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Australian Academy of Science
Biographical Memoirs of Deceased Fellows

Originally prepared for publication as part of Bright Sparcs by the Australian Science Archives Project.

Arnold Hughes Ennor 1912-1977

By F. C. Courtice

From relatively humble beginnings Hugh Ennor accepted those opportunities that came his way to develop a love for biochemistry and the academic way of life. During a life-long career in the world of learning he became one of Australia's outstanding men of science. To those who knew him well, he will probably be remembered best for the part he played in the development of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. The opportunities to use to the full his qualities as a leader came during the most active years of his life, for he was appointed to the Foundation Chair of Biochemistry in the John Curtin School of the newly established Australian National University at the age of 35. At this time, too, only three years after the end of World War II, research in the natural sciences was entering the most active era in its history. Scientists and technologists had achieved so much during the six years of war; the people of the world were now ready to support them in seeking solutions to the many problems that beset a society during times of peace. This was especially so in the field of medical research and in Australia where, before the war, research had been but little encouraged. In the last decade of his life, however, Ennor left the ivory towers of the university to devote himself to public administration. These were the hardest years in a long career dedicated to science.

Arnold Hughes (Hugh) Ennor was born on 10 October 1912 at Gardenvale, a suburb of Melbourne. His father, Arnold Martin Ennor, was a cabinetmaker in Bendigo, but moved to Melbourne as manager of the Caulfield Timber Company. His mother was Charlotte van de Leur Hughes and Ennor took both parents' names when he was christened Arnold Hughes by the Bishop of Bendigo in Bendigo.

He went to school at O'Neil College in Melbourne where he was usually top of his class. After leaving school in 1927 at the age of 15 he started pupil teaching but did not like it. His father then got him a position in a bank, but in 1929 he was appointed as a junior laboratory assistant at the Baker Medical Research Institute. This institute had been established in 1926, with Dr W. J. Penfold, a bacteriologist of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, as its first director. At the same time the recently formed biochemical laboratory of the Alfred Hospital, headed by Dr A. B. Corkill, was absorbed into the Baker Institute.

It was Corkill who early recognized that Ennor had considerable talent and who encouraged him to continue with his studies, firstly at the Melbourne Technical College and then at the University of Melbourne, where he matriculated as a student in the Faculty of Science on 8 March 1934. Together with others who had studied at the 'Tech', Ennor managed the elementary manipulations given in the practical classes with an effortlessness that was enviable to those who had come straight from school. Being somewhat older than the normal undergraduate he had a maturity, mien, and drive that marked him out from his peers at this stage. Dr J. W. Legge, who was in the same year, tells the following story to illustrate this:

With hindsight from the five years I spent with Lemberg at the Royal North Shore Hospital, I now recognize that the teaching of spectroscopy in elementary biochemistry in those days left much to be desired. Hugh had recognized this, had learned how the various derivatives of the haem compounds had been prepared, and in various tests had developed a technique worthy of Fresenius, which enabled him to identify pigments without using the spectroscope. Some were alkaline, some in acid solutions, some in alcoholic solutions and some reduced with ammonium hydrosulphide. He was thus able to identify them all by the use of litmus paper and smell without recourse to the hand spectroscope and the small medicine bottles which we were expected to use in order to identify the pigments. As one would expect, this was a foolproof method when compared with that taught in the practical class.

In 1937 Ennor obtained second class honours in Chemistry 3 and in Physiology 2, sharing the Exhibition with J. W. Legge, and he was admitted to the degree of bachelor of science on 9 April 1938. He then proceeded to the course for the degree of master of science in the school of biochemistry; in March 1939 he was awarded first class honours, again sharing the Exhibition, and was admitted to this degree on 4 September 1939. He later enrolled for the degree of doctor of science and in November 1943 his thesis consisting of papers on biochemistry was accepted by the examiners and he was admitted to this degree on 21 December 1943.

During his early postgraduate years, from 1938 to 1943, Ennor worked at the Baker Institute as a junior fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council. At this time Corkill was director of the Institute and Ennor worked in close association with him. Corkill, a medical graduate of the University of Melbourne, as well as being in charge of the biochemistry laboratory was for a time physician-in-charge of the Diabetic Clinic established in the Alfred Hospital in 1926. Insulin had only recently, in 1922, been prepared by Banting and Best, an event which led to an enormous amount of work on carbohydrate metabolism, the field in which Corkill became interested. He went to England in 1929 and again in the early thirties to work at the National Institute for Medical Research with Dr H. H. (later Sir Henry) Dale on carbohydrate metabolism in muscle and liver. He returned from his second visit in late 1934, by which time Ennor was a science undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. In 1937, when Ennor graduated as a bachelor of science, Corkill was acting director of the Baker Institute and was soon to be appointed director, in 1938.

It was at this time that Corkill was gathering a group to work in the general field of carbohydrate metabolism. Charlotte Anderson studied the influence of a principle obtained from the anterior pituitary gland on carbohydrate metabolism in liver and skeletal muscle. Ennor, in 1938, joined in this work, studying the enzyme choline-esterase in myasthenia gravis and the role of the tripeptide, glutathione, in muscle metabolism. Later, Anderson and Ennor combined their techniques to investigate the step in carbohydrate metabolism in which methyl glyoxal is converted into lactic acid by the enzyme glyoxalase. They were able to show that their anterior pituitary extracts administered to animals for three days reduced by as much as 50 per cent the amount of reduced glutathione, which is a specific activator of glyoxalase, in the liver preparation made from these animals. In this way they demonstrated a chemical link between the anterior pituitary principle and carbohydrate metabolism.

The discovery by others that a diabetic state could be induced in animals by the injection of certain extracts made from the anterior pituitary gland led Corkill's group to embark on investigations of the diabetogenic substance of the anterior pituitary on carbohydrate metabolism in the liver; they also studied the glucose-phosphate metabolic pathways in the liver and the metabolism of fatty livers.

