Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jones, Thomas Gilbert Henry (1895–1970)

by Burt Zerner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Thomas Gilbert Henry Jones (1895-1970), professor of chemistry, was born on 14 July 1895 at Owens Gap, New South Wales, fourth child of native-born parents Thomas Jones, schoolteacher, and his wife Margaret Sarah, née Bell. Educated at the local public school, Newcastle High School (dux 1911) and the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1915; D.Sc., 1926), Gilbert graduated with first-class honours; he won university medals in chemistry and mathematics, and was awarded a State government research scholarship. In August 1915 he accepted a post as assistant-lecturer and demonstrator in the department of chemistry, University of Queensland, and was given responsibility for teaching organic chemistry. During World War I Jones was employed (from November 1916) in the production of munitions and explosives at H.M. Factory, Gretna, Scotland; he initially worked on the manufacture of nitroglycerine and was later appointed senior chemist in charge of solvent recovery. It was at Gretna that he became a Freemason.

On 1 April 1920 Jones returned to the University of Queensland where he was promoted to lecturer in May 1921. At St John's Anglican Church, Gympie, on 21 August 1923 he married Vera Haines, a dispensing chemist. The thesis he submitted for his doctorate at the University of Sydney was supported by six publications. He was awarded the H. G. Smith medal by the (Royal) Australian Chemical Institute in 1930 and was invited to give the Archibald Liversidge lectures at the University of Sydney in 1934. President (1932-33) of the Royal Society of Queensland, he was a fellow of the R.A.C.I., president (1938-39) of its Queensland branch and national president (1938-39). On 12 April 1940 he was appointed to the chair of chemistry at the University of Queensland. 'T.G.H.' gave unstinting service to the university in various capacities. A member (1944-68) of the senate, dean (1942-49 and 1960-61) of the faculty of science and president (1951-56) of the professorial board, he served on every senior committee, being especially proud of his work as chairman of the library committee for twelve years.

Wearing a short, white, starched barber's coat, Professor Jones gave stimulating lectures to the very large Chemistry I classes; he also took third-year and honours programmes with great skill, incorporating material recently published in major international journals. He was somewhat shy, but warm and generous, humble and honest. Of swarthy complexion, with a firm mouth and upright bearing, he best indicated his pleasure with a magnificent grin and a glint in his steely eyes.

He was a stalwart defender of the best traditions associated with universities. On 8 April 1957, as acting-president of the professorial board, he led a public meeting in the City Hall, Brisbane, attended by 2400 citizens protesting against the University of Queensland Acts Amendment bill, introduced by the Gair Labor government, which threatened the university's autonomy in making appointments. Ever forceful, Jones opened with 'It is time to stop this insidious nonsense' and closed with a quietly passionate 'Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do'. In spite of massive university agitation, the bill was passed in April 1957, but never implemented as a result of a change of government in August. Jones was appointed C.B.E. in 1960. He retired on 14 July 1965. The University of Queensland conferred an honorary LL.D. on him in 1960 and he received an honorary D.Sc. from the University of Newcastle in 1966. Barry Chiswell's 'A Diamond Period' lists Jones's professional publications, some forty in total. Continuing his interest in Freemasonry, Jones was active in the establishment of the University of Queensland Lodge, of which he became a foundation member in 1955. He was assistant grand master (1950-51), deputy grand master (1951-54) and grand master (1954-57) of the Grand Lodge of Queensland, and received his fifty-year service jewel in 1968.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Jones died on 11 August 1970 at St Andrew's Hospital, Brisbane, and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. The University of Queensland commemorated him with a Helidon sandstone grotesque, sculpted by Rhyl Hinwood, set in the south-west wall of the Forgan Smith building.

Select Bibliography

  • Notable Men of Queensland (Brisb, 1950)
  • H. Gregory, Vivant Professores (Brisb, 1987)
  • K. Henderson, The Masonic Grand Masters of Australia (Melb, 1988)
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 12 Aug 1970
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 13 Aug 1970
  • B. Chiswell, A Diamond Period (manuscript, 1986, held by its author)
  • University of Queensland Archives.

Citation details

Burt Zerner, 'Jones, Thomas Gilbert Henry (1895–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-thomas-gilbert-henry-10642/text18915, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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