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Episodes 2012; 35(1): 44-56

Published online March 1, 2012


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Fleshing out the Landscape: Two centuries of Australia’s geological heroes

David F. Branagan

School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. E-mail: dbranaga@mail.usyd.edu.au

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Australian Geology, from its beginning, was linked to the development of resources, in a number of distinct colonies, often with little co-operation between them. While the formation of the Commonwealth in 1901 saw the beginning of an Australia-wide approach to geological studies, the former colonies, now states, still guarded certain rights, acting independently, in as far as possible. Separate colonial geological surveys continued as State bodies, focussed largely on resource (including water) studies. Geological education was mainly through a few universities, where research on broader issues was undertaken, with results published in separate, largely colony/state oriented, society journals. The Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, formed in 1888, was a major influence in bringing geologists into direct contact, and marked the beginning of attempts to rationalise results and focus on Australia-wide aspects. Post World War 11 saw the expansion of geological research, formation of a Commonwealth Survey and the Geological Society of Australia, with the latter providing a medium for promulgation and discussion of ideas. The paper discusses the role of some 180 geologists through two centuries.