The events of World War II and his involvement in research projects for the Defence Department made it more and more difficult for Corkill to continue his fundamental work in carbohydrate metabolism. In 1942 his services were sought by the Chemical Warfare Department, and in 1943 Ennor resigned from his NHMRC fellowship at the request of Dr C. H. Kellaway to join a research unit, headed by Colonel F. S. Gorrill of the British Army, to study certain aspects of chemical warfare in the tropics of north Queensland. This work was mainly carried out during the hot wet summer months. One of his colleagues in this unit writes of these times:

Hugh had enough drive, energy, enthusiasm, and organizing capacity to serve two ordinary people, and behind these attributes was a first-rate brain. He was an extrovert to end all extroverts. His weapon was the bludgeon rather than the rapier, so ably wielded by Jack Legge, and the pair of them formed a team which was irresistible when it set out to persuade people to do things that they didn't want to do. Hugh's superabundant energy overflowed into innumerable games of poker in the Mess, and I remember very vividly how, when the station was immobilized owing to floods, Hugh suggested that we should build a tennis court while we were waiting. The temperature at the time was 97°F and the relative humidity 88.

When the war ended Ennor returned to his fellowship at the Baker Institute. By this time Dr C. H. Kellaway, who had been director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, had accepted the position of Director of Research at the Wellcome Foundation in London and moved there in 1944. He was well aware of Ennor's ability as a biochemist and so the Wellcome Trustees offered him a fellowship to work in England for two years. Ennor proceeded to Oxford in 1946 to work in the Department of Biochemistry under Professor (later Sir Rudolph) Peters. Here he worked with Dr Lloyd Stocken on the distribution of acid-soluble phosphates in the fatty liver, on the estimation of creatine and the preparation of sodium phosphocreatine. It was during this time that his wife was confined to hospital for a considerable time necessitating the return of his two young children by ship to Australia to be cared for by relatives. Despite these domestic worries, Ennor remained cheerful and as energetic in the laboratory as ever, He was readily able to cope with difficulties which would have had a far greater effect on most individuals.

Ennor returned to Melbourne in 1948 as Senior Biochemist at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, but was soon appointed to the Foundation Chair of Biochemistry in the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University. This was the first professorial appointment in the university where Ennor was to remain for nearly 20 years.

The facilities available for research in the John Curtin School gave Ennor the opportunity to develop his interests in biochemistry in a department devoted entirely to research. He ultimately built up an excellent department consisting of several groups of research workers. In his own group he formed a very close association with Dr H. Rosenberg and much of the work in his own laboratory was done in collaboration with Rosenberg, who joined him in January 1951.

During his tenure as professor of biochemistry in the John Curtin School from 1948 to 1967 and head of the department until 1965, Ennor's research was concerned with compounds containing phosphorus. The high-energy phosphates -in those days, adenosine di- and triphosphate (ADP and ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC)-had caught his interest during his earlier work on the metabolism of CC14-produced fatty livers, and he found some changes in the levels of high-energy phosphate in these livers.

In 1951 an intensive study began on the distribution and turnover of ATP phosphorus and phosphocreatine phosphorus in mammalian liver and muscle. It was virtually virgin ground. Ennor's laboratory was one of the first to use the isotopes *32Pand *24Na in the early fifties in Australia, and in these years the experimental background was laid down, with the use of isotopes, for this work. Once the procedures were worked out, the turnover rates of the various phosphates were determined and the chain of phosphate incorporation into them was followed through.

At this stage the interaction of ATP and PC became the central point of the work and the little-known enzyme creatine phosphokinase of muscle was investigated in detail. A series of papers established the important properties of this enzyme and laid the ground for further work. In a natural progression from this study, the work shifted to other, non-vertebrate, phosphagens and their kinases. An important methodological breakthrough at this stage was the development of a new method for the estimation of arginine, which worked equally well with all other guanidines and proved invaluable in subsequent work. It is now the standard method used everywhere.

In the period that followed Ennor and Rosenberg isolated in the pure state a no. of invertebrate phosphagens and their precursors. Improved methods and application of modern separation techniques yielded crystalline phosphoarginine, the phosphagen of crustacea and other marine invertebrates and finally, in 1958, copious quantities of lombricine-the base of the earthworm phosphagen. These were the most exciting times and the most happy ones for Ennor. The review on phosphagen which he wrote about that time with Dr I. F. Morrison remained a definitive work for many years.

Lombricine is a phospho-diester of guanidoethanol and serine:


and its precursor, serine ethanolamine phospho-diester (SEP):


was known to occur in amphibians. To their surprise and delight, the serine moiety in the lombricine molecule turned out to be d-serine, the first time a d-amino acid was shown to occur in a higher animal. The precursor, SEP, in the worm turned out to be d-SEP, which that of the amphibian was l-SEP. Free d-serine was also found in the earthworm.

The biochemistry of lombricine was further pursued and its biosynthesis elucidated. Ennor and Rosenberg finally turned to the phosphagen itself, phospho-lombricine. Its isolation was preceded by a cataclysmic three days of earthworm collection which will be remembered by an entire generation of Canberra schoolchildren of the early sixties. The enzyme lombricine phospho-kinase was then studied in detail and at the same time a study in breadth was undertaken of the distribution of serine ethanolamine phospho-diester, which occurred in the d-form only in the earthworm, but in the l-form in all lower vertebrates, as discovered in a wide survey carried out in the early sixties. The distribution of the l-compound was curiously restricted to fishes, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Its function is a mystery to this day. In the course of this survey another strange observation was made in the lowest subphylum of the four, the fishes. Another related compound, l-threonine-ethanolamine phospho-diester was found alongside the serine diester. What's more, in a curious evolutionary twist, the relative amounts of the two varied from species to species, generally the threonine compound predominating in the most primitive, the serine one in the most developed ones.

Studies were then made to elucidate the metabolism, biosynthesis, and breakdown of these curious compounds and the specific enzymes involved in the reactions. It was at this stage, in 1965, that Ennor became more involved in university administration, and resigned from his position as head of the department of biochemistry.

The quality of Ennor's work and the standards set were alwayshigh. Claims for newly discovered compounds were made only after identification was completely positive and confirmed by synthesis. All the enzymic work was equally of high standard. Dr Rosenberg writes:

Ennor was happiest when working at the bench, and during those hours he was full of vigour, excellent wit, and boundless energy. He was, in those days, a delightful companion, though no one even in the closest circle in the department called him Hugh.

