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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.

William Ian Potter 1902-1994


By D.A. Denton and M.H. Ryan

The Formative Years

William Ian Potter, known as Ian, was born in Sydney on 25 August 1902 to James W. Potter and Louisa McWhinnie. He was the third of four children­three boys and a girl. James Potter was a well-established wool merchant of Bradford, England, and he and Louisa were visiting Australia in connection with the Potter family wool business interests here.

As a result of the Potters' business involvement in both countries, Ian became exposed to different environments while young. His school education was received in Bradford and then at Dumfries Academy in Scotland. When the family moved to settle in Sydney after the First World War, Ian entered the University of Sydney. Leon Glezer has suggested that 'an early alternation between Britain and Australia left him with a sense of being part of each society, yet distant from both'. [1] Over the years he travelled frequently, and in later life maintained an apartment in New York; his bearing was such that he was thought by some connections in England to be an American with Australian interests, and in America to be an Englishman with Australian interests.

Although his father had hoped Ian would become a lawyer, he was drawn to business. At university he read economics and history, and topped his class in graduating Bachelor of Economics. He was a man of parts. An interest in medieval English literature led to a capacity to read and speak it freely and to quote Chaucer extensively. His intellect and social ease allowed him to develop good relations with a range of people including students of different political views from his own conservative position. He came second in a University five-mile run. He entertained on his boat on Sydney Harbour. There was charm, wit, energy and hints of resolve.

On graduating in 1929, he joined the staff of Edward Dyason, a Melbourne stockbroker to whom he had been recommended by R.C.Mills, his economics professor. He was one of the first economists to be engaged in stockbroking; at that time, few graduates were employed in Australian financial institutions. In October 1931, he confirmed his interest in markets by buying, for £700, a seat on the Melbourne Stock Exchange. [2]

In consequence of his role as an economist, and a bright and sociable one, he became noticed in political circles. In 1933 he was invited by R.G.Casey, then Assistant Treasurer in the Commonwealth Government, to move to the Treasury in Canberra as Casey's economic adviser. Although he remained there for less than two years, the connections he gained continued his formation of significant personal networks. His work brought him in close contact with a range of politicians, and gave him experience in lending and taxation policy and in negotiation with Australian and overseas bankers.

In 1935 he returned to Melbourne to pursue a career in business. He was offered employment in the leading stockbroking houses of J.B.Were and E.L. and C.Baillieu, but elected to set up as a sole trader. He founded the firm Ian Potter & Co. in 1936. In much later years, after he retired from the partnership, the firm became Potter Partners, then Potter Warburg Limited, and is today part of SBC-Warburg Australia Limited.

Thus were gathered the ingredients for the development of innovation, wealth, influence and philanthropy, and a remarkable and varied contribution to national life over the next sixty years.


While still a sole trader, working from an office in the basement of the Bankers and Traders Building in Collins Street, Potter made his first foray into commercial underwriting. In September 1936, in competition with J.B.Were, who were the dominant brokers of that time and always a major competitor of Ian Potter and Co., he bid successfully and somewhat boldly for the underwriting of a £1 million issue of preference shares by the company Electricity Meters and Allied Industries Ltd, later known as Email. In the same year he underwrote his first semi-government issue, for the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. These and smaller contracts helped to bring forward his name and reputation.

To penetrate and find a place in the Melbourne establishment, controlled by several families and their connections, was a formidable challenge. Potter's credentials of early market success and evident acumen were enhanced by his considerable social skills - a readiness and ability to move easily among leaders in business, politics and other fields in Australia and elsewhere. He engaged energetically with business society, and later remained accepted despite the publicity attending three divorces.

War service from 1940 to 1943 with the Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve in Australian waters interrupted his business activities, but during the '30s and '40s he progressively extended and consolidated his market involvements and his networks. With his connections in mind the Committee of the Melbourne Stock Exchange elected him as a Committee member in July 1942, to assist in dealing with a difficulty with the Commonwealth Government. He continued as a member of the Committee for twenty years, to November 1962. [3]

Prominent acquaintances included Leslie McConnan, general manager of the National Bank of Australasia. When the Chifley Government announced in August 1947 its intention to nationalize the private trading banks, McConnan, who was also chairman of the Associated Banks, called upon Potter to assist with the strategy and publicity for the campaign of resistance mounted, ultimately successfully, by the industry. Each such engagement created an increased flow of business from individuals and companies who were seeking the services of a broking house.

