The Chemistry Collection


(Sir) David Orme Masson was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne from 1886 to1923. As well as being a distinguished teacher and researcher, he contributed significantly to Australian scientific and public life, being instrumental in the establishment and governance of many important bodies including the CSIRO. Masson supported Antarctic research for 25 years, beginning with Douglas Mawson’s expedition of 1911.


Born in England and receiving an MA, BSc and DSc from the University of Edinburgh, he was a gifted, elegant and disciplined lecturer and a researcher of substance. His research work included the theory of solutions, from which emerged the term ‘critical solution temperature’; the periodic classification of the elements; and the velocity of migration of ions in solutions. Much of his research was done in collaboration with talented students such as David Rivett and his own son Irvine Masson.


Masson was knighted in 1923. He is commemorated by the Masson Theatre and Masson Road at the University of Melbourne; a mountain range and island in Antarctica; a portrait painting by William McInnes in the foyer of the School of Chemistry; the Masson lectureship from the Australian National Research Council; and the Masson memorial scholarship from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.

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