John (Jack) Griffiths Davies [1904-1969]

By Helen WolffNovember 15th, 2010

Jack Griffiths Davies is best known for his contributions along with Mark Hutton to the development of pasture legumes for northern Australia.

Tertiary education and early career


After obtaining his PhD from the University of Wales, Dr. Davies came to Australia in
1927 to take up a position as agrostologist at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute at Adelaide.

Time at CSIRO

By the mid-1930s the vigour, originality and success of his work on pastures was becoming widely recognised and in 1938 he was appointed by CSIRO to establish an Agrostology Section in the Division of Plant Industry.

While headquartered in Canberra in the period 1938-52 he established groups of pasture workers at Canberra, Perth, Deniliquin, Armidale and Brisbane.

In 1952, again following his pattern of moving to an environment offering great challenge and the prospect of greater achievement, he transferred his headquarters to Brisbane to devote his energies to building a program of pasture research for the tropics and sub-tropics of Australia,

He was then 48, an age by which many men of science have already given their best,
yet because of his insight, he continued youthful vigour of his approach, and his ability to attract and retain talented colleagues, he was able to build up and inspire a new research group which has achieved world leadership in the theory and practice of pasture science in the tropics.

Dr. Davies became an Associate Chief of the Division of Plant Industry in 1951 and was
appointed Chief of the Division of Tropical Pastures on its formation from the Division of Plant Industry in 1959.

The quality and importance of his contribution to agriculture have been recognised
in Australia and overseas.

He was Federal President of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science in 1951-52, its medallist in 1957 and was one of its foundation Fellows.

In 1964 be was awarded the $10,000 Britannica Australian award for natural and applied sciences for his outstanding contributions to pasture science and hence to the pastoral industry and economy of Australia.

He was Vice-President of the Sixth International Grassland Congress in 1952, and was later appointed Chairman of the Eleventh Congress which was held in Australia the following year.

There have been numerous invitations from foreign governments and F.A.O. for him to
visit tropical countries and advise on pasture research and he has made such visits to South East Asia, Pakistan and several South American countries.

In a eulogy delivered on the occasion of the conferment of Dr. Davies of the honorary degree of Doctor of Science of the University of New England in 1958, Professor McClymont said:

“It is given to few men, in their lifetime, to development a new philosophy of approach to a major scientific and economic problem, to put that philosophy into practice, see it so widely accepted that it becomes difficult for later workers to conceive that it was not always so acccepted, and see the practical application of that philosophy result in immeasurable benefits to mankind. John Griffths has been one of such few.”

It is noteworthy that this could be said of him before the success of his work in the tropics was fully apparent.

Dr. Davies was succeeded as Chief of the Division by Dr. E. M. Hutton.



CoResearch (April 1969), p. 1

Related information