ESHG Biographies

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

Robert Logan Jack 

Robert Logan Jack (1845 – 1921) was one of the pioneers of Queensland geology, working there from 1877 to 1899. After studying at the University of Edinburgh he joined the Geological Survey of Scotland in 1867 working in a variety of regions, but particularly mapping in the coalfields.

In Queensland Jack's work was outstanding in quality and quantity, and remarkable for its accurate and detailed observations. His work covered a wide range, dealing with the potential for artesian water in the colony's western basins, resulting in the first government bore being sunk in the Barcaldine region in 1887. He mapped the coal measures in the Bowen region, and examined other coal occurrences. He reported on twelve goldfields, including Mt. Morgan, Charters Towers and the Palmer River, and on the geology of the Broken Hill orebody, not long after its discovery. Many of his journeys were through unexplored parts of Queensland, and he was speared on one occasion in the Cape York region. 

Robert Logan Jack - image courtesy
State Library of Queensland

Jack collaborated with Robert Etheridge, Junior, to produce two classics of Australian geological literature: Catalogue of Works, Papers, Reports and Maps on the Geology, Palaeontology etc. of the Australian continent and Tasmania (1881) and The Geology and Palaeontology of Queensland and New Guinea (1892), and also published several editions of a Geological Map of Queensland. 

Jack resigned to work for an English mining company in China, but the onset of the boxer rebellion there caused him with his son, R. Lockhart, to make their way to Burma through some very rough country. Jack worked as a consultant from London between 1901-4, before returning to Australia, where he spent five years in Perth as a consultant, mainly in mining matters (Collie coalfield, mine ventilation and sanitation and lung disease) before moving to Sydney, where he completed his last major work (on exploration), Northmost Australia, published the year of his death. 

Jack was recognised by his colleagues by election as first president of the geological section of AAAS (later ANZAAS) in 1888, and he contributed at this time in the important matter of ensuring the regular meeting of geologists from the various colonies to exchange ideas and to co-operate across colonial boundaries. These were important steps in building up a coherent knowledge of the geology of the continent. He was very correct in dress, and generally not assertive, but he was a persistent and active geologist, with a generally democratic outlook that was appreciated by his colleagues.

David Branagan