Leonard Freedman interview, 24 August 2012

Dublin Core


Leonard Freedman interview, 24 August 2012


Anatomy and human biology


This is an interview with Professor Leonard Freedman former head of Human Biology 1975-80. Professor Leonard Freedman was born in Cape Town South Africa and developed an interest in Zoology as a child. At University Freedman majored in Zoology and Microbiology.
After working in America and Sydney, Freedman came to UWA in 1970 and with the support of David Allbrook designed the course that would become Anatomy and Human Biology. During the interview he discusses his desire to design a course that encompassed a wide study of the human animal. He was keen to incorporate varied important cultural as well as biological aspects to the course. He looks at the position of the department and at the interaction of other departments at UWA, outlining the popularity of the course at the university, giving credit to the quality of the students who have given it life. He discusses his impressions of the isolated university of 1970 and speaks of how he has seen it grow competing today with the best universities in the world. He looks at the department of Anatomy and Human Biology and discusses the success of the course and how it stands within the national and international academic community.


Freedman, Leonard


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Leonard Freedman


Perth, W.A.


Interview 1: 43 minutes, 51 seconds
Interview 2: 49 minutes, 49 seconds
Interview3: 41 minutes, 57 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 15 minutes, 37 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

00:00:00 Background information: born in Cape Town South Africa. Samuel Freedman and Diamond. Becoming involved in an academic career. Schooling and Medical DSE. Majoring in Zoology and Microbiology. Joining the army. Coming back to start a career in academic field. John Robinson and higher degree. PhD on Baboons and work in microbiology. Raymond Dot and work in anatomy.
00:07:40 Leaving South Africa. Coming to Australia and work at Sydney University. John Robinson and the University of Wisconsin. Path of coming to UWA in 1970. David Allbrook and Human Biology and University of Western Australia. Perth as an isolated part of the world. Being allowed to design a course in Human Biology.
00:15:47 Outlining the course at UWA. The biology of man outlines everything that he does. Anatomy, genetics and the world in general. Teaching Human Biology course for 90 students and others from other departments 1000 students.
00:19:37 Impressions of the University and personal concerns and interests. Departmental responsibilities and designing the course. Facilities available. The support of David Allbrook. Tom Olivier the first Geneticist. Designing the Human Biology course and memories of experiences in America. Problems in the physical world and the environment. The impressions of the department Allbrook, Bill Bloomer and specialists from outside the department. Harold Baggett. Win Upperten, Nick Batalin and Serge Alexiov.
00:27:16 Small department and work done by specialists from the town. No ambition. Wanting to do research. The increase in knowledge in the world. Physical Anthropology and Human Biology. Explaining evolution. Race and biology. Broaden the course.
00:34:16 The process of changing the name of the course. Department of Anatomy and Human Biology. Management and changes in department. The God Professor system. Students and faculties in isolation. Connection with other departments in the 1970s. Technologies and ideas. Interactions with department the wider community. Failure of course ideas.
00:40:40 Individuals and interactions. Interdisciplinary and interactions outside the university. Working with the museum. Memories of the community of UWA. Dr David Ride and the importance of Human Biology within the school system.

Interview 2

00:00:00 The dynamic course. General and academic and world events of importance. The importance of keeping the interaction of the human condition. Neville Bruce and interactive human studies. Open University of Australia and the internet. Memories of Martyn Webb head of geography the only professor without a PhD. Reg Appleyard and Mike Alpers
00:06:42 The god professor system. Each person has their own little empire. Academic community. Valuable inputs from outside the university. Charles Watson and Ken Colbung. Memories of Ken Colbung lecturing at the university. Ken contributes to the course with personal experiences. aboriginal concerns within the Australian culture. Reaction of the students and Ken’s teaching and contribution.
00:14:14 The students make the department popular. The popularity of the course to students outside the department. The growth of the course and confidence in the future. Drew Nesdale, Laksiri Jayasuriya, Sylvia Hallam, Mike Hobbs, Wolfe Segal, Neville Stanley are important to the department. Humankind Retrospect and Prospect – Leonard Freedman. Students must look laterally outside their narrow field.
00:18:10 Importance of Sabbatical leave. Recollections and Reflections - Three part biography. A spiritual aspect to the course. Personal thoughts toward spiritual aspects of human evolution. No trouble about religion. Discussion of the course outline and timetable. Interaction with the students. Tutors and mini lectures. Human beings and society.
00:26:30 Diverse range of topics outlined in the course. Personal belief of students. Introducing students to students and spoon feeding them. Changes in the course outlined. Technology and balance in the course. The department and course as a growing entity.
00:30:50 Support for the department and Alan Robson. Unable to say things to please people. Seeing the university change. Dean of the Science Faculty. Why changes took place and lack of money in the budget. Synergistic courses and teaching and research. Diverse subjects and people from different fields. Remembering research and teaching. Baboons and Bandicoots. Working in diverse areas of research.
00:38:31 Working on people of New Guinea. Interest in the movement of the shoulder joints. Enjoying research. Early aboriginal skull and migrations that populate Australia. UWA’s place in the word in relation to the department. The Naked Ape and Desmond Morris. Reaching people through popular writing.
00:46:10 Richard Dawkins and the Selfish Gene. Getting a message across to the public. Impressions of Dawkins. The accumulation of knowledge and man understanding of God. The use of God to order society. Faith, science, evidence. Faith doing more harm than good. A part of history.

Interview 3

00:00:00 Research and honing the course of Human Biology. The importance of the study of Human Genetics. Head of school 1975-80 and interest in varied research. Evolution of the Hominid toolmaking hand and forearm. David Allbrook. Anthropometric study of WA School Children. Writing on the Thylacine – Odontometric study of the species Thylacoleo. Humankind Retrospect and Prospect. Morphology an Physiology of the Metatheria. Book about Australian marsupials. Ilene Finch. Being in the right place at the right time.
00:06:43 Women and Men... and the study of Homosexuality. Explaining the diversity of human sexuality. The Sex Determination of Aboriginal Cranium. Interactions and comparisons with worldwide human movement. Movements from South East - Asia and China. A new check list of fossil Cercopithacoidea – South Africa.
00:12:40 Writing for technical purposes. Describing the course in public journals. The importance of schools and university interacting. Human Biology in school. Localities in South Africa where fossil remains of Baboons have been recovered. Single incisor tooth from Devil’s Lair in Western Australia. Cranial and Mandibles from Broad Beach in South East Queensland. An early site of aboriginal population.
00:15:55 Relative growth rates of the muscle of the Diprotodont Marsupial. Lance Twomey and Curtin University. Working on projects. Marsupials and their unique movements. Urinating dogs and the study of the abductor muscles in the dog’s lower limbs. Suggesting projects for people as they need them. Studying the Middle Ear Ossicles of the Australian Aborigines. Not planning life.
00:19:50 Writings - Evolution and human behaviour – The Sexual Orientation... The Human Evolutionary Enigma. A workman in the biological field. Accepting students. Being awarded for work. The importance of technical people. Feelings toward being awarded. Honorary Fellow. Seeing the changes at the university. The evolving course of Human Biology.
00:24:59 Sad feelings toward the university of today. Dedication to work versus financial reward. The god professor system has changed. Bureaucratisation of the university. The current status of UWA. Isolated university and the current competition. Humankind Retrospect and Prospect. Optimism of humankind. Appreciating the achievements of man.
00:33:03 Rapid technological change and the growth of the human brain. Origins and the evolution of the human brain. Description of the painting in the department of Human Biology. Final words and summaries for the future. Optimism. Evolution moves slowly.



Freedman, Leonard, “Leonard Freedman interview, 24 August 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/29.