Robert Strachan Wallace

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Robert Strachan Wallace
Vice Chancellor of the
University of Sydney
In office
Preceded by Mungo William MacCallum
Succeeded by Stephen Henry Roberts
Personal details
Born (1882-08-01)1 August 1882
Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died 5 September 1961(1961-09-05) (aged 79)
Canberra, Australia
Spouse(s) Mary Murray McAdam
Alma mater University of Aberdeen
Christ Church, Oxford
Profession Academic and censor
Website University of Sydney

Sir Robert Strachan Wallace (1 August 1882 – 5 September 1961) was an Australian academic, army officer and film censor. Wallace served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1928 to 1947. He was Australia's chief censor from 1922 to 1927 and served as a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission from 1932 to 1935.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Wallace was born in Old Deer, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 1 August 1882. The son of a blacksmith, he was educated at Robert Gordon's College, the University of Aberdeen, and Christ Church, Oxford where he took first-class honours in English literature.[1]

Academic and military career[edit]

After working as a Lecturer in English at the University of Aberdeen, Wallace was appointed as Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Melbourne, Australia in 1912. While at Melbourne, Wallace also served as the administrator and dean of the faculty of arts from 1914 to 1917.[1]

Wallace enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1917. In 1918 he was posted to the A.I.F. Education Service in Cambridge, England and served as the director of the Australian Corps Central School at Rue, France.

After the war, Wallace continued at the University of Melbourne, where he held several senior board and academic positions, before being appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney in 1927, a role he commenced in 1928. He continued as Vice-Chancellor until his retirement in 1947.[1][3]

Wallace used his influence and government contacts to secure new funding for the university and, while having to deal with salary reductions, lack of essential equipment and financial constraints, established several new chairs, including the Bosch chairs in medicine, surgery and bacteriology, and expanded the university's course offerings.[1] Wallace became known as "the building Vice-Chancellor". Upon taking up his post in 1928, Wallace found that the university's quadrangle was "overgrown, and the grounds beyond were in much worse repair."[4] During his tenure, Wallace oversaw the renovation of university grounds, and the construction of a new medical school, biology laboratories, and the establishment of the departments of biochemistry and geography. A lecture theatre, bearing his name, was also constructed. Wallace worked to maintain the university's independence, despite the receipt of government grants.[1][4] The university received a £100,000 donation from the Rockefeller Foundation for the construction of the medical school, and in 1932 Wallace traveled to the US to personally thank the Foundation for its support to education in Australia.[5]

In 1939, Wallace was commissioned to undertake an operational review of the University of Western Australia, which encompassed "all phases of University activity...including organisation of the teaching departments, library development, adult education, public examinations, and future expansion of...activities."[6]

A panoramic photograph of the Quadrangle
The University of Sydney's quandrangle was renovated under Wallace's Vice-Chancellorship

Chief film censor[edit]

Wallace served as Australia's chief censor for cinematographic films from 1922 to 1927.[1][7] In February 1927, while working as chief censor, Wallace made news when he tracked down and apprehended two armed men who had earlier broken into his home.[8][9]

Later life[edit]

Wallace was awarded a Knight Bachelor in the 1941 New Year Honours list.[2][10] In 1947 he retired from the University of Sydney and moved to Canberra, where he died on 5 September 1961. He was buried in Canberra cemetery.[1][11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Bygott, Ursula (1990). "Biography – Sir Robert Strachan Wallace". Australian Dictionary of Biography – Volume 12. National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Sir Robert Wallace". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 January 1941. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Vice Chancellor of Sydney University". The Mercury. Hobart, Tasmania. 14 October 1947. p. 18. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "University's "Building Vice-Chancellor"". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 December 1946. p. 2. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  5. ^ "NOTED EDUCATIONALIST. Professor Wallace's Visit.". The West Australian. Perth. 27 September 1932. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "University Inquiry, Survey by Commissioner, Dr R. S. Wallace to Act". The West Australian. 20 November 1939. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "Federal Appointments – Professor Wallace Film Censor". The Argus. Melbourne. 10 March 1922. p. 6. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Film Censor in Real Act". Northern Star. Lismore, NSW. 22 February 1927. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Stolen "Vinegar" – Plucky Professor Bails Up Two Thieves". Advocate. Burnie, Tasmania. 19 February 1927. p. 5. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "The London Gazette" (PDF). 21 November 1941: 6712. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Death of Sir Robert Wallace". The Canberra Times. 7 September 1961. p. 3. Retrieved 31 August 2013.