Potter's adeptness in building networks was matched by his shrewdness in selecting his partners. He had taken Henry A. Pitt into Ian Potter and Co. as his first trading partner in January 1938. J.H.McColl followed in October 1943. With the rapid expansion of the firm in the 1950s, others were added: C.T.Looker, N.K.Miller and G.D.Brown (1953), A.L.Shilton(1954), K.W.Pring (1956), G.R.Stuckey and J.L.Taylor (1960), and K.W.Halkerston and L.M.Muir (1962). His policy in seeking partners was to attract high quality and relevant experience. Pitt was a former under-secretary to the Victorian Treasury, a background which enhanced the firm's potential for underwriting semi-government loans. Miller was head-hunted from Were's, where he had set up the first company analysis and statistical research service in an Australian broker's office. Brown, a former secretary to the Stock Exchange, was an expert on prospectuses; Stuckey came from the Commonwealth Bank; Looker, pre-war, was private secretary to Menzies.

He took the same approach in hiring key staff. Charles Smith had been trained in Were's, and joined Potter as general manager, bringing order at a time when Potter's office had few systems and little up-to-date office equipment. The firm's first operator on the floor of the Exchange was not hired until 1947, when Laurie Day, acknowledged as the then finest operator in the House, was attracted from Were's.

His firm's business burgeoned post-war, when economic growth, commercial development and the demand for capital provided the context for expansion. Capital issues controls were removed in 1949. The banks, hitherto the mainstays of capital provision, did not have the capacity to satisfy the growth pressures by debt financing, and would suggest that capital might be raised by issues of equity shares. Potter's, especially Ian Potter and Cecil ('Peter') Looker, had themselves actively canvassed corporations to alert them to their wider post-controls options; known favourably by the banks, the firm was not infrequently recommended to companies to handle their equity issues. Its reputation was also enhanced by success in flotations which, to other contending brokers, had seemed technically too difficult. From the outset, Ian Potter took a creative and entrepreneurial view of his business opportunities as a broker, ready to extend beyond normal broking into related services.

Ian Potter and Co.'s underwriting of semi-government loans was aggressively pushed forward in this period, and reached market dominance in the early '50s, though later in that decade increased competition made inroads into the firm's market share. To support his underwriting, Potter arranged a consortium of institutional sub-underwriters, whose confidence in his judgment was such that he was able to set and offer terms of issues rather than negotiate them with the sub-underwriters in advance. Success in semi-government underwriting was complemented by leadership in facilitating and underwriting equity issues and company flotations to the Stock Exchange. Of 33 companies listed on the Melbourne Exchange in 1950, 16 were underwritten by Potter's, easily the largest number by one broker. The firm also sometimes underwrote major equity issues jointly with E.L. and C. Baillieu.

Such was the momentum of this business and the robustness of competition, particularly between Potter's and Were's, that terms tended to be cut fine. Potter's successes substantially outweighed shortfalls, though the firm incurred some considerable losses. Ian Potter read economic and market trends astutely, and he knew who had funds available to invest.

Although the major financial institutions had held equities, especially the life companies with their requirements for long-term investments and investment spread, the proportion of institutional assets held in equities prior to the '50s was small. Ian Potter was one of the first brokers to encourage institutional managers to move more significantly into the equity markets. Later, in the '60s, he went further, in encouraging direct institutional investment in the mining industry.

Potter's services extended to the provision of a merchant banking facility. For example, he bought the share capital of Email and then placed it with institutions and others as a solution to difficulties between Australian and UK interests. Similarly, he reconstructed the capital of the shipping company, McIlwraith McEacharn. His firm's operations were not without occasional controversy, as might be expected in a highly competitive business, but the dynamic was overwhelmingly constructive.

