Doug Waterhouse was a renowned entomologist, a fine scientist and an accomplished administrator. He worked within the CSIRO Division of Entomology for over 60 years, and was its Chief for 21 years until his retirement in 1981.
Doug was responsible for many developments in insect and weed control both in Australia and around the globe, especially in developing countries across Asia and the Pacific. He not only guided the Division to international prominence, but was also an ardent humanitarian whose work had beneficial effects in many neighbouring countries.
Much of his ‘public good’ work was done as an Honorary Fellow (1981-2000). As well as his extensive entomological interests, Doug was active in other areas such as education and community services. He was the foundation Chairman of the Canberra College of Advanced Education and continued as Chancellor when it became the University of Canberra.
Family background and early influences
Douglas Frew Waterhouse was born in Sydney on 3 June 1916, the second of four sons of (Eben) Gowrie Waterhouse OBE, CMG (born Waverley, a suburb of Sydney, 1881) and Janet Frew Waterhouse (nÃ©e Kellie, born Ayr, Scotland, 1885). Doug recalled his mother with great affection. She had come from Kilmarnock, Scotland, earned an MA degree from the University of Glasgow, and had been a teacher of languages. She motivated her sons to be conscientious and hard working and to ‘derive some satisfaction from having at least striven hard to achieve some goal’. Doug’s father, Gowrie Waterhouse, also the second of three sons, became Professor of German and Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Sydney. Professor Waterhouse had received the Goethe Medal and was also knighted by King Umberto of Italy for his contribution to teaching in European languages. He retired at age 64 to devote time to his special hobby ‘ camellias, on which he published two outstanding books. Doug described his early recollections of his father as: a figure in the background to be respected, but not to be distracted from his many academic and other activities; later however he became progressively more interested in our activities and we in his
Gowrie Waterhouse in 1913 commissioned W Hardy Wilson, a highly regarded Sydney architect, to design an elegant home, ‘Eryldene’, in Gordon, a northern suburb of Sydney. Eryldene, with its renowned and much-visited garden, is maintained by the Eryldene Trust. The home and parents provided Doug with a culturally-rich environment; except perhaps in music, to which he was never much attracted, probably because he was tone deaf.
A number of family members were interested in natural history and some were collectors of sea shells, ethnographic artefacts and other items. Other members of Doug’s large extended family included scientists in a variety of subjects, including botany, geology, and agriculture. Doug believed that he had been ‘imprinted’ to become an entomologist and recounted an occasion told to him by his mother when he was soothed as a young baby by grasping a weevil.
Doug’s uncle, Dr GA (Athol) Waterhouse [1877-1950] had an early and lasting influence on his development and career. Athol maintained a lifelong interest in butterflies; he was awarded a DSc by the University of Sydney for his work on the origins of races of the genus Tisiphone (Nymphalidae). He had earlier obtained degrees in Science and in Engineering from the University of Sydney and had been on the staff of the Sydney Mint until it closed in 1926. In addition to numerous contributions to scientific journals, Athol published two significant books, the first (with G Lyell) in 1914, The Butterflies of Australia, and the second in 1932, What Butterfly is That?. He arranged for Doug to become a Junior Member of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. In 1928, he was appointed Curator and Administrative Officer of the newly formed CSIR Division of Economic Entomology in Canberra to provide some measure of control over its first, rather erratic, Chief, RJ Tillyard.
Before Doug’s tenth birthday, Uncle Athol had given him collecting and preserving equipment, and later took him on numerous Saturday collecting trips in the vicinity of Sydney, from Bulli in the south to the Hawkesbury River in the north and the Blue Mountains in the west. One of us (MFD) was fortunate also to be invited on these expeditions. As a result of Athol’s tutelage, in his early teens Doug already had a substantial knowledge of Australian butterflies and some understanding of other insect groups and biology generally.
Doug was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School, North Sydney (‘Shore’), from 1928-33. He was considered a good but not outstanding student
Research degrees were not available in Australia at that time so Doug earned his MSc and DSc degrees ‘on the job’, having joined CSIRO on completing his Bachelor’s degree. In 1949, Doug spent a year at Cambridge University where he worked under Professor VB Wigglesworth examining the origin, structure and function of the peritrophic membrane. In 1956-57, he visited the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and Yale University and other laboratories in Canada and the USA, where he formed many fruitful and lasting friendships.
