Historical information

John Macadam was a Scottish born analytical chemist, medical practitioner and politician. As a student he soon showed a flair for analytical chemistry, and later also studied medicine. He arrived in Melbourne in 1855 to take up an appointment as lecturer in chemistry and natural science at Scotch College, a position he held until 1865.

In 1857 Ferdinand von Mueller named the Macadamia nut after him. He officiated as one of two umpires at one of the earliest recorded games of Australian rules football, between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar in 1858.

Macadam was appointed government analytical chemist in 1858 and health officer to the City of Melbourne in 1860. He represented Castlemaine in the Legislative Assembly between 1859 and 1864. Appointed secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria in 1860 and vice-president in 1863, he was also the secretary of the exploration committee of the Burke and Wills expedition.

When the Medical School of the University of Melbourne opened in 1862 Macadam was appointed lecturer in chemistry. He was a skilled, popular and eloquent lecturer, learned and generous with his knowledge.

Sadly, just three years later, and aged only 38, he died at sea on the way to give evidence at a murder trial in New Zealand, leaving his widow Elizabeth (n�e Clark), and a son. He was accompanied on that voyage by his assistant, the medical student John Drummond Kirkland, who later became the University?s first Professor of Chemistry.

Born in Ireland, John Drummond Kirkland trained as a chemical analyst through apprenticeship in a medical laboratory in Dublin, before migrating to Australia in 1852 and moving to Melbourne in 1855. While still an undergraduate medical student at the University of Melbourne, he was appointed lecturer in chemistry following the sudden death of John Macadam in 1865. Due to the enthusiastic support of his fellow students this temporary role became a permanent appointment the following year. Kirkland continued his studies, graduating in medicine in 1873 and surgery in 1880. His son, John Booth Kirkland, was appointed as his assistant in 1878, later leading to accusations of nepotism.

In 1882 John Drummond Kirkland became the University?s first professor of chemistry and metallurgy, continuing until his death in 1885. Today?s researchers use a high performance computing facility named ?Kirkland? after the first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

Chemistry was still controlled by the medical school during Kirkland?s career, but became part of the science degree from 1886, along with the appointment of David Orme Masson as professor. Kirkland struggled for University funding to buy new apparatus. To compensate, he bought much from his own personal funds, including analytical chemistry equipment. Chemistry was first taught at Melbourne in the medical school, located in the area now occupied by Physics and the Ian Potter Museum of Art.

Physical description

Demonstration of combustion Mid 19th century, used by McCoy, MacAdam,and Kirkland