Professor W. H. Elliott, who worked for several years in Ennor's department but not in his group, writes:

Ennor was generous to people in his department. He took an interest in everyone's work but left us free to do whatever we wanted. His own group was never expanded at anyone's expense-we all got a fair share of the department's resources and he offered nothing but encouragement. Ennor was in those laboratory days a delightful companion-warm, friendly, generous. I was always impressed that irrespective of what company he was in, and it was often distinguished, he would come over and speak to anyone from his department, even the newest PhD student. It is true that no one called him Hugh. But those days were slightly different and it wasn't necessary to use first names on every occasion. He talked to everyone as an equal which is a good substitute for first name familiarity. He was meticulous in scholarly writing of papers and prided himself that no paper leaving the department was sloppily written. To this end he read every paper leaving the department very thoroughly and few were sent out without quite major improvements by him. He must have spent an enormous time on this task.

Ennor's love of biochemistry was obvious to all who knew him during the years he spent at the bench. He played a significant role in the establishment of the Australian Biochemical Society and was its president from 1960 to 1962. His research also took him to many biochemical laboratories overseas where he was well known by many of the leading biochemists of the world and for a time he was a member of the International Committee for Biochemistry. At the same time, many distinguished overseas biochemists visited his laboratory, some as visiting fellows, others as visitors for a shorter time. Among these, Sir Rudolph Peters writes:

I had a high regard for him, such a straight and downright character and always determined to do his best for whatever job he took on.

And Professor Baird Hastings writes:

The news of Hugh Ennor's death came as a great shock to me and Mrs Hastings. He was so vigorous and entered into any activity that he undertook with such enthusiasm that one thought of him as overcoming mortal ailments. I remember his vigour in research, particularly as it pertained to high-energy phosphates, culminating in his devising a phosphate method with Lloyd Stocken at Oxford that was an improvement on the popular Fiske and Subarrow one.

Whereas Ennor devoted much of his energy to research and to the administration of his own department, he was destined to play a very active role in the development of the John Curtin School and of the Australian National University. This university had been established by Act of Parliament in August 1946 with the specific provision that 'The research schools shall include a research school in relation to medical science to be known as The John Curtin School of Medical Research'. This Act came into operation in February 1947. Sir Howard (later Lord) Florey, Professor of Pathology and head of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford, had earlier advised the government on the establishment of the JCSMR and in 1947 the university negotiated with him concerning his possible acceptance of the directorship of the school. Although Florey declined to come to Australia in this capacity immediately, he agreed to act as adviser to the university in all matters concerning the John Curtin School. As Fenner, in his Victor Coppleson Memorial Lecture, said:

In essence he (Florey) functioned as a non-resident director, and was responsible for the way in which the school developed during the first decade of its existence. During this period (1947-1957) he visited Australia almost every year.

Ennor's appointment to the chair of biochemistry in 1948 was soon to be followed by that of Albert to the chair of medical chemistry in January 1949, Fenner to the chair of microbiology in July 1949, and Eccles to the chair of physiology in 1951. However, since there were no laboratories in Canberra, these professors were accommodated in various laboratories in Australia and overseas-Ennor at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and Fenner at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Albert at the Wellcome institution in London and Eccles in the Medical School in Dunedin.

During these early years, a plan for the building of JCSMR was one of the main concerns of Florey and of the four widely scattered professors. It became clear that a permanent building in Canberra would take a considerable time to plan and build, so in 1952 the council of the university authorized the building of temporary laboratories on the campus; they were completed by the end of that year and enabled three of the four professors to be together in Canberra, Albert remaining in London. It then became convenient for one of the professors in Canberra to look after administrative matters locally and communicate with Florey in Oxford. Accordingly, Ennor was appointed dean of the school in 1952, a position to which he devoted a great deal of his enormous energy and drive in order to get the building under way and completed. In 1957 the building was completed and it was occupied in the latter part of that year. During this first decade of the school's development Ennor and Florey worked in close harmony. The completion of the building was undoubtedly a considerable achievement for them both, as well as for others. Florey could at last see many years of planning coming to fruition, an event that would not have occurred so smoothly had it not been for Ennor's administrative ability on the local scene.

The year 1957, however, was to be the end of the decade in which Florey was to guide the destinies of JCSMR. As the building neared completion, the university renewed negotiations with Florey to see whether he would come to Canberra as director of the JCSMR and professor of experimental pathology. Florey suggested an appointment as temporary director for one year and that he should come on that basis with several colleagues in the hope that conditions would be such that all would wish to stay. This plan did not have the support of university council and Ennor went to Oxford on behalf of council to discuss the matter with Florey. Ennor's mission, however, failed, with Florey deciding finally not to come to Australia as director of JCSMR. E. P. Abraham, in writing Florey's obituary for the Royal Society, comments:

Although Hugh Ennor was sent as an emissary to Oxford in March 1957, his visit only served to sharpen the division of opinion and to finalize the break. It is idle now to speculate on how things would have turned out if Florey had gone to Canberra on a temporary basis, but some such arrangement might have been made had it not been for a clash of personalities.

No doubt many factors were taken into consideration by Florey before he made his final decision. As Abraham stated:

One, to which he (Florey) himself attributed much importance, was that a sufficient no. of his colleagues did not feel able to go with him to Canberra. He remarked that he had reached a time of life (he was 58 at the time) when he found it difficult to contemplate the formation of a group of entirely new collaborators and that he had no wish to find himself becoming merely an administrator or figurehead. Other factors were a growing apprehension about the administrative organization of the university and about the provision of sufficient money for the School of Medical Research to fulfil the role he had envisaged for it.

To what extent any clash of personalities affected Florey's decision is difficult to assess. Both Ennor and Florey were very plain-speaking, forthright men; neither suffered fools gladly but each understood and had considerable respect for the other. Both were down-to-earth practical men, laboratory men, happiest when working at the bench. Both, however, were destined to play leading roles in administration in science. Ennor in his position as dean was always loyal to Florey. He was never devious, never other than straightforward. He reacted quickly, but listened to arguments and changed his mind readily.

Indeed, one could see him changing in full flight, as it were, as his own exposition of a point developed or discussion opened up new avenues of thought.

