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Jukes, Joseph Beete (1811–1869)

by Ann Mozley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Joseph Beete Jukes (1811-1869), geologist, was born in Birmingham, England, the son of John and Sophia Jukes. Educated at Wolverhampton and King Edward's School, Birmingham, he studied geology under Professor Sedgwick at Cambridge (B.A., 1836). In 1839-40 Jukes was geological surveyor of Newfoundland and his Excursions In and About Newfoundland During the Years 1839 and 1840 (London, 1842) contained the fruits of this pioneering work. In 1842 he accepted the post of naturalist in the expedition in H.M.S. Fly under the command of Captain Francis Blackwood.

The Fly reached Sydney in October 1842 and in the next three years twice circumnavigated Australia, visited Java in 1845, and conducted an intensive maritime survey from the south-east coast of New Guinea and Torres Strait Islands to the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. As chronicler of the survey Jukes gave a well ordered account, in the first volume of his Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Fly … (London, 1847), of the expedition's activities and of its ethnological and natural history observations. His geological contribution to this volume was a masterly chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, an early classic of Australian geology, its detailed evidence affording strong support for Darwin's theory of coral reefs.

Jukes's major contribution to Australian geology, abstracts of which he read to the British Association in 1846 and to the Geological Society of London in 1847, was A Sketch of the Physical Structure of Australia … (London, 1850), which contained the first, though imperfect, geological map of the continent. From his own notes of the coastline and from observations during visits to each colony, together with the isolated observations of other authors, Jukes drew a connected outline of Australian geology. He found it 'the very land of uniformity and monotony' whose mountain chains and rock formations stretched for hundreds of miles without interruption or change of character; yet he formed positive conclusions about the country's mineral wealth and, in a paper presented to the Tasmanian Society in 1846, urged the importance of geological surveys in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.

In Sydney, Jukes became acquainted with Strzelecki and made several geological excursions around Sydney and Wollongong with Rev. William Branwhite Clarke. He lent support in his published writing to Clarke's conclusion on the palaeozoic age of Australian coal, during the protracted public controversy that developed on that subject between Clarke and Professor Frederick McCoy of the University of Melbourne.

On the Fly's return to England in 1846 Jukes joined the geological survey of Great Britain and was assigned to North Wales and Staffordshire. Three years later the offer of the newly-created post of geological surveyor to the mineral survey of New South Wales tempted him to return to Australia, but his marriage to Georgina Augusta Meredith of Birmingham, and his own lack of faith, confided to Clarke, in the permanency of colonial appointments, led him to decline. The post went to Samuel Stutchbury. In 1850 Jukes became director of the Irish geological survey and held this position until a fall from a horse resulted in his death in Dublin on 29 July 1869.

Jukes was the author of several manuals of geology together with scientific papers and memoirs. In all his geological work he combined the exact and sound observation of a field geologist with a lively insight into origins and causes. At a time when English interest was turning towards Australian geology, Jukes's work provided the first systematic record of known facts enriched by thoughtful speculations and generalizations which mostly proved correct. At the same time he urged a cautious approach towards the rocks of a new continent and underlined the need to keep an eye on 'the solid geometry of the country' as a corrective against hasty palaeontological classification. His book on the physical structure of Australia was supplemented by several scientific papers and by lectures delivered to the Royal College of Science.

Select Bibliography

  • J. B. Jukes et al, Lectures on Gold (Lond, 1852)
  • C. A. Browne (ed), Letters and Extracts from the Addresses and Occasional Writings of J. Beete Jukes, M.A. (Lond, 1871)
  • ‘Inaugural Address by Professor Ralph Tate, President’, Report of the Meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, 1893, pp 1-69
  • J. B. Jukes, ‘Nomenclature and Classification of Rock Formations in New Countries’, Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, 2 (1846)
  • J. B. Jukes letters, 1842-61, in William Branwhite Clarke papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Ann Mozley, 'Jukes, Joseph Beete (1811–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jukes-joseph-beete-2284/text2939, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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