Vale Professor Robert Buchanan – Recognised for contributions to food technology and humanity

January 23rd, 2023


April 12, 1934-October 25, 2022

Professor Robert Buchanan (Alex) was a food scientist whose professional achievements were focussed on service to humanity. His personable ease and respectful goodwill to all endeared him to his family, friends, and colleagues worldwide.

Alex Buchanan was born in Korumburra and grew up in Poowong, the eldest son with seven younger sisters. He came from generations of butter factory managers and dairy farmers.

Alex attended school in Poowong, Korumburra and boarded at Scotch College and Ormond College Melbourne University.

With scholarships from the Victorian Department of Agriculture, Alex completed his undergraduate degree in 1956 at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

After returning to Australia and working with the Department of Agriculture, Alex received a Fulbright scholarship and a Rotary ambassadorial scholarship to the Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. With his relaxed open manner, he was welcomed to join a fraternity house and to speak at dozens of Rotary clubs across the US whilst completing a master’s degree.

Back in Victoria Alex worked with the Department of Agriculture and spent a year as assistant manager of the Rochester butter factory. But a fortuitous decision to join CSIRO dairy research in 1963 set him on a career path of food research. In 1963, he married Janice Rogan at that time a secondary school teacher, and he encouraged her to extend her studies to psychology.

With a CSIRO studentship and a supportive wife, Alex completed a PhD in biochemistry at Rothamsted Experimental Station, University of London, in 1968 supervised by Professor Bill Pirie.

Returning to Melbourne with CSIRO dairy research new foods group, he developed the Australian Milk Biscuit and later the High Energy Biscuit which was produced by the Arnott’s Biscuit Company for more than 25 years. The biscuits were a major component of Australia’s food aid to development countries with a 100-tonne stockpile for emergency relief purposes. This rewarding experience confirmed his commitment to applied research.


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