Although Florey was no longer to be adviser to the university on JCSMR, he continued his deep interest in the school. In March 1958 he opened the JCSMR building and from 1964 until his death in 1968 when he was chancellor of the university, he made several visits to Canberra and was obviously delighted with the development of JCSMR. All those who attended the dinner in the Scarth Room of University House on 29 August 1966 to farewell Eccles on his departure for the United States, understand how happy Florey was with the stature and reputation attained by JCSMR in the world of medical research. Florey had planned to come to Canberra to work in the school when he retired as provost of Queens, but his death in February 1968, just before he was due to retire, ended what might have been a very pleasant period of his life.

When Florey finally decided not to accept the directorship of JCSMR, Ennor was appointed head of the school. There is no doubt that Ennor was genuinely disappointed with Florey's decision for he was well aware of the difficulties and the responsibilities of this position at an important stage of the university's development. He realized that he was not of the stature of Florey as a scientist and he insisted that he should continue to use the term dean instead of director. Nevertheless, he had an immense determination to maintain the high standards of research in JCSMR that Florey had envisaged and demanded. For the next ten years, until his resignation in 1967, Ennor remained head of JCSMR. This was a time of great expansion, not only for JCSMR but also for the university. During this time Ennor had a lot to do with the fine detail of the development of JCSMR, although the broad planning had already been set before his influence was at its height. It fell to him to establish the school's stature within the university. To him much credit must go for JCSMR's reputation for modesty in demands for growth and for fair and reasonable dealing in the competition for resources. Four new chairs were filled, experimental pathology in 1958, physical biochemistry in 1959, genetics in 1964 and clinical science in 1966; two new units were also established, biological inorganic chemistry and electron microscopy. The academic staff increased from 31 to 67 and the no. of PhD students from 10 to 65 and, during this time, in 1963, Eccles was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. With the growth of the university, especially after the amalgamation with the Canberra University College in 1960, a position of deputy vice-chancellor was created to which Ennor was appointed for two years in 1964. He remained head of JCSMR and professor of biochemistry, but in 1965 resigned from the headship of the department of biochemistry.

In his concept of a research school Florey envisaged the research workers devoting the whole of their time to research under the best laboratory facilities possible. He felt that they should not be distracted or waste their time on administrative matters. In such a school the research should be 'superlatively good', at least equal to that in the leading laboratories of the world. The administration of the school was to be left largely to the director and the heads of departments who would form a school committee, and to a business manager and a technical manager responsible to the director. Members of the sub-professorial staff had a voice only at informal departmental meetings, but of course could as individuals freely discuss any matter with the director.

Ennor strongly endorsed this type of school management which worked well during the initial period of rapid expansion. With the growth of the academic staff, however, there arose an increasing demand for the formation of a faculty and Faculty Board to give all members of the academic staff a voice in the government of the school. Ennor was well aware of the importance above all else of the quality of research in determining the stature of the school on the international scene. He was also well aware of the enormous amount of time that can be wasted in meetings. He believed that members of the academic staff had access to whatever facilities they wished to carry out their research. For a time, therefore, he adhered to the original form of government and he resisted any move to form a more 'democratic' structure of government in the school. Ultimately, as an interim measure, two members of the sub-professorial staff were added to the school committee and meetings of the entire academic staff were held periodically. At this time, however, the climate was changing in all universities and it became difficult to resist the tide of opinion. In 1966, when Ennor was deputy vice-chancellor, a committee was set up by the vice-chancellor to report on the structure of JCSMR government; in 1967 a faculty-Faculty Board structure was recommended and established.

It has long been argued that a school for medical research completely divorced from the clinic suffers a considerable disadvantage. Florey was certainly a laboratory man, but he was very conscious of the necessity to exploit the results of basic medical research for the benefit of mankind. In his address at the opening of JCSMR in 1958 he said;

There are, I am sure, few who would now dispute that new knowledge is coming principally from those engaged either in what are called fundamental sciences of medicine or from those who have been trained thoroughly in experimental methods in these sciences and have then gone with the outlook so obtained to work in the clinic...I hope that one of the major functions of this institution will be to train future clinicians in experimental methods and ways of thought as well as to train laboratory workers.

With the rapid development of the basic medical sciences after he became head of the John Curtin School, Ennor began to realize the deep gap between the scientists in JCSMR and the practising clinicians. Even though some medical graduates were being trained in the experimental method and were returning to the clinic, as Florey had hoped, the research workers in the school had relatively little contact with medical problems as they existed in the clinic. Ennor became aware of the importance in Canberra of a teaching medical school as part of the Australian National University to complement the JCSMR. With the rapid growth of Canberra in the sixties, the establishment of a viable undergraduate medical school attached to the university became a possibility. With Ennor's support the university set up a committee under his chairmanship to report on the possible establishment of an undergraduate medical school. The report, produced in 1965, served as a basis for further studies and reports on the type of medical school best suited for the community and the time of its commencement. These studies were subsequently made, but for various reasons, at the time of his death in October 1977, the decision to establish an undergraduate medical school in Canberra was still in abeyance.

Although the establishment of an undergraduate medical school attached to the Australian National University was to become a long drawn-out issue, there were other ways in which JCSMR could attain a closer link with clinical medicine. One was to establish a chair of clinical science in JCSMR with the department located in the Canberra Community Hospital where scientists and clinicians could work together. It was hoped that there would be considerable liaison between those working in the main JCSMR building and those working in the hospital. With Ennor's support the establishment of this department was approved by both university council and hospital authorities, and the first professor of clinical science was appointed in 1966.

During the rapid expansion of the Australian National University in the sixties, Ennor became one of the main-protagonists of a research school of chemistry, although he was strongly opposed to a rapid multiplication of research schools. At this time the university still had only its four original research schools-JCSMR, Physical Sciences, Pacific Studies, and Social Sciences-but had in 1960 become amalgamated with Canberra University College which ultimately became the School of General Studies. Chemistry at that time was largely confined to the department of medical chemistry in the JCSMR, although with the establishment of a faculty of science in the School of General Studies, an undergraduate department of chemistry was formed. A strong proposal for a research school of biological sciences was also put forward and supported by the Australian Academy of Science. There was, therefore, keen competition at the time for a major longterm development in the university. Ennor had, however, obtained the interest of three of Australia's leading chemists then residing in the United Kingdom-A. J. Birch, D. P. Craig and R. S. (later Sir Ronald) Nyholm. A proposal based on the return of these three chemists, or at least two of them, made the chemistry project very attractive and in 1965 council approved the establishment of a research school of chemistry.

