ESHG Biographies

Dorothy Hill - image courtesy John Jell. Portrait by Lola McCausland (1967), collection of The University of Queensland - reproduced with permission.

Ida A. Brown
Ida A. Brown (1900-1976) – geologist and palaeontologist. Ida undertook a Bachelor of Science and Honours degree at the University of Sydney where she was awarded the University medal in geology and the Deas Thomson scholarship in 1922. At the request of advisors, she gave up the scholarship and worked as a teacher of geology and petrology at the University of Sydney until 1927. During this time, Ida undertook research in areas of Broken Hill and the southern NSW coast, supported by a Linnean-Macleay Fellowship. This research took mapping, geological analysis and visits and she attended international research institutes and scientific congresses such as the Pan-Pacific Science Congress in 1926.

Ida was awarded a D.Sc. at the University of Sydney in 1932 – the second woman to do so at this institution. She then progressed to take a position as Assistant Lecturer in palaeontology in 1934, spending considerable time developing her knowledge of palaeontology to the exclusion of other geological research, as well as carrying a full teaching load.

She was promoted to a Lecturer in 1940 and then Senior Lecturer in 1945. In 1950, on her marriage to fellow geologist and colleague William Rowan Browne, she resigned from the university and worked from home with her husband, undertaking fieldwork with him when required up until 1965. She published ten papers after her marriage. Ida’s research included Silurian and Devonian fossiliferous sequences in the Yass district, Palaeozoic invertebrates with a focus on brachiopods including Permian spiriferids of south-eastern Australia, stratigraphic studies and geological mapping.

In 1945, Ida became the first female President of the Linnean Society of which she had been a member since the 1920s, and in 1953 became the first female President of the Royal Society of New South Wales. She was a foundation member of the GSA and she served as a Member of the Australian National Research Council. She mentored many students including Joan Crockford (1919-2015).


Branagan, David (1977). "Ida Alison Browne". Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. 110: 75–76., accessed online 4 November 2019.

Hooker, Claire (2001). "Stratigraphy: Dr Ida Alison Browne, 1900-1976". Australasian Science. 22 (5). online 4 November.

Turner, S., 'Invincible but mostly Invisible: Australian Women's Contribution to Geology and Palaeontology', Geological Society Special Publication, vol. 281, 2007, pp. 165-202.

Vallance, T.G. 'Browne, Ida Alison (1900–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 4 November 2019.

Walker, R., 'Brown, Ida Alison (1900 - 1976)', in Encyclopedia of Australian Science,, accessed online 4 November 2019.

Walker, R., 'Browne, Ida Alison (1900 - 1976)', in Bright Sparcs, 2009,

Ian Withnall and Sue Turner

Biography of Ida Brown
(Adobe PDF File)