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Dr J.R. Vickery, O.B.E.
, 1967

by William Pidgeon

oil on canvas (frame: 106.2 cm x 85.7 cm, support: 91.5 cm x 71.5 cm)

James Richard Vickery OBE (1902-1997), food scientist, saw the field of his life’s research grow from non-existence to world recognition. Vickery graduated in biochemistry from the University of Melbourne in 1925, and fours year later earned a PhD from Cambridge, where he worked in the Low Temperature Research Laboratory. In 1929 he went as a biologist on a scientific survey party, sent from England at the request of the New Zealand government, to examine and report on aspects of the export lamb trade. Two years later he became officer in charge of the food preservation and transport section of CSIR at Cannon Hill, Brisbane. The primary objective of the section was to find a viable way to send chilled beef to Britain. In 1938 the section moved to Sydney, where further research into cold storage of diverse foods was carried out. In 1940 the section was raised to the status of a division with Vickery as its chief. In the next few years, owing to demands for supplies from the American forces in the Pacific, the section was expanded.; Vickery became the man in demand as wartime food supply problems intensified, and dehydrated meat for Allied forces became known as ‘Vickery mutton’. Vickery was careful to maintain close relations with the food industry, fostering good practice and innovation. He set up an education committee to implement the the first food technology courses in Australia at Hawkesbury Agricultural College and Sydney Technical College, and encouraged his staff to teach in them. Having travelled widely to observe food research establishments in many countries, Vickery became internationally recognised as one of the fathers of his profession; he was a member of the international committee that initiated the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) and an honorary fellow of the UK Institute of Food Science and Technology. The Institute of Food Technologists conferred on him its International Award for 1960 for ‘outstanding efforts to promote international exchange of ideas in the field of food technology’. By the time he retired in 1967, the division was housed in new laboratories at North Ryde and Cannon Hill. In retirement Vickery returned to the laboratory, publishing original research on cyclopropenoid fatty acids which cause pink/white disorder in eggs. In 1990 he published his comprehensive book Food Science and Technology in Australia. Warmly remembered for his integrity, commitment and enlightened administration, he is commemorated in the JR Vickery Address, delivered at the annual convention of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the CSIRO Agriculture and Food Division, 2017
© William Edwin Pidgeon/Licensed by Viscopy
Accession number: 2017.100