The four phases in the scientific career of Doug Waterhouse
During his very full 85 years, Doug witnessed many profound changes in science and society. Not surprisingly, his attitude to science, and the way it might best serve society, evolved in response to these changing circumstances. The maturation of Doug’s thinking is well illustrated if his career is divided into four periods: the 22 formative years as a student; his next 20 or so years as a practising scientist; his third period of 25 years as a research leader; and, finally, his 20 ‘retirement’ years as an Honorary Fellow.
The young naturalist (1916-38)
Until early manhood, Doug was content to explore and appreciate nature. With his Uncle Athol, Doug explored the rich and diverse world of insects in and around Sydney. He had no interest in controlling nature; it was simply something to understand and enjoy.
The practising scientist (1938-61)
Doug’s research in CSIRO Entomology focused primarily on Lucilia cuprina, the Australian Sheep Blowfly. He studied its physiology (in particular, digestion and excretion), ecology and population control. His research was a blend of the strategic and tactical. He addressed practical projects like fly dressings and burying carrion to reduce breeding sites. Doug was greatly impressed by the new generation of powerful insecticides like DDT and Dieldrin. Such synthetic compounds represented potentially universal and lasting solutions to many insect pest problems. Like many other scientists at the time, Doug was enthused with the potential of pesticides to ‘control’ nature. Over time, Doug came to reject scientific modernism so well epitomised by high-input agriculture. This alternative thinking began to emerge early in the third phase of Doug’s career, and matured during his final 20 years as an Honorary Fellow. However, as a practising scientist, Doug remained enthusiastic about modernist philosophy and its domination of agricultural science.
An innovative scientific leader and integrator (1961-81)
Doug was a scientific leader of both genius and generosity. One of his lasting claims to fame is the way he made it possible for many other scientists to flourish. In a recent tribute, Dr Ren Wang from China, currently Deputy Director-General for Research in the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, stated:
Doug was my model scientist and his inspiration has given me so much guidance and courage in my career. His advice has helped so much to the development of biological control in China.
Many entomologists, at home and abroad, who had the good fortune to work with Doug have echoed those sentiments. Some Eastern philosophers talk about three types of effective leader: the one who is feared, the one who is loved, and the greatest leader of all, whose followers say We did it all ourselves
In 1953, Nicholson (‘Nick’ to all his staff) asked Doug to take on the role of Assistant Chief. Others had found this to be a difficult assignment, but Doug coped well with it. Initially, the added responsibility had little impact on his research output, but eventually he found that he could only undertake activities that could be put aside when pressing administrative tasks demanded his attention. Doug put this requirement and his training in chemistry into effect in the study of insect scents and the structure of the glands producing these materials.
Doug developed a strong research group in the basic disciplines of insect physiology, biochemistry and fine structure during the 1950s. The rationale centred on understanding the mode of action of chemical pesticides but ranged widely into fundamental studies in insect physiology and biochemistry. A notable achievement in the Division during this period was the successful culturing of insect tissues. This was entirely the work of Tom Grace. It took ten years of sometimes frustrating trials before an effective culture medium was developed and Doug supported Grace during those years. ‘Grace’s Medium’ is still available commercially today, 35 years on, and the development represents an important tool for insect molecular biotechnology. With demands for useful outcomes within a three-year timeframe, such a development would be less likely to occur today.
Chief of the Division of Entomology, CSIRO
When Nick retired, the CSIRO Executive, following a worldwide search, had no hesitation in appointing Doug as Chief in 1961. Nick had steadfastly maintained that he did not wish to increase the size of the Division, but that was not Doug’s way. He could foresee many opportunities for working on new ways to control pest species.
By this stage Doug had begun to question the wisdom of depending solely on chemical pesticides. In 1964, he presented a seminal paper to the CSIRO Executive calling for recognition of a diversity of approaches to pest management ‘ cultural, physical, host resistance, genetic control, behavioural control and biological control. He advocated an integration of these approaches into the practice of integrated pest management (IPM). The ambitious proposal ended with the following statement:
No-one should underestimate the threat posed by insects. They inhabited the earth 300 million years or more before man and will probably inhabit it after the last vertebrate has perished. We do well to prepare for a prolonged contest.
