Dr George Bornemissza
|First name||Dr George|
|Country of Origin||Hungary|
|Date of Birth||11.2.1924|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1951|
|Submitted by||Attila Urmenyhazi|
Dr. GEORGE F. (GY…RGY F.) BORNEMISSZA A.O., entomologist, research scientist, naturalist-ecologist, world authority on beetles (1924 – )
George F. Bornemissza was born in Baja, Hungary, on 11 February 1924 to Katalin Bornemissza and Ferenc Bornemissza, an engineer. He began collecting and studying beetles in the forests around his hometown during his mid-teens and also dedicated much of his spare time to volunteering in museums and scientific institutions in Budapest. At age 15, fascinated by the insect world, George told his parents that he was going to be a ‘ beetle man’ for the rest of his life, and so he did. He graduated from science at the University of Budapest, but by the end of 1948 with the advent of communism, when the political situation in Hungary became intolerable, George fled, in fear of his life, to Austria. He obtained his PhD in zoology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria in 1950. At the end of that year he emigrated to Australia, arriving in Fremantle on January 1, 1951.
George first worked in the Department of Zoology at the University of Western Australia for three years, before pursuing a research career with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). He had always known he was destined for big projects and he knew Australia was the country in which he would achieve them. In his own words: ‘-I wanted to contribute big, something no one had done before, for Australia and her peopleÐ to give something back for giving me opportunity in their country.’
In June 1951 he found that ‘thing\’ in a pasture at Wooroloo, 60km north-east of Perth. It wasn\’t that there was anything particularly unusual about the cow pat; it was simply the fact that it was there. Back home in Hungary, George said this wouldn\’t be the case, as any dropped dung was soon devoured by bovine dung beetles. He knew he was onto something but told no one. He quietly researched all he could until opportunity presented itself in the form of a job with the CSIRO in Canberra in 1954. When he eventually put forward recommendations to the CSIRO chief that a study into bovine dung take place, George had travelled all over Australia looking at cow pats. He believed he had the solid foundations for a case. A crucial part of his argument came in the form of that annoying pest all Australians dread come summer Ð flies. The dung was a fertile breeding ground for them. And not only were the bovine dung flies and blood-sucking buffalo flies busy buzzing around doors and creating havoc at picnics, they were infesting livestock and costing farmers millions of dollars annually to control. ‘I put up the argument that it was for biological control and proposed that introduced bovine dung beetles were the answer,’ George said. While Australia had around 400 species of its own dung beetles, they were more interested in the small, hard dung of native animals, rather than the large droppings of cows and sheep.
The CSIRO accepted his proposal, funding was provided, and the dung beetle project began in 1965. Another 10 years of research followed as George travelled through more than 30 countries meticulously selecting different beetles from climates and environments compatible with those in Australia. He was determined not to disturb the natural order of things here and implemented many world firsts in quarantine measures. Unburied dung covered valuable grazing land and was a breeding ground for flies. The beetles break up the pad and bury the rolled dung balls after laying their eggs in them. The work controlled the bush fly nuisance and helped to improve soil fertility. In 1972 the first surface-sterilised bovine dung beetle eggs were brought into Australia. All virus risks were eliminated, the natural order of things remained intact, and, in short, George\’s dung beetle project is now recognised as one of the most successful entomological projects not only in Australian agriculture but in the world. More than 100,000 beetles were bred under quarantine at CSIRO labs in Canberra. Fifty-four different species were brought in, 28 of which managed to establish themselves effectively ‘in the dung of’ Australia. This was to be the beginning of the end of the Australian bush salute across the continent.
FOR CONTINUATION SEE PART 2