Wildlife pioneer Bill Hartley dies

Karrie Rose and Bill Hartley (Picture: Taronga Zoo)
Karrie Rose and Bill Hartley (Picture: Taronga Zoo)

The veterinary profession is mourning William Hartley, OAM, founder of the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health.

Hartley died at his home in September at the age of 92. Famous for his modesty, he requested no funeral service.

William (“Bill”) Hartley was born in England in 1922. He graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1945. In a diverse veterinary career spanning a staggering 53 years, he worked as a clinician, laboratory diagnostic officer, field disease investigator, and Sydney University lecturer.

He worked in New Zealand until hypersensitivity to Brucella abortus forced his retirement from general practice. He moved to the Wallaceville Animal Research Station before joining the university in 1960. Other career highlights include working in Turkey to establish a diagnostic laboratory under the United Nations Development Program.

He achieved Fellowship of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Royal College of Pathology, in addition to a Masters and Doctor of Veterinary Science. He was awarded the Peter Olafson Gold Medal – the most prestigious international award for veterinary pathologists, in 1992. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for his services to veterinary pathology and the investigation of wildlife diseases.

According to wildlife pathologist Karrie Rose, Hartley took an interest in a range of areas including comparative pathology of wildlife, neuropathology, toxic plants, perinatal mortality in large animals and protozoology. He authored over 200 original articles on diseases of domestic and wild animals.

“Bill’s commitment to the advancement of comparative pathology is exemplified through the clinicians and pathologists he mentored and inspired, and his founding of comparative pathology registries in New Zealand and NSW agriculture departments, and the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga Conservation Society Australia,” she said.

While Hartley retired in 1998, he remained a scientific advisor to the registry until his death. He donated many of his slides, as the WJ Hartley Pathology Collection, to Sydney University in 2004.

He is survived by his children, Elizabeth, James, Alexandra, Sophia and Julian, and grandchildren Adrien, Ben, Freya, Isabella and Sinclair.

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