The firm became the preferred stockbrokers for an increasing number of clients, and grew rapidly. It developed the investment research pioneered by Miller when with J.B.Were's, and produced a book for investors entitled Selected Australian Ordinary Shares; this also introduced to Australia the analytical concepts of growth in earnings per share and the making of adjustments for distributions and share issues. In response to the demands of the '60s, at the time of the nickel boom, a night staff was employed; total staff rose to 560 by 1970 but with the post-boom correction the firm reduced its overdraft and culled its staff numbers, which settled back to around 200.


The considerable growth of Potter's business was not merely a response to detected opportunity, but to a degree was the result of making and then exploiting opportunity. Glezer observes that '[Ian] Potter's role as a catalyst pervade[d] most of the important developments in the financial sector in the two decades after 1945'. [4] It was a conjunction of unusual personal capacities with the relaxation of financial conservatism and regulation and the introduction of new investment instruments to meet commercial needs. Backed by his partnership, Potter became 'the pre-eminent Australian financier from the early 1950s to the late 1960s'. [5]

In 1955, Cecil Looker, later Sir Cecil, who was the firm's debt financing expert, went to London to study the discount market, and returned to advocate to the Federal Treasury that such a market be established in Australia. There was a demand for improved day-to-day management of the flows of very short-term funds, for example those in the hands of semi-government bodies and hire purchase companies, and generally for institutions public and private where money flows were uneven. The new market, approved by the government and the central bank, opened in 1959 for short-term trading in bonds, with the central bank as lender of last resort. Potter's were involved as a partner in one of the initial four official dealers. An 'unofficial' market in short securities, without central bank cover, was also developed.

Potter established the investment vehicle Australian United Investment Company Ltd (AUI), which became the principal source of his personal wealth and remains a listed investment company to this day. In conjunction with the Commercial Bank of Australia, he also established one of the first public unit trusts, the Australian Capital Fund.

Ian Potter's assistance was sought by Anglo-Australian Corporation (AAC), a merchant bank owned by British merchant bankers, which had faced some resistance in its attempts to break into the Australian market. After protracted debate in Stock Exchange circles and then prolonged negotiations with Potter's, shares were exchanged between Ian Potter's investment and banking companies and AAC, with the outcome that Australian United Corporation (AUC) was formed in 1960, in conjunction with Morgan Grenfell Ltd and Lazard Brothers of the UK and J.P.Morgan of the US. This organization became the major Australian merchant bank of the '60s and '70s. It gave financial stimulus to the rise and growth of some of Australia's principal industrial, commercial and media corporations, and of resources companies such as Conzinc Rio Tinto and Hamersley Mining. Debt issues were arranged for BHP, CSR, and Carlton and United Breweries. AUC's subsidiary, United Discount Corporation, became a major and profitable participant in the short-term money market.

Ian Potter's merchant banking approach was such as to build wealth through new development, company floats to secure capital growth, and amalgamations to obtain economies of scale and greater productive effectiveness. His way was not the way of takeovers for asset-stripping, which reached notorious levels in the '80s.

He displayed a constant alertness for new ideas, including overseas techniques that might readily be applied in the maturing Australian context. He travelled overseas three or four times each year and became well-known in London and other European financial centres and in New York. He had long done arbitrage business through firms in London, and finally opened a branch there during the boom in Poseidon shares. He also developed a New York business, in 1957, in association with Carl M. Loeb Rhoades and Co.

It was perhaps inevitable that Ian Potter's skills and reputation in stockbroking, corporate floats, merchant banking and advisory services (sometimes for companies that were in competition with one another) led to numerous invitations to join company boards. His contribution was not limited to financial advice but also went to practical operational issues. His directorships ranged across industry; for example: in finance he was chairman of Commercial Union Assurance Co. of Australia, as well as his companies AUC and AUI; in mining he was a director of Consolidated Gold Fields and Bellambi Coal; in general industry he was on the boards of Formica, Boral and TNT, and chairman of Email. His associations had consequences for relationships between companies, which strengthened their own financial well-being.

