Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Federal Statistican Knibbs

1919
David Low

ink and gouache on paper (sheet: 33.8 cm x 17.5 cm)

Sir George Knibbs CBE (1858-1929), statistician, was born into a working-class Sydney family and nothing is known of his early education. He joined the public service in 1877 and was licensed as a surveyor the following year. In 1881 he joined the Royal Society of New South Wales; he edited its journal for nine years, and was its president in the late 1890s. Over that decade he lectured in various topics in the engineering school of Sydney University and in 1905 he became acting professor of physics there. At the same time, he was appointed NSW's superintendent of technical education. In 1906 Knibbs was appointed first Commonwealth Statistician, directing the work of the newly-established Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The first Commonwealth Year Book was issued in 1908, and 1911 was the year of the first Commonwealth census. In addition to his involvement in Australian statistical, insurance, tax and other commissions, Knibbs travelled widely overseas in the course of his career, attending many congresses and becoming a member of many international societies; to take but two examples, he represented Australia at the double income tax and war profits conference in London in 1919 and was vice president of the International Eugenics Congress in New York in 1921. That year, he resigned as Commonwealth Statistician to become director of the new Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, a position he held until 1926. A knighthood was added to his various Australian and international scientific and statistical honours in 1923. Amongst Knibbs's many publications is The Shadow of the World's Future or the Earth's Population Possibilities, published in London in 1928.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011
© Estate of David Low

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

David Low (age 28 in 1919)

Sir George Knibbs CBE (age 61 in 1919)

Subject professions

Science and technology

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Federal Statistican Knibbs
Federal Statistican Knibbs
Federal Statistican Knibbs
Federal Statistican Knibbs

The numbers man

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Dr. Sarah Engledow tells the story of Australia's first Federal statistician, Sir George Knibbs.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency