Sir Cedric Stanton Hicks was a teenage pioneer in radio transmission, a noted researcher and expert in nutrition (knighted for his work), and a tour de force in nutrition and catering for the Australian force during the Second World War. He was born in 1892 in the Mosgiel nursing home of his grandmother, Adelaide Hicks, and lived with his parents in Ravensbourne, a suburb of Dunedin. His father was a photographer and journalist for the Otago Witness. The young Stanton Hick’s junior education was at a Ravensbourne school, from where he earned a scholarship for secondary schooling at Otago Boys High School (government funded secondary education didn’t come in until 1913).
In his mid-teens, at a time when shore-to-shore wireless had yet to come to New Zealand, he and two friends developed an interest in wireless transmission. They read up about it at the Atheneum, gleaned the necessary materials from around Dunedin, and each built a transmitter and receiver. One was at Ravensbourne, one at Andersons Bay, and one at Caversham. News leaked out, and in 1908 they were asked to demonstrate to the mayors of Dunedin and Ravensbourne, the shipping companies, the harbourmaster and others. The demonstration was a great success, and they transmitted a message for parliament. This was relayed on by telegraph and they received congratulations from the prime minister. A 4,560 word article in the press reported the achievement.
Stanton Hicks went on to university, self-funding his studies by tutoring his fellow students and teaching photography at the School of Art. He earned a BSc in 1914, and an MSc with honours in 1915. In his spare time he played tennis, water polo and Rugby Union football, represented the province in rowing, swam competitively, managed the Otago University Review and was an executive-member of the Students’ Association.
In 1916-18 he served as a non-commissioned officer in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, assisting Professor J. K. H. Inglis in the synthesis and production of Chloramine-T for use against meningitis among the troops. Under the Sale of Food and Drugs Act (1908), he was appointed government analyst in 1918 and also worked as police toxicologist for the provinces of Otago and Southland. His earnings helped him to complete his medical degree. He passed MBChB in 1923 and was awarded a research scholarship. He pursued research into thyroid pathology at Cambridge university, earning a PhD in 1926, and continued research in Switzerland, Germany and the USA. In 1925 he married Florence Haggitt, and they had two sons. They were divorced in 1948, and Stanton Hicks remarried that same year.
In 1927 he was appointed to the chair of physiology and pharmacology at Adelaide University, a position he held until 1957.
Between 1926 and 1936 he made several field trips to Central Australia to study the basal metabolism of indigenous Australians. In 1930 he travelled to Koonibba Mission Station with a grant-in-aid from the Rockefeller Foundation, before proceeding to Cockatoo Creek, Mt. Liebig and Ernabella on expeditions of the University’s Board for Anthropological research.
In 1936 he was awarded an MD for his thesis on spectrophotometry, and was also knighted for his services to medical science.
He was a member of the Commonwealth Advisory Council on nutrition and studied the dietary patterns of Australians.
During WW2 he enlisted and was appointed advisor, then director, of army catering. He pushed for the formation of the Army Catering Corp and organised the provision of food based on nutrition rather than money. This revolutionised the feeding and health of the troops, and reduced wastage dramatically. He developed packs of food designed for specific troops’ activities. And the reformed catering came at a significant cash saving, which must have been popular. The Catering Corp eventually comprised 17,000 officers and men. Recruits for chefs were selected carefully, and they were trained by professional chefs.
He retired from the armed forces in 1952, but the army retained him as a consultant. His continuing interests were community based (chairman of the Tuberculosis Society), fluoridation, soil conservation and food production.
Sir Cedric Stanton Hicks died in 1976, receiving a military funeral, and was buried in Adelaide.
Robert McAllister is a retired GP.
Read more by Robert McAllister on Corpus: Nurse Adelaide Hicks: a remarkable life, and Stewart Peters: Unqualified practitioner of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.