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In memory of Dr Douglas Wilson Borland

by Peter Mutton and Trevor Finlayson.

Dr Borland died in Melbourne on 28th April, 2011, aged 79 years. He was one of the last remaining academic staff of the former Department of Metallurgy at the University of Melbourne.

Doug Borland, BMetE (1954)

Douglas Wilson (Doug) Borland was born in Korea in 1932, relocating with his extended family to Melbourne when he was seven. After matriculating from Scotch College, Doug studied engineering at the University of Melbourne, graduating with a BMetE in 1954, the same year that he married Ayliffe Booth. Doug commenced his professional career as an academic in the Department of Metallurgy at the University, starting as a Senior Demonstrator and subsequently Assistant Lecturer then Lecturer, while settling into a very busy family life that included the birth of four daughters between 1955 and 1961. His early research interests related to transformation behaviour in metal alloys, resulting in the first of his publications in the Journal of the Australian Institute of Metals.

In 1964, Doug and his family travelled to the UK, where he took up a position as J H Andrew Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, whilst enrolled for a PhD under the direction of Professor Robert Honeycombe. He completed his experimental work and wrote up his thesis, on precipitation in austenitic alloys containing nitrogen, in what was then the minimum allowable time of two years, graduating in 1966. Upon returning to Australia in 1967, Doug was promoted to Senior Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy. He remained at the University of Melbourne until retirement in 1992, combining his teaching and research activities with administrative responsibilities which included, at various times, Department Chairman, and following closure of the Department of Mining and Metallurgy in 1982, leader of the Materials Group with responsibility for teaching and research in materials science and engineering within the Faculty of Engineering.  His book, “The Structures of Materials” (The University of Melbourne, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, 1989) dates from this period of his academic career. His book emphasises his belief that engineering students should be taught about the structure of materials, to supplement learning about their properties which was the common approach to be found in undergraduate texts available at that time. Doug’s commitment to teaching and the metallurgy/materials engineering profession is evident in his efforts to maintain a viable materials activity within the University during a period in which support for this role was declining. The fact that some of his teaching material remains in use in the current University of Melbourne undergraduate course to this day, is evidence of its quality.

Dr. Doug Borland with a group of Mining and Metallurgy Students (1983)

Dr. Doug Borland with a group of Mining and Metallurgy Students (1983)

Whilst always giving priority to his teaching and academic leadership roles, Doug continued his research activities related to the structure of metals and alloys, the relationship between microstructure and mechanical properties, and phase transformations in alloys. These activities culminated with several publications (some of which were also published in the Institute’s journal, and its successor Metals Forum) co-authored with his post-graduate students.  Following periods as Visiting Scientist at the former BHP Melbourne Research Laboratories and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT, and Visiting Professor, Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science, University of Toronto, his research activities expanded to include mechanisms of wear, with a particular interest in the relationship between microstructure and damage mechanisms in sliding and mixed rolling/sliding contact. His systematic approach to this topic is illustrated in his efforts to develop an understanding of the factors that influenced the transitions between different wear mechanisms as contact conditions were altered.

Following retirement from Melbourne, Doug took up a position as Research Associate in the Department of Materials Engineering at Monash University, where he continued to teach 2nd year Materials Science and Materials Engineering students until he finally retired in the mid-1990’s.

Throughout his professional career, Doug believed that it was important for an academic to contribute to the welfare of society outside the confines of the University, as evident in his contribution to the affairs of the Australian Institute of Metals (and its successors IMMA, IMEA and MA). His roles included Secretary, President and Chairman of the Physical Metallurgy Division, Melbourne Branch,  membership of the Publications Committee, and Editor of the Institute Journal (and it successor Metals Forum), membership of Federal Council, and following the merger with  The Institution of Engineers Australia, membership of the Board of Management. He was awarded the Florence Taylor Medal in 1960 and again in 1969, the Meritorious Service Award in 1980, and made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute in 1992.

Doug presenting his judge’s comments at the 2002 Institute D.W. Borland Research Forum

Doug presenting his judge’s comments at the 2002 Institute D.W. Borland Research Forum

Doug impressed many of his colleagues and students, many of whom became long-standing friends, with his dedication to teaching and the  welfare of students, his efforts in promoting the  Metallurgy  School at Melbourne  when  it  was in decline, and the support he gave to others during what was for them challenging periods in their own careers. He was a strong advocate of the importance of microstructure and its influence on material properties and behaviour in engineering applications, and he provided an enduring example to his fellow staff and research students. One of Doug’s greatest professional satisfactions was to have had his commitment to developing others recognised through the D W Borland Research Forum, which was established by the Victorian Branch of the Institute in 1994. This annual event continues to provide an opportunity for one representative from each of the Victorian Universities offering post-graduate research in materials, to present his or her research to the profession. Doug always enjoyed these occasions and contributed on the judging panel until the 2009 Forum. In presenting the award for the event, he would often remark on the breadth of materials research activities, but ever mindful of the difficulty that some students had in balancing style with substance in their presentation material.

Ayliffe Borland died in 2004, and Doug is survived by his four daughters, their partners, and 10 grandchildren.


The authors wish to express their appreciation to many of Doug’s former colleagues and students who contributed information on his professional career, and to Gary Bunn for photographs from the Borland Forum. A special thanks to Professor Helen Borland, who provided details of her father’s activities at the University of Melbourne, and to the Borland family for photographs.

Peter Mutton is a former graduate student of Dr. Doug Borland and is an Associate Director at the BHP Institute of Railway Technology, located on the Clayton Campus of Monash University.  Associate Professor Trevor Finlayson, Honorary Principal Fellow, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, was a colleague of Doug’s during their times on the Melbourne Branch Committee for the Australian Institute of Metals (more recently, IMMA, IMEA and MA).

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One Comment

  1. Just found out that Doug has moved on.The best boss I ever had. Worked with Doug on Ti Al systems . Wonderful man. My best to his family.