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Biographical entry Laby, Thomas Howell (1880 - 1946)


  • Laby, Thomas Howell Portrait

    Laby, Thomas Howell Portrait

3 May 1880
Creswick, Victoria, Australia
21 June 1946
Chemist and Physicist


Thomas Laby, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Melbourne 1914-1942, was formerly Professor of Physics at Victoria University College, Wellington, New Zealand 1909-1914. He shared in the design of one the first anti-gas respirators. Laby was also Chairman of the first Optical Munitions Panel during the 1940s.


Born 3 May 1880. Died 21 June 1946. Educated University of Sydney and Emmanuel College, Cambridge (BA 1907, ScD 1921). Demonstrator of chemistry, University of Sydney 1901-05, 1851 Exhibition Scholar 1905-08, Professor of Physics, Victoria University College, New Zealand 1909-15, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Melbourne 1915-44. Commonwealth Adviser on Radium 1929-37, Consulting physicist, Imperial Geophysical Experimental Survey 1929-31, Chairman, Optical Munitions Panel 1940-44, Member, Army Inventions Directorate 1943, President, Section A, Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science 1911, 1928, first President, Australian branch, Institute of Physics 1939-41. President of the Royal Society of Victoria 1924. A physics lecture theatre at the University of Melbourne was named after him.


Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Thomas Howell Laby - Records, 1908 - 1937; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions



  • Muirhead, Ed, Thomas Howell Laby (1880 - 1946): his contribution to Australian science, [s.n.], [s.l.], c.1990, 63 pp. Details
  • Muirhead, Edmund, A Man Ahead of his Times: T.H. Laby's Contribution to Australian Science, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1996, 134 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Close, Cecily, 'Laby, Thomas Howell (1880-1946), Physicist', in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1983, pp. 640-641. Details
  • Home, R. W., 'Thomas Howell Laby, 1880-1946', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. Details

Journal Articles

  • Ambrose, Douglas, 'A History of Kaye & Laby', Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, vol. 60, 2006, pp. 49-57. Details
  • Bowen, Jennifer, 'Riding the waves: Professor T. H. Laby as imperial scientist and radio visionary', Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 28, no. 2, 2017, pp. 91-8, Details
  • Dean, Katrina, 'Inscribing Settler Science: Ernest Rutherford, Thomas Laby and the Making of Careers in Physics', History of Science, vol. 41, 2003, pp. 217-240. Details
  • Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, '150 Years, 150 Stories: Laby Family', Uni News, vol. 11, no. 24, 2002, p. 4. Details
  • Martin, L. H., 'Obituary: Professor T. H. Laby, FRS', Australian Journal of Science, vol. 9, no. 2, 1946, pp. 64-65. Details
  • Massey, Harrie Stewart Wilson, 'T. H. Laby, FRS: the 1980 Laby memorial lecture', Australian Physicist, vol. 17, no. 11, 1980, pp. 181-187. Details


Resource Sections

See also

Digital resources

Laby, Thomas Howell Portrait
Laby, Thomas Howell Portrait


McCarthy, G.J.