HerStory Archive

KING, Georgina

Born: 6/6/1845

Died: 7/6/1932

Special Achievements:

Australia's first female geologist.  Georgina came from a family who held the natural sciences in high regard.  As she was growing up, she did not lack for mentors among the colony's scientific elite.  Two men in particular stand out: Reverend William Branwhite Clarke, the geologist, and naturalist Dr George Bennett.  The only recognised role at that time for a woman in the sciences was as a collector.  From the early 1890s she sent fossils to Sir Frederick McCoy, Professor of Natural Science at the University of Melbourne, and botanised for Baron Ferdinand von Mueller.

But while Georgina might have known her limitations as far as the world of flora was concerned, in the case of geology it was quite another matter.  When she sought to put her interest in geology on a more formal footing, and posited theories on "the Occurrence of our Mineral Wealth", her attempts to gain recognition from the (all-male) Royal Society of New South Wales were repeatedly dismissed as ridiculous.  Georgina turned her back on the Royal Society and began publishing anthropological papers.  By 1911, Professor Edgeworth David, the Professor of Geology at the University of Sydney, was also associated with what was by then depicted as a wilful campaign of suppression.  Year after year Georgina's campaign against the scientific establishment gathered momentum, losing none of its ferocity with the onset of old age, and encouraged by male and female friends alike.  As Jennifer M. T. Carter writes, "we can witness the death of childhood promise and the beginnings of a tragically unfulfilled human life.  Here was a woman conditioned to hold expectations far ahead of her time and (whatever we may think of her theories), for her pioneering efforts and steadfastness in the face of prejudice, we should applaud and honour the memory of Miss Georgina King, whose contribution to this day remains unrecognised by mainstream science" (excerpt from the National Library of Australia News, January 2003, page 21).


Resources

  • Image - Georgina King

    Image courtesy of Wakefield Press


  • Document - "For the Sake of the Women"

    National Library of Australia News, January 2003, pages 19-21. Also available at http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/131760/20120120-0944/www.nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2003/jan03/index.html

    Article courtesy of the National Library of Australia

    View File


  • References
    Jennifer M.T. Carter and Roger Cross, Ginger for Pluck, The Life and Times of Miss Georgina King, Kent Town, South Australia : Wakefield Press, 2013.  See the National Library of Australia's listing here for more information