John Macadam was a Scottish born analytical chemist, medical practitioner and politician. As a student he soon showed a flair for analytical chemistry, and later also studied medicine. He arrived in Melbourne in 1855 to take up an appointment as lecturer in chemistry and natural science at Scotch College, a position he held until 1865.
In 1857 Ferdinand von Mueller named the Macadamia nut after him. He officiated as one of two umpires at one of the earliest recorded games of Australian rules football, between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar in 1858.
Macadam was appointed government analytical chemist in 1858 and health officer to the City of Melbourne in 1860. He represented Castlemaine in the Legislative Assembly between 1859 and 1864. Appointed secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria in 1860 and vice-president in 1863, he was also the secretary of the exploration committee of the Burke and Wills expedition.
When the Medical School of the University of Melbourne opened in 1862 Macadam was appointed lecturer in chemistry. He was a skilled, popular and eloquent lecturer, learned and generous with his knowledge.
Sadly, just three years later, and aged only 38, he died at sea on the way to give evidence at a murder trial in New Zealand, leaving his widow Elizabeth (née Clark), and a son. He was accompanied on that voyage by his assistant, the medical student John Drummond Kirkland, who later became the University’s first Professor of Chemistry.
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