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Lewis, Arndell Neil (1897–1943)

by D. R. Gregg

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Arndell Neil Lewis (1897-1943), lawyer, geologist and politician, was born on 23 November 1897 at Symmons Plains, Perth, Tasmania, elder son of (Sir) Neil Elliott Lewis and his wife Lina Henrietta, née Youl. He was educated at Leslie House School, Hobart, where he was influenced by William Hall Clemes who became a lifelong friend. At school Lewis was a cadet-lieutenant before joining the Australian Imperial Force. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the field artillery in September 1916 and joined the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in October 1917. He served in France in 1917-19, winning the Military Cross on 27 September 1918 during the capture of the Hindenburg line.

After the war he graduated from the University of Tasmania (LL.B., 1922; LL.M., 1925; LL.D., 1930). Admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court on 21 July 1922, he joined the family firm of Lewis, Hudspeth, Perkins & Dear in 1924, and was acting professor of law at the university in 1925 and 1930. On 7 December 1927 he married Amy Stewart Hungerford at St David's Cathedral, Hobart. His Text Book of Australian Bankruptcy Law (Hobart, 1928) reached its seventh edition in 1978; Australian Military Law (1936) was based on his doctoral thesis.

Lewis had always had an intense interest in natural history and in geology in particular. He joined the Tasmanian Field Naturalists' Club while still at school and was elected to its committee in 1913. He wrote extensively on the geology of Tasmania, contributing eighteen papers to the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1921-39. He was lecturer in geology at the university in 1927-31. Lewis made wide-ranging, substantial and enduring contributions to the geology of Tasmania, following the tradition of Robert Mackenzie Johnston who had taken him on geological expeditions as a boy. His earliest contribution to the Royal Society dealt with glaciology and he maintained this interest. His conclusion, largely from the study of land-forms, that there had been three glaciations in Tasmania during the Pleistocene has been confirmed by modern studies, and his contributions to the stratigraphy of Tasmania, particularly of the Palaeozoic, formed a sound basis for future work. His detailed account of The Geology of the Hobart District (Hobart, 1946), completed in 1939 on the day war was declared, was published posthumously by the Royal Society through the memorial fund set up after his death and edited by Dr D. E. Thomas, Tasmanian government geologist. Though it has been supplemented by more recent work it has not been replaced. Lewis thought deeply about the wider aspects of geology and when he was presented with the Royal Society of Tasmania medal in 1935 he spoke on 'our pulsating world, the influence of earth movements on human development'.

Following an unsuccessful attempt in 1931, Lewis was elected to the House of Assembly in 1932 as a National party member for Denison. He lost his seat in 1934 and despite the handicaps of reticence and modesty regained it in 1937. In May 1941 he resigned to give priority to his military duties. It was a family tradition to serve in the artillery as his father and grandfather had done, and after the war Lewis had remained with the 6th Australian Field Artillery Brigade, commanding it as lieutenant-colonel in 1933-38. Ill health prevented his service beyond Tasmania in World War II but he was district manpower officer for Tasmania in 1939-40 and joined the Hobart Covering Force in May 1941. In 1942-43 he commanded the 6th Garrison Battalion.

Lewis was a trustee of the Tasmanian Museum, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens in 1925-40 and a member of the National Park Board. He had joined the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1919 and served on its council in 1925-40. He was also a prominent member of the Anglican synod. Generous in thought and action, he retained a boyish outlook. He died childless on 27 December 1943 at Hobart of hypertensive heart failure and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. His wife survived him. A portrait by Florence Rodway is held by the family.

His brother Hubert Charles, B.A., LL.B., (1899-1979) was president of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce in 1951-53 and president of the Tasmanian Law Society in 1953-56.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • Royal Society of Tasmania, Proceedings, 1943, (1944), p 248
  • Mercury (Hobart), 28 Dec 1943.

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Citation details

D. R. Gregg, 'Lewis, Arndell Neil (1897–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lewis-arndell-neil-7182/text12413, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 19 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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