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Douglas Mawson
, 1933

by Henry James Haley

oil on canvas laid on board (frame: 49.2 cm x 43.0 cm, support: 37.3 cm x 30.5 cm)

Sir Douglas Mawson OBE (1882-1958), explorer and scientist, was born in Yorkshire and came to Sydney as a toddler. He studied mining engineering and geology at Sydney University before taking up a position as lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the University of Adelaide. Mawson made the first of his three journeys to Antarctica as physicist to Sir Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition of 1907 to 1909. Two years later, he led his own expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), conducted between 1911 and 1914. Notable for its numerous scientific and geographical achievements, the AAE is equally legendary for Mawson's survival during a sled journey to the South Pole that claimed the lives of his two companions. Mawson returned from the expedition a hero and was knighted. After a period working in London during the First World War, Mawson returned to Adelaide University, where he was Professor of Geology and Mineralogy for the remainder of his life. He revisited Antarctica as leader of the Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) of 1929-30 and 1930-31, a venture that later resulted in Australian control of almost six million square kilometres of the frozen continent. Described by his mentor, geologist TW Edgeworth David, as a man of 'infinite resource, splendid physique and astonishing indifference to frost', Mawson is counted among the twentieth century's most eminent explorers.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Gareth Mawson Thomas and Pamela Karran-Thomas of the Mawson family 2010
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2010.80