2002 Dorothy Hill Medal Winner

Associate Professor John Jell
John Jell's Citation - presented by Geoff Playford

Let me say, first of all, that I've been advised not to deliver a lengthy or comprehensive "warts and all "discourse about this year 's inaugural recipient of the Dorothy Hill Medal for Queensland geology. I shall refrain, for instance, from alluding to his outstanding sporting prowess, and to his splendid service to this Society. Rather, I shall confine myself -more appropriately -to commenting on those attributes of my long-standing colleague, John Samuel Jellwhich qualify him - I believe most admirably - for receiving the Dorothy Hill Medal.

A brief sketch of John 's academic career starts with his undergraduate entry to The University of Queensland some four and a half decades ago, in 1957. Initially, John 's goal was to pursue Chemistry as the major subject of a Bachelor of Science degree; and he took Geology merely as an ancillary subject. However, inspired by such lecturers as Professor W.H. Bryan, and the then Dr. Dorothy Hill, he soon resolved upon a geological career and graduated with First Class Honours in Geology in 1962. My own long and valued association with John began in 1963,when he had enrolled for the PhD degree and was appointed Demonstrator in the then Department of Geology & Mineralogy, and I had arrived from Canada to take up a Lectureship in the Department. John received his PhD in 1967,and he rose successively in the academic ranks through Senior Demonstrator, Senior Research Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Associate Professor or Reader. And for two years up to his retirement in the middle of last year he served as Head of the Department of Earth Sciences.


Geoff Playford (left) presenting the Dorothy Hill Medal to John Jell (right).


John Jell giving his acceptance speech.

By any standards, John has had an energetic, dedicated, and distinguished research career. It was nurtured and inspired by Dorothy Hill, who supervised his Honours and PhD researches and with whom he continued fruitful collaboration as a postdoctoral researcher and fellow staff member. His prime research focus has always been the Palaeozoic stratigraphy and geological evolution of North Queensland, underpinned by extensive fieldwork and biostratigraphic analyses (particularly of the coral faunas). His numerous publications provide ample testimony of his achievements and insights in these fields, and they have earned him not only national but also genuinely global recognition. John has also conducted research on geological, geomorphic, and biological aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, including a range of sedimentological studies and fundamental investigations into the development of living corals and Foraminifera. I think it is very important to note that John has not been what one might term a "lone wolf "researcher. Legions of University of Queensland students have been inspired by John 's teaching and postgraduate supervision (and, not least, by his unfailing good humour). And his peers and associates, nationally and internationally, have greatly valued their research collaboration with him.

So by way of conclusion, I am delighted to commend John Jell to you -unreservedly and very enthusiastically -as a major contributor to the knowledge of Queensland geology -and therefore as an extremely appropriate first recipient of the Dorothy Hill Medal. So please join with me in congratulating John on this splendid award.

Response of thanks by John Jell
Thank you, Geoff, for those kind words and I think this is typical of the difference between Geoff and myself. He's nicely prepared with his speech and I haven't really done anything. But we got along for forty odd years and he could still say those nice words. I think that says something.


First of all about the only part of this that I really thought about is that I really wanted to congratulate Sue (Keay) and Laurie (Hutton) for the initiative of having the medal and I think by the number of people we have here tonight it was a worthwhile project. Congratulations on getting the membership behind it. And I didn't say that because I got it. No I think it was a great thing for the Division over the years.

It did come as a great surprise to me because I thought all I was doing was doing my job and my motto is that I always try to do things to the best of my ability, that's about all I did, so thank you. I enjoyed it too and there.... You only get out as much as you put into it... I got a lot out of geology and I made a lot of friends.

I am doubly honoured, firstly to have a prize in the honour of Dorothy Hill, who means a lot to me - who was my mentor. (very emotional) I usually don't call her Dorothy. I never call her Dorothy to her face. As far as I got, it was always Professor Hill, and we got as far as "Prof". I owe a lot to her not only for what I know about palaeontology but my attitude to geology, and I think if she's looking down there, I hope she thinks it was worth it. I'm trying to improve my English, my grammar - I could almost spell. I think I just about drove her to distraction sometimes and even today Geoff was going through a letter I wrote on another subject correcting errors -- he said I'd improved. But anyway I owe an awful lot to Dorothy. I hope she approves (looking up). The only thing I think I can be compared on level playing field with Dorothy is that I'm a Queenslander and I'm passionate about Queensland geology. As far as contributions to the geology of Queensland mine will be minuscule compared with hers.

As I said, I was doubly honoured. The other one is to be judged by pears that I've made a contribution to the geology of Queensland. I guess that's been my focus always and I've only been able to do it because of the great group of people I've worked with, from the University (of Queensland), the (Geological) Survey (of Queensland), the (Queensland) Museum, various parts of industry - metals, coal and petroleum. I think I've been out in the field with all of them. I think you can gather from what Geoff said, I'm happiest when I'm in the field. The last two years as Head of Department were purgatory. But in fact that's one of my regrets, -- no not regrets, but that's one of my disappointments, that is the art of field geology and the training of geologists for field geology is getting a back seat these days. I think it's the basis of all geology, hence that's what we're trained as and it's a pity we aren't putting more emphasis on that these days. I know that Rod (Holcombe) won't disapprove --- looking around here I think I'm talking to the converted - one way or another. That brings me to --- and I thought I might see a few people that I know and I'll say something about them, how they helped me along the line but looking around in this room there are so many - I'm frightened to start because I may offend some people.

There are people here representing the whole of my career in geology from the first week in university in geology - there is one of my lecturers, the legendary Neville Stevens, and beside him is one of my classmates from the second year (wife of Neville Stevens) and there are a lot of staff members... I said before Geoff and I managed together for forty years. I owe a lot to colleagues and staff of the university from discussions to plotting schemes and various things along the way - always, I think, for the good of geology especially in Queensland.

There's the (Geological) Survey people... I can remember a multitude of times, when we had great times out in the field. Probably the one I've known longest here is Vince Palmieri: We've been out in the field - we've been diving at Heron Island and getting up all sorts of problems and mischiefs. With Ian Withnall I spent ages. Jan Domagala: we had many a good night around a camp fire in Broken River, North Queensland, the Chillagoe area etc. A lot of good memories.

Same with the Queensland Museum: I started going out with Bartholomai and various other people. Alex Cook is here tonight. I valued all these.

Industry group I mentioned.

The other group I had a lot of time in the field with and worked with are the Macquarie University people, John Talent and others... That's mainly the geology on land. I've enjoyed it all with students, post-graduates, honours people and under-graduates. Those field trips up to Broken River mean real memories to me.

The only other place outside Queensland, where I've got really deeply involved was in the Devonian Reefs of Western Australia, but that is not subject to this (showing to his certificate).

And then there is the Great Barrier Reef. It was Graham Maxwell who introduced me to that in my honours year. We went up there and I think we caught enough fish to get me hooked. I ended up going to Heron Island now for forty years and Dorothy Hill always encouraged me in that pursuit too because of her interest in coral reefs. So a lot of people who helped me make this contribution to the geology of Queensland, thank you very much!

There's one other group. I couldn't have done this by myself - it was the support of the family. While I was out there researching, what was going to get on the end of the fishing line or which log would burn through first on the fire, Joan was at home looking after the kids. It seemed they always wanted to play up when I was away. That's usually, when they got sick and if it wasn't for her support, I could never have done the field work that I have done, so thanks.

Thank you, everyone.