After he became head of JCSMR in 1957, Ennor also took an active interest in national activities outside the university. He played a leading role in the establishment of the National Heart Foundation. This activity brought him into close contact with clinicians, especially those interested in cardiovascular disease, and with leaders in the commercial world. Ennor was elected chairman of the first national conference to establish the National Heart Foundation of Australia . This was held in the Council Room of the Australian National University on 23 February 1959. It was attended by 25 distinguished representatives from all States of the Commonwealth and, by special invitation, Sir Alan Taylor, representing the R. T. Hall Trustees, and Councillor W. J. (later Sir William) Kilpatrick, chairman of the then recent Cancer Society campaign in Victoria. It was at this conference, formally opened by the prime minister, the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies, and presided over by Ennor, that the formal motion establishing the National Heart Foundation of Australia was carried. Dr Kempson (later Sir Kempson) Maddox, with the R. T. Hall Trustees, had earlier put forward the idea of a foundation for the prevention and better management of heart disease in this country; at the time he was president of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. The Foundation decided to launch a national appeal with Councillor Kilpatrick as National Appeal Chairman. Sir William Kilpatrick writes:

...such consistent action by Sir Hugh and other scientific and medical leaders on television, radio, and other media was a major factor in attaining £2 5 million for the National Heart Foundation to carry out its programme.

On 14July 1960, the inaugural meeting of theNational Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee was held with Ennor as chairman. Those who were present at this meeting, which continued for three long and tiring days, will always remember the skill with which Ennor conducted this important meeting which set the high standards adopted by the Foundation. On Ennor's retirement from this position in March 1967, the incoming chairman, Professor (later Sir John) Loewenthal, commented on 'the outstanding contribution which Sir Hugh Ennor had made to the successful functioning of the committee as its foundation chairman'. He reminded the members that 'the committee had laid down a very successful pattern of operation and all of the committee's work had been marked by the greatest goodwill and enthusiasm on the part of its members'. This, he said, was a tribute to the personality and capacities of Sir Hugh.

Ennor continuously served the Foundation as a member of the executive committee from 1959 to 1967, member at large from 1961, director from 1964 to 1967, and as president in 1966-67. Sir William Kilpatrick writes:

Having served continuously with him for some 18 years at the Foundation, I cannot speak too highly of his dedication to, and brilliant handling of, its affairs throughout that period.

In the sixties Ennor also played an active role in the establishment of the Science and Industry Forum of the Australian Academy of Science. Having been elected to fellowship of the Academy in 1954, he served on Council from 1962 to 1967 and was treasurer from 1963 to 1967. During 1963 the Council of the Academy saw a need to improve the Academy's public relations with various groups of people. At Ennor's suggestion, the officers met on several occasions for dinner with different small groups of people prominent in the industrial and commercial life of the country, many of them known personally to Ennor. This led to a symposium on 'Scientific and Technological Research in Relation to the Development of Australian Industry' at the annual general meeting in 1964, at which there were discussions, both formal and informal, between fellows and about thirty prominent industrialists. At the concluding dinner, Sir Ian McLennan suggested that some sort of joint organization might be set up to arrange similar discussions in the future. Other informal discussions with groups of business people were held at dinner meetings by the Sydney and Adelaide groups of fellows respectively.

In August 1964 the then president, Sir Thomas Cherry, called together a small representative group of fellows and industrialists to discuss the possibility of such a joint organization. As an outcome a small steering group consisting of Sir Archibald Glenn, Mr D. L. Hegland, Sir Henry Somerset, Sir Thomas Cherry, Sir Hugh Ennor, and Dr (later Sir Ian) Wark was set up to develop the project further. On the recommendation of this group an Interim Industrial Liaison Committee was called together and was subsequently expanded into the Science and Industry Forum which held its first meeting in March 1967. The Forum has become an important part of the Academy's continuing activities and Ennor's influence in the early stages was crucial to its development.

During the early sixties Ennor served on many other committees among which were the Selection Committee for Natural Sciences of the Nuffield Foundation, the Advisory Committee of the Ciba Foundation, and the Committee of the Australian Universities Commission (the Martin Committee) that reported on the future of tertiary education in 1964.

By the end of 1966 Ennor had crowded a great deal into the decade that had begun in 1957 with his appointment as head of the John Curtin School. During this time he had a great many friends in all walks of life-academics, diplomats, politicians, public servants, and people in the business and professional worlds. His success in administration led him to devote more and more of his time to this field and consequently less and less to his work in the laboratory. By 1966 the time was approaching when he had to decide between devoting more of his time to biochemistry and giving up laboratory work altogether. He really had little option but to devote his future to full-time administration, for he had become a very experienced and successful administrator in the academic world.

In the events of the latter half of 1966, Ennor decided to quit the academic life and to embark on a new venture. The opportunity arose for him to accept the position of permanent head of the Department of Education and Science, a newly established department in the Commonwealth Public Service. He served in this position from its creation at the beginning of 1967 until the separation of the science function as a department in its own right at the end of 1972. His selection as a non-public servant was, at the time, a rare event. It reflected the wish of the Holt government to appoint a distinguished academic administrator to develop the new department. The creation of a Commonwealth department in education and science was itself a significant development in Commonwealth/State relations in education, which was then and continues to be primarily a State responsibility. Ennor became a member of the Directors-General Conference and of the standing committee to the Australian Education Council.

As an experienced academic administrator Ennor found the transition to public administration not without its difficulties. The administrative organization established for the new department mirrored the classical hierarchical model of public service departments which was far removed from the models of administration with which he had been familiar in universities. He advocated the infusion of outside blood into the Commonwealth service, including short-term appointment and contracted services, and had limited success in following this approach within his own department.

Ennor's responsibilities in education to that time had been concentrated in the tertiary area, including his membership of the committee on the future of tertiary education in Australia, the Martin Committee, which reported in August 1964. However, as head of the new department his public comments were directed primarily at the schools level. His first major speech, the Eleventh Theodore Fink Memorial Lecture given on 3 October 1961, was titled 'Some Problems of Educational Research in Australia'. In it Ennor was highly critical of what he regarded as Australia's poor performance in educational research in contrast to many other areas of human activity, including research in which Australia had made her mark on the world scene:

The educational scene stands out as one in which we seem to have failed; failed in the sense that we do not appear to be able to delineate the problems; let alone ascribe priorities to them; let alone provide solutions to them.

