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A Life of Roy Douglas Wright


352 Pages, 6.34 x 9.49

Formats: Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $44.95 (US $44.95) (CA $49.95)

Publication Date: July 1995

ISBN 9780522846263

Rights: US & CA

Melbourne University Press (Jul 1995)

Price: $44.95


A stirrer and shaker . a boat-rocker and a confounded nuisance. Geoffrey Serle Roy Douglas ('Pansy') Wright was one of the great Australians of the twentieth century. Born on a hill-country farm in northern Tasmania in 1907, he became an extraordinarily successful medical scientist and a builder of institutions such as the Australian National University, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Clinic and the Howard Florey Institute. He was loved for his brilliant, often ribald, wit, his fierce loyalties and his sympathy for the underdog. He died in 1990, shortly after completing a decade as Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. Wright was a legendary teacher and much-loved colleague and mentor. However, his ebullient style disguised the private difficulties of a person who was often unhappy and awkward with intimacy. He was also a controversial man. His rivals interpreted his relentless energy in creating medical institutions as megalomania. Others found his blunt personal style abrasive and offensive. In particular, his championing of Professor Sydney Sparkes Orr-dismissed by the University of Tasmania in 1956 for allegedly having seduced one of his students-embroiled him in a decade of public controversy. In this delightfully lucid biography, Peter McPhee reveals the many contradictions in this complex and brilliant man.


“Pansy actually has a rare quality among biographies: it merits re-reading and contemplation for its understated insights into gender and generation in Australia. This is a Kylie Minogue of a book: small but perfectly formed.†—The Bulletin

Author Biography

Like R. D. Wright, Peter McPhee spent his childhood in a small country town and his student days at the University of Melbourne. He taught at La Trobe University and the Victoria University of Wellington before returning to the University of Melbourne, where he has held a Personal Chair in History since 1993. He has published widely on the history of modern France, notably A Social History of France 1780–1880 and Revolution and Environment in Southern France 1780–1830.