ESHG Biographies

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

Nelly Hooper Ludbrook
Nelly Hooper Ludbrook (1907-1995) – geologist and palaeontologist. Nelly Woods studied at the University of Adelaide and received the Tate Medal in 1931 for her undergraduate studies and an MA. Nelly Woods (or Nell as she always preferred to be known) enrolled in the University of Adelaide in 1926, taking her B.A. in 1928 and a teaching degree, because she had not studied enough prerequisite science subjects to enroll in a B.Sc. She studied geology and mathematics and appealed to Dr C.T. Madigan to give her a research project in geology. She worked on the mollusc collection of Sir Joseph Verco for many years while working as a teacher and pursuing her M.A. Her work on the molluscs was rewarded with the Tate Memorial Medal from the University of Adelaide in 1931.

Nelly Ludbrook - image PIRSA.

 In 1935, Nell married Dr Wallis Verco Ludbrook, a plant pathologist, whom she had met at the University of Adelaide where he was studying for his B.Sc., and they moved to Canberra. Irene Crespin, palaeontologist with the Commonwealth government employed Nell as an Assistant Geologist from 1942 to 1949, working on the statistics of minerals for the war effort at the Commonwealth’s Mineral Resources Survey in Canberra (forerunner of the Bureau of Mineral Resources).

 In 1950, while Wallis was away for work, Nell travelled to England to study molluscs at the Imperial College of Science at the British Natural History Museum. Wallis died in 1951, and Nelly was encouraged by his family to remain in England and undertake her PhD, which she received in 1952 from the University of London for her research into Pliocene molluscs of the Adelaide plains. In 1950 she had become a Fellow of the Geological Society, London.

She then returned to Australia and worked within the South Australian Department of Mines from 1952 until 1967, at which point she had attained the position of Senior Palaeontologist, specialising in the palaeontology and biostratigraphy of the Eromanga and other South Australian basins. She then continued as a consultant in palaeontology and editor after her retirement. Nelly Ludbrook has seventeen fossil species named after her and published over 70 scientific papers. She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 for her service to science. A foundation member of the GSA, Nelly was its first female president in 1968 and first female president of the Royal Society of South Australia in 1961. She received the Sir Joseph Verco medal from the Royal Society in 1963. The Geological Survey of South Australia has named their fossil collection, the Ludbrook Library in her honour.


Alley, Neville F. (1996). "Obituary: Nelly Hooper Ludbrook". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 120 (2: 74-77). 2016,, accessed 4 November 2019

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