In consequence of his international connections Ian Potter became adviser or director, frequently chairman, of the Australian boards of a number of overseas corporations. For example, he was an Australian director of Time Life International, and a member of the international advisory council of the New York Chemical Bank. He formed a particular association with the Wallenburg banking family in Sweden, and through it and in other ways became involved with two Swedish corporations operating in Australia, ASEA and Atlas Copco, and a number of Swiss corporations - CIBA-GEIGY, Nestlé, and various insurance companies. A list of his directorships is given in Table 1.

He was also in demand as a commentator on Australian economic and financial questions, and he gave numerous addresses on such topics as the role of directors, overseas ownership, and immigration, and wrote articles for the press.

A special personal interest from the mid-1940s, perhaps sharpened by his Navy days, was the shipping industry. Potter joined the board of McIlwraith McEacharn Ltd in 1946 and was elected chairman in 1957. This was one of the first shipping companies in the world to use containers. He encouraged the building up of the fleet, culminating in 1963 in the amalgamation of the company's interstate shipping business with that of Adelaide Steamship Company to become Associated Steamships, of which he was first chairman. He joined the board of Bulkships in 1962 and was elected to the chair.

After Ian Potter retired from Ian Potter and Co., in June 1967, he continued to take a direct and innovative interest in financial markets, somewhat to the concern of his erstwhile partners. After much negotiation, the firm's name was changed to Potter Partners. As a practical vehicle for continuing his merchant banking, he established in 1970 the company Tricontinental, in which overseas financial connections took equity positions and which operated successfully while he remained involved. He sold most of his shareholding in 1979, and the remainder when he retired from its board in 1985.


Ian Potter's early breadth of interests as a student foreshadowed his later participation in various non-business fields­politics, education, the arts, the sciences­and his wide-spread philanthropy. Just as in business he played a hands-on role in creative development, networking and negotiations, so he engaged directly in other areas of civic and cultural life.

Following his entry into political circles as a bright young man, reinforced by his service in Treasury in the '30s, he developed and maintained significant political connections. He was associated with the formation of the Liberal Party in 1944, as a founding trustee, and remained a major influence in party affairs including fund-raising over the next thirty years. He enjoyed friendship with R.G.Menzies, who sought unsuccessfully to recruit him into politics, and had close relationships with senior politicians on both sides of the parliament: Holt, McMahon, and Fadden; Chifley, Calwell and Whitlam.

Potter served as Commonwealth Representative at the Conference on Rural Debt Adjustment, 1934­35, and later as the Australian Member of the War Reparation Council. In 1956­62, he was a member of the Commonwealth Immigration Council. During the '50s and '60s he represented Australia at World Bank meetings. His political skills and networks were a salient factor in his success in public sector fixed interest markets.

In 1964, his personal wealth having grown through his business achievements, he established the Ian Potter Foundation. This would be a vehicle through which his personal philanthropy could quietly be contributed and given continuity, with a Board of Governors (of which he was one) to husband its growing assets and set the direction of its grants. By 1994, the year of Ian Potter's death, the corpus of assets accumulated by the Foundation, from Ian Potter's donations and from returns from investments, had risen to some $50 million; a bequest in his will took total assets to $100 million in 1995.

Grants made by the Ian Potter Foundation during Potter's lifetime amounted to some $22 million, and in the early '90s were running at over $2 million annually. Over the years more than fifty institutions or organizations were supported, in the arts, academia, business education, the sciences, environment and heritage conservation, social welfare, and travel opportunities for young people. A list of major beneficiaries is shown at Table 2. Gifts always tended to be made discreetly, 'to the point', says Charles Goode, 'of anonymity'. [6] In addition to philanthropy through the Foundation, Potter continued to make donations personally.

Ian Potter contributed not only financially but also, and frequently, by direct application of his personal skills. For example, he was a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne from 1951 to 1971, and influenced Council to invest a significant proportion of its superannuation funds in equities. In addition, the University, its Graduate Business School and colleges received grants from the Foundation, and medical research was supported as described later in this memoir. Amongst other universities that received support, his alma mater, the University of Sydney, was also liberally assisted by the Foundation for thirty years, especially through travel grants for academics and contributions to building restoration. [7]

Potter's association with the arts, especially the performance arts, was extensive. He was involved in the construction of the National Gallery of Victoria, was a member of the Gallery and Cultural Centre from 1957, and was responsible for negotiating between the Victorian Treasury and the Centre's Building Committee for the financing of the whole arts and theatre complex, with bipartisan political support.

