and jeweller, opened a business for himself at Sydney in 1866. He carried on this business for about 20 years. He took up photography, which led to his studying chemistry at the university of Sydney about 1867, and later, metallurgy. He set tip as an assayer and metallurgist about the year 1888. He developed improvements in the treatment of refractory ores and his advice was of great value in dealing with problems of this kind at the Sunny Corner mining-field and at Broken Hill. At Mount Morgan, Queensland, he did important work in connexion with the chlorine process of extracting gold. He took up the study of bacteriology, and did a large amount of research endeavouring to find a vaccine against the effects of snake bite. He collected a large number of venomous snakes which he handled himself when extracting their venom. He eventually came to the conclusion that it was bacteriologically impossible to inoculate against snake-bite, but while carrying out his investigations he collected a large amount of information about the relative virulence of the venom of Australian snakes. His most important research was in connexion with anthrax. Pasteur had discovered a vaccine, which, however, would not keep, and Smith after long experimenting found an effective vaccine which would keep for an indefinite period. This he treated as a business secret for many years, but a few months before his death he handed the formula to representatives of the government of New South Wales. He also gave £10,000 to endow a McGarvie Smith Institute. While making his investigations Smith travelled extensively in Europe and the United States and visited many laboratories. He was a man of great determination and remarkable personality. All his life he had a passion for work, but he spared time in his youth to become a good rifle shot. He married the widow of D. H. Deniehy (q.v.) who died many years before his own death at Sydney on 6 September 1918. He had no children.The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 September 1918; W. S. Dun, Journal and Proceedings Royal Society of New South Wales, vol. LIII, p. 11; Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, 12 September 1918; Sydney Directories, 1867, 1885, 1889.
Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. Angus and Robertson. 1949.
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