Kevin George Whithear

  • Born: 1943 (Australia)
  • Inducted: 2013
Born in Sydney Australia, Kevin Whithear gained a Diploma in Agriculture from Hawkesbury Agricultural College in 1962, followed by a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney in 1967. Early employment was with the state Department of Agriculture and then with Inghams, a large integrated poultry company. It was at Inghams that he developed an interest in mycoplasmas and the disease problems they cause in intensively reared poultry. This interest led to a PhD on investigations of avian mycoplasmas from Monash University in 1977. Kevin was appointed a microbiology lecturer in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne where he remained until retirement as Professor in 2008.

Kevin was an enthusiastic teacher of veterinary students and acquired an international reputation as one of the early adopters of computer-assisted learning in veterinary education. However, his major contribution to poultry science was as the lead investigator in the development of live attenuated vaccines to control Mycoplasma gallisepticum and M. synoviae. Both vaccines are widely used internationally. The research encompassed the initial discovery of the vaccine strains to the work required to register them for commercial use.

Professor Whithear played a leading role in the early development of the Australian Poultry Cooperative Research Centre, serving multiple roles including Education Co-ordinator. He was awarded the Australian Poultry Award in 2011 by the WPSA, the Clunies Ross Award in 1998 by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and the Gilruth Prize, the highest award of the Australian Veterinary Association, in 2007. In 2010 he was honoured by the University of Melbourne with the degree of DVSc (honoris causa), and in 2007 received an Order of Australia Medal “For service to veterinary science and education, particularly through research, development and production of vaccines to control major diseases in poultry”.

Professor Whithear is currently a ‘boutique’ olive grower with his wife Deborah. They have three children, Simon, Ben and Anna. He remains in touch with science as the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health that he founded in 1999.

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