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Professor David of Antarctic Expedition

c. 1910
an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 13.6 cm x 8.5 cm, image: 12.2 cm x 7.4 cm)

Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David KBE (1858-1934) was an eminent geologist. Welsh-born, David studied classics at Oxford but in his early twenties decided to focus on geology, an interest that had been sparked by his father, a clergyman and amateur palaeontologist. While a student at the Royal College of Science, Edgeworth David was appointed to the position of Assistant Geological Surveyor to the NSW government. He arrived in Sydney in late 1882 and over the next several years completed important surveys, particularly relating to coal deposits in the Hunter Valley. In the midst of this, he married teacher Caroline Mallett and the first of their three children was born. He was appointed Professor of Geology at Sydney University in 1891 although he continued to devote much of his time to fieldwork. He was awarded the Bigsby Medal by the Royal Society in 1904 for his work on coral atolls; and by 1906 was also a recognised authority on glaciation. For this reason, he was invited by Ernest Shackleton to join the British Antarctic Expedition (1907-1909), during the course of which he led the first successful ascent of Mt. Erebus and also a four-month, 1250 kilometre sled journey to the Magnetic South Pole. He was accompanied in this feat by a former student, Douglas Mawson, who had been appointed physicist to the expedition at Edgeworth David's instigation. During WW1, Edgeworth David served as a major in the AIF, advising on ground water and the design and siting of trenches and tunnels on the Western Front. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918 and promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He was knighted in 1920, and thereafter devoted himself to the writing of a comprehensive account of the geology of Australia. He retired from the university in 1924 and his Geological Map of the Commonwealth of Australia was published in 1932, two years before his death.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012

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

Sir Tannatt William Edgeworth David KBE (age 52 in 1910)

Subject professions

Science and technology

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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.

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