Projects were suggested in a number of areas, such as biological control, chemical methods (lures, pheromones, anti-feedants, etc), physical methods, genetic methods (sterile males, chemosterilants), IPM, and modification of a pest’s resource needs. It was an expensive program. Doug planned it with characteristic thoroughness. He arranged for his program to be the topic for the 1965 Annual General Meeting of the Australian Academy of Science. He published a report of that meeting in the Australian Journal of Science (Waterhouse DF, 1965, ‘New perspectives in insect control. Setting the scene: pest control past and present’, 28: 218-20.) and he wrote a supporting article in the magazine Rural Research. He also commissioned an eye-catching painting (below) by the well-known artist Robert Ingpen. The image boldly captures the imagination that went into the concept of the ‘new perspectives’. Ingpen’s illustration shows a background reminiscent of the ‘Silent Spring’ of Rachel Carson (1962), but emerging from this are examples of the ten projects proposed by Doug to support a three-fold increase in the size of the Division over the ensuing five years.
Doug addressed the 12th International Congress of Entomology in London on his plans and on the Divisional achievements. Most importantly, he enlisted the full support of the CSIRO Executive. In particular, he gained the ear of Sir Otto Frankel, who was then the executive member responsible for the Division. The plan was approved by CSIRO. It set the Division on course to become internationally recognised as a major centre for entomological research. Doug negotiated not only for three new projects a year, but also for the facilities, including new field stations in Australia and overseas, to support the newly appointed staff. CSIRO’s decision to back Doug was fully vindicated with the favourable findings of the 1978 Marsden Report ‘ an external and independent economic analysis of some of the Division’s research. The analysis demonstrated a return on investment that could truly be called outstanding.
The major programs (and some of the actors) that were promoted by Doug during his term as Chief were:
Stored Grain Research Laboratory (SGRL)
One of the finest examples of Doug’s broad strategic thinking is the establishment of the SGRL in 1969 after five years of deliberation with the Australian Wheat Board and the Federal Government. Since its inception, the SGRL has been an outstanding success, and has devised a number of effective ways of marketing insect-free grain that has never been treated with insecticides. On several occasions its research (particularly that of Jim Des Marchelier) secured Australia’s pre-eminence as a leading grain-exporting nation.
Successful innovations from SGRL include:
- emergency bunker storage in good seasons
- insect-free grain that has been fumigated without leaving residues (e.g. phosphine using the SIROFLO® technology)
- inert dusts; sealed storage (to suffocate insects)
- storage under carbon dioxide (as a waste product from industry, e.g. aluminium smelting) and other inert gases
- grain aeration (to lower temperature to a level at which insect reproduction ceases and then to a level at which development ceases)
- and fluidised bed heating (which can be used to provide rapid heat disinfestation of grain during loading on a ship).
Outcomes of the research led to the extension of the useful life of many ageing and leaky bulk silos and positioned the industry for deregulation with the inevitable expansion of on-farm grain storage.
Pesticide residues in meat ‘ a case for pre-emptive action
In the early 1960s, when environmental concerns arose about the widespread use of persistent pesticides (notably the chlorinated hydrocarbons), the issue of pesticide residues that might be present in foodstuffs was raised. Beef and lamb were of particular concern because chlorinated hydrocarbons were being used extensively to deal with insects and ticks attacking sheep and cattle in Australia. Doug was an influential member of the Coordinating Committee on Agricultural Chemicals that prevented the banning of meat and other export products by vigorous and far-sighted action.
The cattle tick program
An increase in acaricide resistance and chemical residues in meat called for new initiatives in tick control over pastoral regions of northern Australia. Paul Wilkinson was appointed in the late 1950s to lead a Townsville-based team to evaluate options that reduced dependency on acaricides. These approaches, supported strongly by Doug, included pasture spelling, strategic dipping and host resistance by crossing the susceptible European blood-lines with Asian breeds of cattle. Acaricide resistant strains of cattle tick were maintained and characterised by Bill Roulston and Jim Nolan. This gene bank proved of immense value to industry in its search for new and effective acaricides. This ecological approach to tick control significantly reduced dependency on acaricides.