The speech drew a sharp reaction from many senior educators, but Ennor did not stop at criticisms about lack of priorities and wasteful use of resources. In that speech he advocated the establishment of a representative committee to survey the situation, determine priorities, and indicate how they might be investigated. The outcome was a representative meeting of experienced people, including teachers, which led to the establishment of the ERDC-the Educational Research and Development Committee.

The period 1967-72 saw a substantial expansion of Commonwealth activities in education and also in science. Increases in direct Commonwealth expenditure were dramatic, although not on the scale which developed subsequently during the Whitlam administration. Some of the more significant Commonwealth initiatives in education during this period were: secondary school libraries programme; reports on academic salaries and on levels and nomenclature of awards in advanced education; development of the tertiary entrance examination; introduction of per capita grants to non-government schools and shared capital grants for government and non-government schools in the States; acceptance of direct responsibility for the education services in the ACT and the NT; establishment of the Commonwealth Teaching Service.

Ennor's public utterances emphasized the need for qualitative rather than quantitative improvement in education at the schools level. During this period the Commonwealth supported various groups working on the preparation of an up-to-date secondary science curriculum and the development of social science curricula. The Academy of Science had set the example with The Web of Life. The Asian languages and cultures exercise was a substantial effort in a particular area of growing relevance to Australians. All of these activities involved close cooperation between Commonwealth and State ministers and their departments, with support from academics.

In exercising its responsibilities for the provision of education services in the two mainland Territories, the new department sought to develop policies in tune with local requirements and arising from comprehensive expert enquiry and discussion. The creation of the Commonwealth Teaching Service was preceded by the Radford/Neale enquiry into the desirable organization, career, and salary structure for such a service. The Darwin Community College was created following the recommendations of a special committee of enquiry, and a committee drawn from the local community was commissioned to advise on the restructuring of the government secondary schools system in the ACT.

1972 saw the culmination of the pressure from highly organized groups who were seeking substantially increased Commonwealth grants for education at the schools level. Ennor, in opening the 26th Annual Conference of the Australian Council of State School Organizations on 16 October 1972, argued against those who advocated reduced class sizes. He warned that research throughout the world had not indicated any optimum no. for a class size. He emphasized the need for the development of a strong element of professionalism within the various teacher organizations. He argued that:

not only should any demand for reduction in class sizes be based on some objective assessment, but also that those who make the demands should be aware of the cost of those demands.

This attitude reflected Ennor's belief that those who advocated substantially increased expenditure on education should back up their demands with argument and evidence. He emphasized too the role of government in determining priorities among various proposals.

Given Ennor's background and known attitudes, it was to be expected that the 'and Science' element of the new department would receive special attention. The department had been created from the education division of the Prime Minister's Department and its involvement in science during that period had been notable primarily for the establishment of the Australian Research Grants Committee and for annual grants such as that to the Academy of Science. During the period from 1967 to 1972 responsibilities in the science area led first to the establishment of a branch and later of a division within the department. Significant developments with which Ennor had a close personal association were the negotiations in 1967 leading to the construction of the Anglo-Australian telescope; the introduction of project SCORE-the Survey and Comparison of Research Expenditure covering all sections of the economy which was further developed following the creation of the Department of Science in 1972; the establishment of and administrative support for the Metric Conversion Board in 1970; and the first Advisory Committee on Science and Technology which was proposed in 1972 to advise on the alignment of civil science and technology to national objectives. In 1968 the US/Australian agreement for scientific and technological cooperation was signed, with the Department of Education and Science as the Australian executive agency. This was the first of a no. of related measures taken subsequently which reflected Ennor's strong personal conviction about the need for and the national benefits to flow from such arrangements.

When the Whitlam Government decided to establish separate departments for education and for science, Ennor chose to go to science and took up that appointment from the beginning of 1973. Although the problems of a recently created department were not new to Ennor, those which he incurred through the Department of Science were to weigh heavily on him for the whole five years during which he was the permanent head. It was typical of him that, right up to the day of his official retirement, which turned out to be less than a week before his untimely death, he was still grappling with difficulties which he wanted resolved before his successor took over-and that while critically ill in hospital. The embryonic Department of Science was not an organization for which anyone could have accepted responsibility with cheerful optimism. But the magnitude and scope of the difficulties later to emerge were not anticipated.

It was recognized at the outset that the return to power of the Labor Government after a lapse of 23 years would pose problems for both the ministry and the administrative machine, but their extent and effect were not foreseen. The government wanted action and it wanted action quickly. The Department of Science was poorly equipped to respond. It had no management services of its own; it had minimal policy development resource; it inherited overnight a set of agencies which each had problems peculiar to itself that it looked to a central departmental organization to tackle, and in the case of the Department of Science that central organization was virtually non-existent.

The first 12 months in the life of the department were well nigh impossible ones for Ennor. It took that long to establish some sort of organization and some form of coherence in action. However it took much longer to get the whole machine to work efficiently and effectively. For many months the department had to depend for its chief management and administrative responsibilities entirely on support from the Department of Education, to which the management services branch of the erstwhile Department of Education and Science had been transferred en bloc; it also had to depend on the departments of the Attorney-General, Capital Territory, and Supply and Customs for administrative support for the Patent Office, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Antarctic Division, and the Analytical Laboratories respectively. Whilst this fragmentation was difficult for all involved, it was particularly hard on the permanent head of the Department of Science.

Ennor saw the new department as having roles both in the formulation of policy proposals and in the implementation of policies for science and technology. Those roles would not be exclusive and many other agencies would be involved. In particular he wanted to forge strong relationships with the Science Council that the government intended to establish. He saw that body as chief adviser on priorities, particularly in the field of 'big science' where the costs involved could run into millions of dollars. He had grave doubts that science expenditures could maintain the growth rates current at the time, and he worried about escalating costs, particularly those attributable to the increasing sophistication of instrumentation and facilities. He was concerned that the right institutional arrangements should be made for expensive new capital items and particularly that opportunities for bilateral or multi-partite international collaboration should be explored; he felt that, as a general rule, equipment serving a national purpose should be available as a national, rather than as an establishment-exclusive, facility.

