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White-Haney, Rose Ethel Janet (Jean) (1877–1953)

by Ralph Cuthbert Traill

The death occurred in the United States on 21 October 1953 of Dr. Jean White-Haney, daughter of the late Mr. E. J. White, one-time Assistant Government Astronomer in Melbourne. Dr White-Haney was born in 1877, and graduated with a B.Sc. of the University of Melbourne in 1904, and M.Sc. in 1906. She was awarded a McBain Research Scholarship, and began research in the Department of Botany under Prefessor A. J. Ewart. From 1907 till 1911 thirteen papers bearing her name were published, including studes on the influence of pollination upon the respiratory activity of the gynæceum, and on the formation of red-wood in conifers; also eight papers on joint studies with Ewart and others on the Flora of Australia, and also an appendix to Ewart's paper on longevity of seeds. In 1909 she was awarded a Doctorate of Science for a thesis entitled 'The Ferments and Latent Life of Resting Seed' which was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. She was the second woman in Australia to receive this degree. Two papers on 'Bitter Pit in Apples' aroused great interest and controversy among orchardists and staffs of state agricultural departmetrns; the tentative view put forward by Dr. White (as she was then) and Professor Ewart, that bitter pit could be caused by arsenical spraying, was warmly debated. She was unable to complete the investigation, which was taken over by others under a joint arrangement between Federal and State Governments.

In 1912 Dr. White was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the Queensland Prickly Pear Boards's research station in Dulacca, to initiate work towards eradication  of prickly pear. In this she established the value of arsenical injections and sprays in killing Opuntia inermis, the Dulacca prickly pear; and of the wild cochineal insect in killing Opuntia monacantha, which was spreading in North Queensland and was subsequently eradicated by the insects. This work was recorded in four reports.

In 1916 she discontinued scientific work, having married Mr. Victor Haney in 1914. SHe continued to live in Queensland. In 1926 she visited Japan as a member of the Pan Pacific Science Congress. In 1928 she joined the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and wrote a history of Australian scientific work on the prickly pear. In 1929 she began a field investigation of the Noogoora burr (Xanthium pungens). She completed the basic taxanomic studies, and survey of its distribution, but in 1930 she joined her husband in teh United States, and thereafter retired from active scientific work. Apart from one visit to Australian in 1936, she remained in America until her death.

Dr. White-Haney is remembered by friends and former pupils for her genial personality and for the the enthusiasm she showed for all that she undertook; an enthusiasm which she succeeded in communicating to others. After her retirement she maintained an interest in science, and regreeted that she had to leave to others the completeion of those investigations that she started.

R. C. Traill.

Original publication

  • Australian Journal of Science, v. 17, no. 1, 1954, 21 August 1954, p 24-25

Additional Resources

Citation details

Ralph Cuthbert Traill, 'White-Haney, Rose Ethel Janet (Jean) (1877–1953)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 August 2020.

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