Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

A Brief History of the Department


The Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology was established in 2017 as a result of the creation of the School of Human Sciences.  

The School of Human Sciences was formed by the merger of the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health and the School Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, as part of the University renewal project (2016).

The School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology was established in 2012 by the merger of the School of Anatomy and Human Biology with the discipline of Physiology and ceased operation at the end of 2016.

Physiology had previously been part of the School of Biomedical, Bio-molecular and Chemical Sciences which was disestablished.
The School’s research and teaching programs focused on the integrated study of humans, providing a holistic understanding of ourselves – our structure, function, development, genetics and evolution.

Head of the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology

  • 2014 - 2016 Professor Shane Maloney
  • 2012 - 2013 Professor Linc Schmitt

The Department of Anatomy formally began in 1956 with the appointment of the Foundation Professor, David Sinclair. Its primary purpose was the teaching of anatomy and histology to medical students. This was subsequently extended to include dental students.

Old Pharmacology buildingThe initial accommodation for the Department was a wooden hut which had formed one section of a US WWII seaplane base which needed extensive reconstruction.  Accommodation was shared with Mary Lockett the Pharmacology Professor.  The building still stands today at the southern end of Car Par 6 and is described as the “Old Pharmacology Building”.

The current Anatomy Building was completed around 1969 but has had extensive renovations and additions over the years.

The original plans for the Department included the appointment of a physical anthropologist.  David Allbrook, Sinclair’s successor appointed in 1965, also had a strong interest in this discipline. The first formally trained academic appointment in this area was Len Freedman in 1970.  Len and David ensured Physical Anthropology quickly evolved into Human Biology and the success of this discipline was exemplified by a change in the Department’s name from Anatomy to the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology during the 1970s.  These two disciplines are highly complementary, synergistic and integrated, and were the focus of the School’s activities and welfare for over 40 years, providing the foundation for the nexus between teaching and research.

Human Biology allowed the Department to respond to the challenge of a worldwide decline in anatomical research and teaching.  Anatomy Building 1971While a traditional anatomy focus remains central to our mission, the emergence of Human Biology complemented this and brought with it significant research strengths in evolutionary biology, biological anthropology and reproductive endocrinology.  In combination with expansions of neurosciences and cell, developmental and molecular biology, a breadth of research and teaching expertise facilitated the Department’s substantial growth to become a leader among all schools teaching anatomy in Australia. 

This inherent diversity was and remains our real strength.  Within the Australian context, we are the only university department with a substantial and comprehensive Human Biology program of research and teaching.

The Department’s building had a third floor added in 1996-1997, together with extensive refurbishment of the existing two floors, to ease what was a critical shortage of space.  During the two-year building phase, virtually the entire Department moved to the Park Avenue building adjacent to Kings Park.  Within 12 months of returning to the Anatomy Building, another major construction phase began, prompted by the Clinical Training and Education Centre (CTEC) development.  Anatomy Building 1999The development included the demolition of our dissection room; this disruption continued into early 2000.  This development significantly improved the quality of our dissection area.
Ironically, the School’s strength in anatomy has been enhanced by an ‘anatomical renaissance’, partly through its central role in the establishment in 2000 of CTEC as this development provided an opportunity to become involved in postgraduate surgical education. 

Another recent innovation from within the School, SymbioticA, has attracted significant international publicity for its exploration of the interface between Art and Science.

In 2002, with a University restructure, the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology became the School of Anatomy and Human Biology.  It included the Centre for Forensic Science but in 2006 the Centre moved to come directly under the control of the Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences.

Heads of the Department of Anatomy

  • 1957-1965 David Sinclair
  • 1965-1974 David Allbrook

Heads of the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology

  • 1975-1980 Len Freedman
  • 1981-1983 Gareth Jones
  • 1983-1986 David Allbrook
  • 1986-1987 Neville Bruce
  • 1987-1990 Charles Oxnard
  • 1990-1993 John McGeachie
  • 1994-1995 Charles Oxnard
  • 1996-1998 Neville Bruce
  • 1999-2001 Linc Schmitt

Heads of the School of Anatomy and Human Biology

  • 2002-2006 Brendan Waddell
  • 2007-2011 Linc Schmitt

The Department of Physiology was established in 1956, concurrent with the establishment of the medical school and was headed by reader, Dr N Crosby. 

In 1957, Professor Wilf Simmonds accepted the Foundation Chair of Physiology, within the Faculty of Medicine.

Under the guidance of Professor Simmonds, the physiology department was rapidly expanded to cater for the new teaching responsibilities of the medical course. 
Academic appointments were made on the basis of a strong record in both research and teaching.  This strategy led to a historically strong research performance in the fields of iron metabolism, cochlear physiology, respiratory physiology and gastrointestinal physiology that continues to this day.  Recent additions, including research fellowships, have added the fields of cardiac electrophysiology, muscle physiology and temperature and metabolic regulation to the discipline.

Physiology teaching at the University of Western Australia has traditionally centred on providing systems and cellular physiology teaching to medical, dental and science students.  Initial teaching of students in physiotherapy, physical education and agriculture disappeared as specialist departments took over these roles.  In recent years, physiology teaching has expanded, with new units in physiological adaptation and physiology for podiatry students.  The discipline also established two highly successful postgraduate masters courses in the fields of clinical audiology and pharmacy.

Professor Simmonds continued to head the department until the late 70’s, and finally retired in 1983.Original Physiology Building

Heads of the Department of Physiology

  • 1956-1957: Dr Neil Crosby
  • 1957-1978: Professor Wilf Simmonds
  • 1978-1983: Professor Evan Morgan
  • 1984-1986: Associate Professor Prof Reg Morgan
  • 1987-1990: Professor Trevor RedgravePhysiology Building 2010
  • 1991-1992: Professor Evan Morgan
  • 1993-1996: Professor Trevor Redgrave 
  • 1996-1999: Professor Donald Robertson
  • 1999-2002: Professor Howard Mitchell


In 2002 the Department became the Discipline of Physiology within the newly established School of Biomedical, Bio-molecular and Chemical Sciences in the Faculty of Life and Physical Science.  This was a large school that also included the previous Departments of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Chemistry.

Chairs of the Discipline of Physiology

  • 2002-2004: Professor Trevor Redgrave
  • 2005-2006: Professor Howard Mitchell
  • 2007-2009: Dr Tony Bakker
  • 2009-2011: Professor Donald Robertson

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 31 January, 2017 1:27 PM