Ennor became a member of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board on 4 May 1973 and he was reappointed for a further term on 27 May 1976. His initial appointment led to a perceptible shift in the Australian attitude to the question of who would be responsible forday-to-day management and operation of the new telescope. Previously the Australian view had tended to favour the Australian National University in this role, as opposed to the UK view that the Board should effect strictly binational arrangements for the purpose. That Ennor should find himself closely in agreement with the British attitude was inevitable, given that he started with the views about multinational arrangements and national facilities attributed to him earlier. In the end, it was the British view that prevailed but not before Ennor had found himself at odds with some of his colleagues who were very strongly committed to the other option.

Ennor made notable contributions to the Board's work. Being also head of the Australian executive agency, viz., the Department of Science, he was able to give the best advice on many organizational and administrative matters. He took a deep personal interest in instrumentation and strove to assist the Board to equip the telescope with the range of facilities necessary to guarantee its use to full advantage. Ennor enjoyed his commitment to the Anglo-Australian telescope but the controversy over management and operation left some scars.

At 30 June 1973, the central office of the Department of Science consisted of a policy division with 18 positions occupied out of 37 allowed, a general services division with 26 positions occupied out of 34 allowed, and a management services branch with no positions occupied out of 97 approved. Most of the vacancies were filled over the following 12 months; the lengthy processes of recruitment on this scale however diverted a substantial fraction of the comparatively scarce resources available away from policy formulation.

It was a blow to Ennor when the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology which had been established by Prime Minister McMahon and had held its first meeting on 24 October 1972 was dissolved by the Minister for Science in February 1973. The Labor Government's interim Australian Science and Technology Council was not convened as a replacement till May 1975. During the interregnum Ennor worried continually that major policy issues in science and technology were not being considered. He was especially concerned that no effective action was being taken on initiatives proposed for marine science and astronomy. However he was reluctant to have the department make other arrangements to have these subjects addressed since he believed that such action would pre-empt the role which he judged proper for a Science Council.

The department and, more particularly, its central office had little chance to settle down till near the end of 1975. In the meantime the addition of various new responsibilities and the removal of others did not make life any more comfortable for Ennor. He had been unable to provide adequate resource in May 1973 to match the then Minister's newly conferred responsibility for coordinating the establishment of consumer standards. The transfer to the Department of Health of the task of measuring radioactivity from fallout provided some relief-but not till after work arising from the series of nuclear tests by the French in 1973 had been completed. When the council of the Australian Institute of Marine Science appointed the first group of officers to its own staff departmental support for the Institute was no longer required, but that commitment was balanced by the new one of servicing the interim council of the Australian Biological Resources Study.

An OECD review of Australian scientific and technological activities was undertaken early in 1974 at the request of the then Minister. This was a complex task and represented a big load for the department. Unlike similar reviews in other countries, this one had minimal support from the OECD Secretariat, and the shortfall had to be made good by the department. Ennor was personally involved in much of the work associated with the review, including leading an Australian delegation at a formal meeting of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy convened to exchange views on the content of the draft review report.

In January 1915 the Space Projects Branch of the department came into being through transfer of the American Projects Branch of the Department of Manufacturing Industry; the latter had assumed responsibility for the branch when the Department of Supply had been abolished. The Balloon Launching Station at Mildura came with the branch. Also in January 1975 the Government issued a white paper: Science and Technology in the Service of Society-The Framework for Australian Government Planning. The intended machinery included a ministerial committee on science and technology, an Australian Science and Technology Forum and a continuing Department of Science. An interim ASTEC held its first meeting at the end of May 1975.

On 6 June 1975 the name of the department was changed to that of Science and Consumer Affairs. Shortly afterwards the Patent Office reverted to the Attorney-General's department. It would be fair to say that Ennor was not relaxed about the consumer affairs commitment. However, he accepted it cheerfully enough, and was determined to have his new department undertake its assigned tasks with dedication and effectiveness. An interim Commission on Consumer Standards had been established in October 1973 and had been assisted to some extent since that time by the department through the work of the Analytical Laboratories. In April 1974 the interim commission made recommendations concerning a permanent body to succeed it but, in the event, the proposals it developed never did come to fruition.

With the change to a Department of Science and Consumer Affairs, a consumer standards branch was established in the general services division and a consumer protection division was set up in the department by transfer of staff from the Trade Practices Commission. Once again Ennor found his limited resources well over-stretched. The consumer standards branch had to be manned by staff transferred temporarily from elsewhere in the department and the consumer protection division found itself tasked well beyond the capacity of the workforce which it brought with it. Nevertheless Ennor had the department produce some potentially useful results-price surveys, a guide to consumer rights and to sources of advice and information, and a consumers' magazine. After the general election in December 1975, 'Consumer Affairs' was removed from the purview of the department.

There was one incident arising out of the budget brought down by the government in 1975 that should be specially mentioned. In that budget funds for the Australian Research Grants Committee suffered a massive cut. The scientific community was greatly upset and, in some quarters, the Department of Science was blamed. Allegations amounting to charges of incompetence or indolence on the part of departmental officers were published in Search. The department was not only not responsible but rather had tried vainly to avert the potential disaster. Nevertheless, strict adherence to public service standards of propriety inhibited Ennor from revealing publicly exactly what had happened. It is nevertheless a matter of history that, subsequently, steps were taken by the government of the day to partly redress the situation.

The problems which Ennor had as a result of the demands of government were exacerbated by problems internal to the department. The latter reached something of a climax in publicity arising through the hearings of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. It would be inappropriate to make judgments about respective rights and wrongs. What can be said is that Ennor always looked for the highest standards of personal and professional performance, and his make-up would not let him accept anything which he judged to be less.

The Royal Commission's Science Task Force rejected the concept of a minister and department of science. Ennor, however, firmly believed that a department of science is a necessary concomitant of a Science Council and he issued a firmly worded and detailed rebuttal of the Science Task Force report. The Royal Commission itself saw a need for a ministerial focus for CSIRO and general science policy and posed the alternatives of a group concentrated in the Cabinet office and working to the prime minister or of a minister for science with a more traditional department, associated with a ministerial committee on science and ASTEC. After the elections of December 1975, an Administrative Review Committee was established to recommend on administrative savings that might be achievable. Despite forecasts in the press to the contrary, the Department of Science was not abolished. It is a fair presumption that the committee was satisfied with what it found out about the department, its central office, and its top management with Ennor in charge.