He succeeded his friend Dr H.C. ('Nugget') Coombs in 1968 as chair of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust when Dr Coombs became the first chair of the Australia Council for the Arts. Potter retired from this role in the Trust in 1984, and was elected to the honorary post of its President. The importance of the Trust in the development of the performance arts in Australia cannot be overstated. It had a generative role in the formation of the Australian Opera, the Australian Ballet Foundation and School, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and several theatre companies. Potter was a member of the boards of both the Opera (1970­1980) and the Ballet Foundation (1965­1983).

It is appropriate in this memoir to give special acknowledgement to Ian Potter's interest in Australian science. He could appreciate the state of scientific knowledge and sense opportunity for real advance. This capacity, coupled with his drive, his alertness to how finance might be arranged, and his networks, was well exemplified in his first major act of philanthropy. He had for some time shown curiosity about the work of the Howard Florey Laboratories of Experimental Physiology and Medicine in the University of Melbourne, and he and Ken Myer had visited to see what was being done. (I was the Laboratories' Director and Ian, Ken and I were mutual friends­D.D.). Interest came to a head over a dinner in 1960, when discussion turned to the urgent need for upgraded space and facilities for the Laboratories, which were then in a nineteenth-century building that provided poor conditions. During the meal, Ken Myer suggested that Potter might like to join him and his brother, Baillieu Myer, through their newly-formed Myer Foundation, in financing what was intended to be a state-of-the-art laboratory building. Potter's immediate response was 'Yes­and we'll go halves for the major sum', and after a short pause, 'and furthermore we'll underwrite the total so the scientists can go now and get an architect'. By Friday night of the same week, the architect, Garry Patten, was chosen. The four days it took to move from the germ of the idea to a commitment to construct what was to become a nine-floor international centre of scholarship and medical research may well be something of an Australian record, if not an international one. [8]

The funds for the centre were found successfully, including a Federal Government grant secured through Ian Potter's friendly access to Menzies and Holt. Around the same time, by personal intervention through his World Bank connections and in conjunction with Coombs, Potter also assisted in removing an administrative blockage in the US National Institutes of Health to the passage of a large grant to the Laboratories following their discovery of a new hormone bearing on the control of salt balance.

Potter's active interest in the Laboratories continued. He lent his weight to securing their incorporation in 1971, by Act of Parliament, as an independent Institute affiliated with the University. When this step was mooted, Potter remarked: 'We don't want any University sherry party committee ­ we want responsibility!'. [9] Up to the date of writing (mid­1997), some $4million has been paid or committed to the Howard Florey Institute by the Ian Potter Foundation, for studies in molecular biology, hormones and mechanisms of instinctive behaviour, and for a recent extension to the Institute's building.

The Florey's sister body, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and its close affiliate the Ludwig Institute, were also beneficiaries of Potter's generous grants. The wide range of institutes and university research departments assisted by Ian Potter Foundation donations is included in Table 2.

Potter's interest in and support for the science community were manifest perhaps most symbolically by his association with the peak learned society of scientists in the country, the Australian Academy of Science.


In the 1950s the Academy successfully negotiated with the Federal Government to secure a home site near the Australian National University campus under a special-purpose lease for a nominal rent. The Academy's 'Dome', an imaginative copper-sheathed structure designed to house a fairly large auditorium, with offices and meeting rooms, was completed in 1959, and became a landmark in Canberra and a well-recognised icon in the Academy's coat of arms.

Ian Potter had taken a 'benevolent interest in the Academy of Science from the inception of the Dome proposition'. [10] From 1961 over the following ten years a very significant donor to the Academy's development had been Sir Ellerton Becker. In 1965, the Academy's bye-laws were amended to make available two places in the Academy's Finance Committee for lay persons who could provide financial counsel, and Becker and Potter were appointed to the Committee by the Academy's Council. Ian Potter's influence was immediately felt in the Committee's deliberations and in an increase in the operating authority delegated to it.

