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Henry Joseph Grayson 1856-1918
Australian Scientist , Inventor and winner of the 1917 David Syme Research Prize

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Henry Joseph Grayson (9 May 1856 – 21 March 1918) was a nurseryman and scientist, best known as the designer of a machine for ruling diffraction gratings.

Grayson was born in Worral, near Sheffield, Yorkshire, England,, son of Joseph Grayson, a Master Cutter, and his wife Fanny, née Smith.[1] Grayson came of a family of market gardeners, and travelled to New Zealand in the early 1880s. After returning to England and marrying Elizabeth Clare on 11 August 1886, the couple soon migrated to Victoria Australiawhere Grayson worked as a nursery gardener.

Becoming interested in science he joined the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, studied botany and did some work on the Diatoniaceae, a group of minute plants. Grayson attended meetings of the Royal Microscopical Societyand developed a talent for preparing microscope slides.[1] Before 1894 he had constructed a machine for making micrometer rulings on glass, the results being very good for that time.

In 1897 some very beautiful work Grayson had done in cutting sections of plants led to his being given a position in the physiology department of the university of Melbourne under Professor Martin. He was afterwards transferred to the geology department, and in December 1901 accompanied Professor Gregoryon his expedition to Central Australia. In the preface to The Dead Heart of Australia Gregory paid a special tribute "To my assistant Mr Grayson on whom much of the hard work of the expedition fell". In 1910 Grayson was associated with D. J. Mahony in the preparation of a paper on "The Geology of the Camperdown and Mount Elephant Districts" (No. 9 in the Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Victoria), and in the same year, while working at the university under Professor Skeats, who succeeded Gregory, Grayson made a highly efficient apparatus for preparing rock sections, a description of which will be found in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria for the year 1911.[2][1]

In the meanwhile Grayson had been perfecting his fine ruling work. [3] Grayson had by then succeeded in creating 120,000 diffractions lines to the inch (47,000 line per cm). From this time onwards much of his time was given to the preparation of a dividing engine for ruling diffraction gratings.

Grayson was transferred to the national philosophy department of the university under Professor T. R. Lyle in 1913 and was allowed to give his full time to the machine.

 In July 1917 he read a paper before the Royal Society of Victoria giving a full description of the machine, which was published with several plates in the society's Proceedings for that year. In the same year Grayson was awarded the David Syme Research Prize of £100 by the University of Melbourne. Grayson died in Clyde of heart disease leaving a widow but no children.[2][1]


The David Syme Research Prize is an annual award administered by the University of Melbourne for the best original research work in biology, physics, chemistry or geology, produced inAustralia during the preceding two years, particular preference is given to original research to enhance industrial and/or commercial development.[1]

The Prize was created at the university in 1904 whenMelbourne newspaper publisher and owner of the "The Age" David Syme made a £3,000 bequest for the foundation of the prize. The first prize was awarded in 1906. The publishers of The Age have continued to fund the award. The prize consists of a medal and of the sum of AUD$1,000, which may be topped-up further by the publishers. The recipient(s) of the award is chosen by a council selected from the universities Faculty of Science.

1. Bolton, H. C. (1983). "Grayson, Henry Joseph (1856-1918)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
2. Serle, Percival (1949). "Grayson, Henry Joseph". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
3. References to it will be found in the Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society for 1899, p. 355; 1902, p. 385; 1904, p. 393; 1910, pp. 5, 144, 701 and 801; 1911, pp. 160, 421 and 449. In the 1910 volume, on pages 239 and 243, there is an interesting note by Grayson himself "On the Production of Micrometric and Diffraction Rulings".
4. Diffraction Grating  <  >
5. Encyclopedia of Australian Science < >
6. David Syme Research Prize  <>
Questions and Comments
1. But where was his home in Clyde? Did he live near the Clyde station or closer to Berwick?
2. For how long did he live in Clyde? A year or two?
3. How did he travel to Melbourne?