The DF Waterhouse laboratory ‘ the Australian national insect collection, insects of Australia
Although not a taxonomist himself, Doug regarded taxonomy as basic to most entomological studies. Tillyard, the Division’s founding Chief (1928-34), expected researchers to each have their own group of insects; and he produced the definitive taxonomic textbook on Australian and New Zealand insects. His successor, Nicholson (1934-61), an ecologist, restricted taxonomic activities to certain individuals. During much of Doug’s tenure as Chief, taxonomic work expanded, but not three-fold like the rest of the Division. However, the collection had developed as an important national asset. To ensure that this resource was not dissipated ‘at the whim of some future Chief’, Doug successfully lobbied the Science Minister at the time, Sir John Gorton, to proclaim in the Commonwealth Gazette that the Australian National Insect Collection was of national importance and should be preserved by the Commonwealth into the future
By the 1960s, Tillyard’s textbook on insect taxonomy was decidedly out of date. Doug persuaded Ian Murray Mackerras, who had left the Division shortly after the Second World War to lead the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, to return as a Research Fellow and edit a major new text, Insects of Australia. The task, involving 29 authors, mainly from the Division, was published by Melbourne University Press and sold over 20 000 copies. A completely revised second edition, in two volumes, edited by Ian Naumann, was published by Melbourne University Press in 1991 with similar success. Doug contributed a new chapter, ‘Insects and Humans’ (Waterhouse DF, 1991, In: The Insects of Australia, 1: 221-235).
The Dung beetle program
George Bornemissza, a Hungarian Ã©migrÃ©, suggested in the early 1960s that Australia would benefit from the enrichment of the local dung-dispersing insect fauna with the introduction of dung beetle species from Africa and Europe. Doug recognised the value of this proposal and gave George financial and logistical support to make it happen. Doug accepted the considerable risk that might flow from accidental introduction of animal diseases or any untoward environmental eventualities. During the 1970s and until the mid-80s, some 50 species were introduced, mainly from southern Africa although a few came from Europe. At least 30 species have been established, and the beneficial impact can be witnessed in virtually all rural areas of the mainland and Tasmania where cattle are present. However, it is only since 2000 that, with support from the National Heritage Trust, the actual distribution and impact of the introductions have been evaluated systematically. All indications suggest that this has been one of the most valuable and cost-effective programs ever conducted in Australian agriculture.
Genetic control of sheep blowfly
Another innovative program initiated by Doug was the development of genetic means of controlling the Australian Sheep Blowfly. Doug had already anticipated this possibility in his ‘new perspectives’ article, but he recognised that the ‘all or nothing’ sterile male approach, so successful for the screw-worm fly in the USA, was unlikely to be practical in Australia. He accepted the advice of fellow Chief, Jim Rendel, and Jim Peacock (later Chief of Plant Industry (1978-) that other genetic means should be considered. Maxwell John Whitten was appointed as the first geneticist to the Division, in 1996, to explore genetic options. With Geoff Foster, he developed and evaluated a range of genetically-modified strains which had potential for suppressing natural populations of blowfly. The declining value of the wool clip and continued effectiveness of chemical pesticides were two factors that ultimately prevented practical implementation of this approach to blowfly control. The project was another example of the risk that Doug was prepared to take to explore all options to reduce dependency and use of chemical pesticides. Ultimately, the notion of pesticide resistance management for key pests like the army-worm, Helicoverpa armigera, was one of the benefits emerging from this research.
Biological control of weeds, orchard pests and sirex
A prominent element of Doug’s ‘new perspectives’ was classical biological control. To implement his strategy he established laboratories in France, Portugal, South Africa, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and the UK. Although it was expensive and without precedent in CSIRO, Doug argued that it would enable the Division’s staff to identify and introduce biocontrol agents against arthropod pests and weeds that had originated in Europe, Africa or the Americas. Offshore facilities were complemented with field laboratories in each State so that staff could gain first-hand knowledge of the target pests and be well-positioned to introduce the imported agents. Many major successes emerged from this strategy including:
- the first use of a fungal pathogen for weed control (skeleton weed)
- the control of the water-weeds Salvinia molesta and water hyacinth
- the control of the Sirex wasp, the Pinus radiata wood pest
- the use of insect-killing entomopathologic nematodes for insect pest management.