In April 1978, against a background of long and significant philanthropy and direct, personal interest in scientific institutions in Australia, Ian Potter was elected a Fellow of the Academy by special election ­ a distinction reserved for persons 'who (have) rendered conspicuous service to the cause of science or whose election would be of signal benefit to the Academy and to the advancement of science'. [11] He was one of only ten distinguished persons to have been so recognised up to that time.

All Academy activities had been carried on in the Dome until 1968, when it became necessary, through growth in the Academy's affairs, to lease additional office space elsewhere. By 1981, about half the staff were located in rented premises. Negotiations with government were then commenced, to obtain title to the adjoining building, Beauchamp House, constructed in 1927 as a hostel for female public servants who had been transferred from Melbourne. It later became a public meeting place and offices for community use. The building had generally deteriorated and was slated for structural restoration and refurbishment.

Negotiations for the title succeeded, subject to certain conditions relating to progress with restoration and to ultimate use. An appeal for funds was launched by the Academy in 1982, directed to the Fellows and more widely. In November 1982 the Ian Potter Foundation supported the appeal with a seeding grant of $50,000, payable in two instalments, which was later described by the President of the Academy as a critical factor in the decision of the Academy's Council to proceed with refurbishment. [12] This grant was supplemented in 1984, bringing the Foundation's total donation to $250,000. The further support was seminal to the Council's decision to push forward to finish the building, which was achieved by 1987.

In 1984 Council honoured its two principal benefactors by resolving to re-name the two buildings in the Academy's island precinct. The Dome became 'Ellerton Becker House' and Beauchamp House 'Ian Potter House'. A bronze plaque acknowledging the history and naming of Ian Potter House was installed in 1988 beside the walkway between the two buildings, under the magnificent wisteria growing over the pergola at the entrance to the Academy's offices. Ian Potter House is listed in the register of the National Estate.

Ian Potter's longstanding friendship with Marcus Wallenburg of the Enskilda Scandinavica Bank led to support by the Ian Potter Foundation, jointly with the Wallenburg and Wenner Gren Foundations, for Australian-Swedish scientific conferences on neuroscience, circulation, botany and connective tissue biology. The first Australian-Swedish scientific symposium, on integrative mechanisms in neural function, was held in Melbourne in March 1987, sponsored by the Ian Potter Foundation. In 1989, Potter visited Stockholm for the 250th anniversary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, where he was treated with honour and became a signatory of the scientific exchange agreement between the Swedish and Australian Academies.

Potter maintained a working association with the Australian Academy of Science as a member of its Finance Committee until his retirement from the Committee in 1993. He remained a Fellow until his death.

The Man

Though he moved in international circles of influence, Ian Potter was a private man. Urbane and elegant in presentation, with an ease, connections and a steady blue eye, he nonetheless avoided publicity. Graeme Adamson notes that he was 'never known to grant an interview with any newspaper'. [13]

He spoke and wrote eloquently, and with spareness. Goode observes that 'while he was active in business he maintained an office and a secretary in both Melbourne and Sydney and frequently a work schedule that involved spacing his appointments at 15 minute intervals. One could be in his office and after the discussion had been concluded in an unhurried manner one realised that it had only taken ten minutes'. [14]

He not only knew how to select his colleagues but also how to allow them delegated freedom, how to multiply his own capacities through others. His own leanings were creative, analytic, strategic and interpersonal rather than bureaucratic. In the early days, his office, with few systems, bordered on administrative chaos, but he remedied this through well-targeted recruitments and, after some reluctance, permitted the adoption of such technology as seemed justifiable, until eventually the firm became a leader in the introduction of technology to the trading floor and in inter-office communication.

