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Photo of William Ralph Jewell

William Ralph Jewell

Birthplace Victoria Geelong AustraliaPlace of Death Victoria Glen Iris Australia Date of Birth: July 15, 1894 Date of Death: January 28, 1975


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by): William Ralph Jewell. 

Gender: Male. 

Date and Place of Birth: July 15th 1894, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. 

Date and Place of Death: January 28th 1975, Glen Iris, Victoria, Australia. 

Nationality: Australian. 



Childhood: N/A. 

Parents: James Thomas Jewell (1860-1943) and Emma Williams (1858-1958). 

Parent’s occupations: His father was a watchmaker. 

Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: Educated at Geelong College (dux 1912), Bill won a scholarship to Ormond College, University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1916; M.Sc., 1922). When the war ended, he studied at the University of Sheffield (B.Met., 1919). 

Occupation: Chemist and public servant. 

Place of residence at Gretna: N/A. 

Job title at Gretna: Munitions worker. 

Marital status: Married Vera Ironside Dent (1897-1998) on the 17th of October, 1921, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. They married at St James’ Anglican Church. 

Children: Derek James (1922-2008) and Betty Jean Jewell (1926-1956). 

Travels: During World War I he was sent with a select group of young Australian scientists to Britain where he worked with the Ministry of Munitions. He was sent in 1915. 

Awards/recognitions: Jewell was elected an associate (1917), fellow (1923) and life member (1959) of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. 

Trivia / any other information: Returning to Melbourne, he was appointed senior chemist (metallurgy) at the Munitions Supply Laboratories, Maribyrnong. 

In 1926 Jewell joined the Victorian Public Service as agricultural research chemist. Six years later he was also given control of the chemical laboratories of the health and mines departments; he continued to administer the combined State laboratories until his retirement in 1959. Meantime, he was appointed chief chemist of the Department of Agriculture in 1948. Due to his skills as a scientist and as an administrator, he was placed on numerous committees and frequently consulted by government and industry. He took a leading role in reorganizing the beet-sugar industry at Maffra, and advised the Federal government on the feasibility of producing power alcohol from cereals. In association with the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry, he was involved in the introduction of specifications and standard methods of analysis for foods used by the Australian and allied armed forces. In addition, he was active on the food additives committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council and on the food standards committee of the Victorian Department of Health. In his retirement he wrote Food Additive Control in Australia (1961). 

Apart from the widespread influence Jewell exercised in his formal duties, he was prominent in the work of the Standards Association of Australia, and in the inception and development of the National Association of Testing Authorities. A founding member (1946) of the council of N.A.T.A., he was Victorian representative, executive-member (1954-62) and chairman (1958-61). Jewell devoted considerable time to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, first as an office-bearer in the Victorian branch, then as general secretary (1933-43) and finally as president (1945-46); he had become an associate of the institute in 1919 and a fellow in 1924. He was also made a fellow (1958) of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria. 

Described by a colleague as somewhat shy, sharp of mind, hard working, down-to-earth, honest and humorous, Jewell ‘enjoyed a barnyard joke, Thursday-night-with-his-mates at the Kelvin Club and reefing money from the poker machines, whenever he was in Sydney’. He died on 28 January 1975 at Glen Iris and was cremated; his wife and son survived him. 


From Sheffield University he got a degree as a Bachelor of Metallurgy. 


  • Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):  
  • Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):  
  • Select Bibliography 
  • Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Proceedings, Apr 1975 
  • Herald (Melbourne), 22 May 1926 
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 16 July 1959 
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 22 July 1959. 

Citation details 

  1. J. O’Brien, ‘Jewell, William Ralph (1894–1975)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 12 September 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996. 

Published resources 

Book Sections 

Jewell, W. R., ‘Blackett, Cuthbert Robert (1831-1902), pharmacist and chemist’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 3 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1969), p. 175. Details 

Jewell, W. R., ‘Pearson, Alfred Naylor (1856-1933), Chemist and Agriculturist’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Geoffrey Serle, ed., vol. 11 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988), pp. 186-187. Details 

O’Brien, E.J., ‘Jewell, William Ralph (1894-1975), Chemist and Public Servant’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, John Ritchie, ed., vol. 14 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996), p. 569. Details 



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