In this way Australia had become a leader in the theory and practice of biocontrol under Doug’s leadership. Doug initiated two especially innovative programs for orchard pests. The first, under Les Readshaw, was the introduction of acaricide-resistant predatory mites from the USA for controlling spider mites in pome orchards. The second was the development, by George Rothschild, of the first commercially-viable sex-disrupting pheromone for suppressing populations of the peach borer ‘ the insect that Doug first worked on after joining the Division. There was also considerable success in the biological control of aphids involving a large group of researchers.
The humanitarian (1982-2000)
One could well argue that Doug’s greatest achievements came during his retirement. During his period as Chief he could see the value of taking a broader approach to insect pest management than one simply relying on chemical control.
The FAO expert panels on integrated pest management and pesticide resistance and rice production in South and South-East Asia
In 1963, he persuaded the FAO Conference, at its 12th Session, to convene a Symposium on Integrated Pest Control. It was held in Rome in 1965 and was the first such international symposium. A key outcome was the establishment of Expert Panels on IPM and Pesticide Resistance.
The Council for International Congresses of Entomology
In the early 1960s, the four-yearly International Congresses of Entomology were ‘managed’ by a self-appointed committee. Doug found this to be an unsatisfactory and unprofessional arrangement for such an important instrument of global entomology. Doug drew up a constitution and revamped the committee into a council which has staged highly successful congresses every four years since Doug’s timely intervention. Doug was President for the XIVth Congress in Canberra in 1972 ‘ the first in the southern hemisphere. He attended all Congresses since 1960 and played an active role as a participant as well as in Council affairs. In recognition of his leadership role on Council over so many years, the XXIst Congress at Iguassu Falls, Brazil, in August 2000, bestowed on Doug the unique honour of ‘Honorary Chairman of Council’. Regrettably his doctors would not permit Doug to travel to the Congress in Brazil, but news of the honour brought him much happiness.
ACIAR and biocontrol in Asia and the Pacific
Soon after Doug’s retirement, his life-long commitment to the biological control of pests and weeds was stimulated by the many Pacific people he met in October 1982 in Tonga, while attending a training workshop. Sponsored by several agencies, this workshop was the first of two in Tonga that had a major impact on biological control of pests and weeds in the region.
Doug’s association with ACIAR began in 1983, soon after its establishment in 1982. Jim McWilliam, ACIAR’s Director, invited Doug to become a Senior Research Fellow with ACIAR. Doug visited China in 1984, and several major initiatives developed with CSIRO Entomology soon after this visit, including projects on the biological control of stem borers in street trees and Carposina moth in apples using nematodes. Increased interest in biological control developed throughout the Pacific after the training workshop in Tonga, and the participants recognised the need for another workshop specifically on biological control.
He and Don Sands wrote a book on the classical biological control of arthropods. A previous exercise by Frank Wilson in 1960 had covered pests and weeds of Australia and Papua New Guinea, but many projects had been carried out since in Australia and summaries could not be obtained without extensive literature searches. The authors found that 98 pest species or groups of pests had been targeted for biological control. Despite his progressing illness, Doug worked with his usual zeal and energy until the text reached its final stage in November 2000, when ACIAR began editing. Sadly Doug did not see the book published, but he was very pleased with the final text. Classical Biological Control of Arthropods in Australia, published by ACIAR, was launched on 26 April 2001 at a special commemorative event held at the Australian Academy of Science in Doug’s honour.
The Australian Academy of Science
The Australian Academy of Science established in 1954, with Doug immediately elected a Fellow. In 1960, he was elected to be a member of Council and the following year to the role of Secretary B (Biological Sciences), a post he held until 1966. He was an early member of the Science and Industry Forum.
The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
A proposal to establish a Biological Study of Australia received the support of both major political parties in the 1972 election, and in August 1973 Doug was appointed Chairman of an Interim Council. The function of the council was essentially to report on the provision of grants for the collection and description of species of Australian plants and animals, for the study of their ecology, and for the proper maintenance of collections. The Pigott Committee on Museums and National Collections was one of the important lines of enquiry established by this council. Its report was published in 1975 but by this time the government had changed and the new minister showed no interest in the matter. Doug refused to give up, seeing the matter finally resolved with the establishment of the Australian Biological Resources Study in August 1978.