During 1976 and 1977 the department received less adverse publicity. Ennor found himself as busy as ever. He was personally very much involved in a major review of astronomical facilities in Australia which had been commissioned by the government. Under his chairmanship, an interdepartmental committee, supported by a departmental secretariat and an expert group of astronomers, studied the subject in great depth and reported its findings in September 1977.

Meanwhile Ennor had also had to find staff from the central office to comprise a secretariat for a committee of inquiry that had been set up to examine the operations of the Bureau of Meteorology. The committee based its work in part on a substantial input from the department arising through the preparation and publication of a green paper on meteorology and analyses of over 300 responses from all sectors of the community.

Concurrently the department was engaged in a commitment of large proportions and long duration which stemmed from comprehensive review of Australian Antarctic operations and from development of future Antarctic policy. That task too had been initiated through a green paper drafted by the department; it entailed extensive consultations with universities and other bodies as well as protracted deliberations by an interdepartmental committee and a set of working parties. During the same period, yet another interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of Science, was looking at issues arising from international collaboration in science and technology, and endeavouring to formulate a draft policy on the subject for consideration by government.

A lesser man might well have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of these tasks, given the small organization which Ennor had at his disposal. In more private moments he would occasionally express his concern and perhaps a little pessimism-but that was rare. Both in public and on the job he always exuded confidence and optimism. And he was buoyed up by some notable successes achieved under his leadership. The US/Australia Agreement for Scientific and Technical Cooperation has been progressively developed by the department as an excellent vehicle for promoting collaboration that, in its absence, could not occur. Against the run of the economic tide, the government accepted the department's arguments in the 1977-78 budget context for more resources for the Antarctic Division, and for the establishment of a LANDSAT receiving/processing facility in Australia. These were notable achievements and a source of great satisfaction to Ennor in his final year.

We have seen that in a career of 40 years since he graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1937, Ennor spent the first 30 years as a biochemist in medical research institutes. By the end of this time, towards the end of 1966, he had been drawn more and more into university administration and further and further away from his biochemical laboratory. He found himself at a crossroads and realized that it would not be easy to go into reverse. Most scientists who have been drawn away from the laboratory for a few years into academic administration find it difficult to return to the bench; they usually accept full-time administrative positions and this was so with Ennor. He was, I am sure, happiest in the academic world, but during the last decade of his life he nevertheless gave in full measure his skills and energy to public administration, however hard the road ahead sometimes appeared. He will be remembered by his colleagues in university and public service for his integrity and dedication, and for the affection, kindliness and courtesy which he unfailingly bestowed on the many good friends he had among them.

Ennor was honoured for his services to science and medicine by election to the fellowship of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute in 1951 and of the Australian Academy of Science in 1954, by the award of the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa of the University of New South Wales in 1968 and of the degree of Doctor of Medicine honoris causa of Monash University in 1969. He was created CBE in 1963 and a Knight Bachelor in 1965.

I first met Hugh Ennor towards the end of the war when he visited the Chemical Warfare Establishment in England, but it was after the war, early in 1946, that I first came to know the Ennors. Hugh had married Violet Argall in 1939 and in 1946 he came to Oxford with his wife Vi and their two young children, Janice and Phillip, to take up his Wellcome Foundation fellowship in the department of biochemistry. They shared a house with Dr (later Professor) David Sinclair and his wife in North Oxford not far from where I lived with my family. My wife and I have clear memories of the austerity of those early post-war years when on a cold bleak Sunday afternoon the Ennors came to tea, as was the custom in Oxford. Janice was 5 and Phillip 3, roughly the same age as our three children. There began on that day a close family friendship which has remained for over 30 years. Although Hugh and I may not have always agreed in those 30 years, I always knew that beneath his somewhat forthright manner was a genuine feeling of warmth for his numerous friends in all walks of life.

In private life Hugh loved his role as handyman around the Ennor home in Canberra's Red Hill. In his later years he was especially interested in wrought-ironwork and got much pleasure from designing and welding the ironwork around his home. Whenever I went to the local hardware shop early on a Saturday morning, I usually met Hugh browsing, always smiling and happy in such circumstances and always enthusiastic about some new gadget or some new material that he had found. All, and over the years there must have been a very great many, who enjoyed the hospitality of the Ennors in their home will have fond memories of the warmth of their friendship. Hugh loved being with his friends and as host at dinner he was always good company, full of fun and good humour.

10 October 1977, the 65th anniversary of his birth, was to be Hugh's day of retirement to which he had looked forward so that he could spend more time on his hobbies, especially landscape painting of which he became fond as a means of relaxation in his later years. His many friends had organized a dinner in his honour, a dinner which Hugh would have enjoyed to the full. However, a recent illness forced his return to hospital; he spent his birthday in the intensive care ward and he died a few days later on 14 October 1977. That he should be deprived of the opportunity to do in retirement the many things he had planned is a matter of the greatest regret to all those who appreciate the heavy load he bore, especially during the last five years of his life. He is survived by Lady Ennor, his two children, Janice and Phillip, and his four grandchildren.


I wish to acknowledge the help given by others in the preparation of this article, especially Dr H. Rosenberg, Mr K. N. Jones, Mr J. P. Lonergan, Dr J. W. Legge, Sir William Kilpatrick, Professors David Sinclair and V. M. Trikojus, Mr R. A. Hohnen, and Mr J. Deeble.

Emeritus Professor Frederick Colin Courtice was director of the Kanematsu Memorial Institute of Pathology, 1948-58; Professor of Experimental Pathology in the John Curtin School of Medical Research of the Australian National University, 1958-74, and director of the John Curtin School and Howard Florey Professor of Medical Research, 1974-76. He was elected to the Academy in 1954, served on Council, 1965-66, and was vice-president, 1965-66.

This memoir was originally published in Records of the Australian Academy of Science, vol. 4, no. 1, Canberra, Australia, 1978.

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 1995
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (bsparcs@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
© Australian Academy of Science
Prepared by: Victoria Young
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 8 April 1998

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