To Alwynne Shilton, his 'brilliance was not so much as a share man as a financier in floats and in amalgamations ...'; Laurie Day described him as 'an enigma and a genius'. [15] His negotiating skills, his relationships and networks, a remarkable memory and grasp of detail, and a resolve in pursuing a project to a conclusion, marked his path to success. Adamson writes that 'Potter's attitude was: somebody has got to do it, and there must always be a way'. [16] He made mistakes, but pressed forward. His application of these qualities in financial markets, politics, the arts and the sciences, influenced the course of national development.

His private interests included reading, tennis, and - an echo of his love of the sea and ships - yachting and swimming. He enjoyed trolling for fish at Lake Eucumbene, where he had a lodge that he himself designed and built. There and in Melbourne he was an amiable host, with a reflection of the international in his wine, his schnapps and his martinis, around the fire. His humour was dry and occasionally, with his friends, provocative.

He is survived by his wife, Primrose (Lady Potter, AO), two daughters from earlier marriages, Robyn Potter and Carolyn Parker Bowles, two grand-children, Luke and Sam Parker Bowles, and his step-daughter Primrose Krasicki and her daughter Zofia. Lady Potter herself is a longstanding and well-known contributor, on boards and in other ways, in the fields of the arts, education and community philanthropy.

Ian Potter was knighted by the Queen in 1962, for public services in the field of finance - the first Australian stockbroker to have been knighted with that citation. In 1973, the University of Melbourne bestowed on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. In 1989, he received from the King of Sweden the honour Knight Commander of the Polar Star (First Class). The Melbourne Stock Exchange, the base for his rise to distinction, elected him an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Stock Exchange in 1991. He was an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Australian Ballet Foundation, the Australian Opera and the National Gallery of Victoria, a Member of the Royal Society of Victoria, a Fellow of Queen's College in the University of Melbourne, and a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Sir Ian Potter died at home on the evening of 24 October 1994, after a long illness. He was 92. On 22 November, his many contributions to his country, his profession and so many sectors of society, were celebrated at a memorial service of thanksgiving in St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in his home city.


The authors are grateful for the comments and corrections of those who kindly read the draft of this memoir, including: Lady Potter; Charles Goode and Patricia Feilman of the Ian Potter Foundation; Peter Gray and Noel Miller of SBC-Warburg Australia; Rosanne Walker of the Australian Academy of Science.


[1] Glezer, L., 1988, 'Sir Ian Potter and his generation', in R.T. Appleyard & C.B. Schedvin (eds), Australian Financiers, Macmillan, South Melbourne (a collection of biographical essays commissioned by the Reserve Bank of Australia as part of its contribution to Australia's Bicentenary), p. 402.
[2] The Stock Exchange of Melbourne, card record of membership.
[3] Ibid., and Glezer, op.cit., p. 405.
[4] Glezer, op.cit., p. 402.
[5] Glezer, op.cit., p. 420.
[6] Goode, C., 1994, 'Sir Ian Potter - an appreciation', The Ian Potter Foundation, Melbourne, unpub., p. 8.
[7] Obituary, Sydney University Gazette, April 1995, p. 29.
[8] Denton, D.A., 1994, text of eulogy given at the memorial service for Sir Ian Potter in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, unpub.,p. 3.
[9] Ibid., p. 5.
[10] Letter from the President of the Academy, Arthur Birch, to Sir Ian Potter, 27March 1984, Academy archives file 4096.
[11] Academy Bye-law II:10.
[12] Letter from Birch, op.cit.
[13] Adamson, G., 1984, A Century of Change ­ the First 100 Years of the Stock Exchange of Melbourne, Currey O'Neil, South Yarra (commissioned by the Committee of the Stock Exchange), p. 137.
[14] Goode, op.cit., p. 4.
[15] Adamson, op.cit., p. 139.
[16] Adamson, op.cit., p. 136.

Beyond the specific references given above, the information in the text has been substantially drawn from the named works of Leon Glezer, Charles Goode and Graeme Adamson, and from the archives of the Australian Academy of Science, especially files 417, 4096, 4270 and 4423.

D.A. Denton, The Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic 3052.

M.H. Ryan, 6/36 Musgrave Street, Mosman, NSW 2088.

This memoir was originally published in Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 11, no. 4, December 1997, pp. 541-50.

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

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