Higher education in Canberra
Doug played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Canberra College of Advanced Education (CCAE), now the University of Canberra. The concept of the CAE system originated with a report in 1964. This recognised the need for a range of vocational and professional courses that were equal but different to those offered by the universities. In 1965, a further report to which Doug contributed significantly, established the need for a CAE in Canberra, and in December 1966 an Interim Council, with Doug as a member, was appointed to design a completely new style of higher education. Doug was convinced that the CAE should produce graduates who would be immediately useful in their profession and that interdisciplinary studies were a critical element of such education. It was to focus on the professions, catering for both full-time and part-time students. He emphasised the necessity for quality teaching.
Doug’s leadership at CCAE was celebrated by Sam Richardson, inaugural Principal of the CCAE, in his 1979 book Parity of Esteem:
Doug’s positive leadership and wise counsel has inspired us all throughout the decade. As a leader, he was quietly modest and consciously strove for consensus. His good humour and evident enjoyment of life were infectious. His judgements were invariably well considered, fair and positively friendly. He welded staff and students together as a team dedicated to success, despite the many disappointments and setbacks of the first two decades. He was, without question, the most influential and steadfast of the founders of the University of Canberra.
In 1975, Doug was made the first Honorary Fellow of CCAE, and in 1985 the School of Applied Science building was named in his honour.
One of Doug’s passionate commitments was to the National Trust of Australia (ACT). He was Member of its Council from 1980 to 1996 and its President from 1985 to 1988. With characteristic foresight, he anticipated the increase in community interest in Australian history and saw the need for involving a broad range of professionals in Trust activities. He created links with government agencies, notably the National Capital Development Commission and the Australian Capital Territory Administration. He was fascinated with all aspects of natural and cultural heritage, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. He provided leadership and vision and, at the same time, ensured that all with whom he worked received credit for their contributions.
His dedication to the Trust was matched by his love of Canberra, and his infectious enthusiasm deepened the feelings of many people for the place he knew as home. He and Dawn were appointed the first Life Members of the Canberra Museum and Gallery. Doug was a member of Rotary and served for many years on the board of the school attended by his three sons.
Honours and awards
During his illustrious career Doug received many distinctions and awards including:
Fellowships and Honorary Memberships
|2000||Honorary Chairman, Council for International Congresses of Entomological (only such honour awarded)|
|1996||Honorary Member, Australian Entomological Society|
|1993||Foreign Member, Russian Academy of Sciences|
|1984||Foreign Associate, US National Academy of Science|
|1983||Foreign Member, USSR Academy of Science|
|1974||Foreign Fellow Brazilian Academy of Science|
|1972||Honorary Fellow Royal Entomological Society of London|
|1971||Foreign Fellow Gyotaku-No-Kai, Tokyo|
|1967||Fellow, Royal Society of London|
|1954||Fellow, Australian Academy of Science|
|1951||Fellow, Royal Australian Chemical Institute|
|1988||Australian Bicentennial Award, most outstanding living contributor to New South Wales agriculture|
|1983||Medal of the International Congress of Plant Protection|
|1980||Officer, Order of Australia (AO)|
|1979||Adventures in Agricultural Science Award|
|1975||DSc (Hon) Australian National University|
|1975||Medal, International Congress of Plant Protection|
|1970||Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)|
|1953||David Syme Research Prize, University of Melbourne|
|1983||Consultant in Plant Protection to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research|
|1983||President, ACT Branch, National Trust of Australia|
|1977 – 78||President, International Bee Research Association|
|1974||President, XIV International Congress of Entomology|
|1969 – 72||President, Australian Entomological Society|
|1961 – 66||Secretary (Biological Sciences), Australian Academy of Science|
- Day MFC, Whitten MJ, Sands D, 2001, Biographical memoirs: Douglas Frew Waterhouse 1916-2000 (Australian Academy of Science) [external link]
- Tribute to Aerogard (ABC New Inventors) [external link]
- Blythe M, 1993, Interviews with Australian scientists: Dr Douglas Waterhouse (1916-2000) Entomologist (Australian Academy of Science) [external link]