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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pritchard, George Baxter (1869–1956)

by Thomas A. Darragh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

George Baxter Pritchard (1869-1956), geologist, was born on 17 October 1869 at Gravesend, Kent, England, son of George Bolton Pritchard, gentleman, and his Australian wife Annie Marie, née Baxter. Aged 3 he came with his mother to Melbourne, where he was educated at West Melbourne State School and at Scotch College (1885-87). He matriculated at the University of Melbourne in 1888 and studied natural science until 1891 when he interrupted his arts course to become demonstrator and assistant in natural science at the University of Adelaide under Professor Ralph Tate.

In February 1892 Pritchard succeeded W. A. Hargreaves as instructor in geology and mineralogy at the Working Men's College (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and in 1897 was appointed head of its newly established school of mines and lecturer in metallurgy and assaying. Pritchard's 'zeal and friendliness' as well as his 'air of authority' were noted by colleagues. In 1899 he taught for thirty-three hours per week as well as conducting Saturday afternoon field work and arranging interstate excursions. He was very popular with students, many of whom later made their mark in the Australian mining industry. Pritchard also lectured at the Gordon Technical College, Geelong, and at the university.

After the death of Sir Frederick McCoy Pritchard was appointed with T. S. Hall joint acting-professor of natural science for the remainder of 1899. Resuming his studies, he graduated B.Sc. in 1908 and D.Sc. in 1911. Excursions with the Melbourne University Science Club led to collaboration with Hall on twelve papers on Tertiary stratigraphy published by the Royal Society of Victoria in 1892-1904. Influenced by Tate, Pritchard's wide palaeontological interests focused on molluscs, leading to the publication by the society in 1898-1904 of seven papers describing new fossil species and, in collaboration with J. H. Gatliff, another seven describing living molluscs, and the catalogue of marine shells of Victoria in nine papers from 1898 to 1906. His research diminished considerably after 1910.

Pritchard's numerous small papers on various fossil types, on general geological observations and on Tertiary stratigraphy and excursion reports were mainly published in the Victorian Naturalist. In 1910 he published The Geology of Melbourne, in which the subject was treated by means of a series of suggested excursions. A smaller booklet, Old Yarra History, appeared in 1944. Two other manuscripts, on the geology of the eastern side of Port Phillip and a biography of his uncle by marriage Robert Hoddle, remained unpublished.

Retiring from the school of mines in 1934 Pritchard taught part-time at Trinity Grammar School, Kew, and in 1939-47 at Scotch College. He also became increasingly involved until late in his life in geological consulting for oil searches in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. He was a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and of the Geological Society of London.

Pritchard was married twice, first to Amy Mary Coles on 1 December 1897 at Moonee Ponds, and second, to Linda Letitia Williams on 27 September 1929 in Sydney; both marriages were celebrated with Methodist forms. He died at his Hawthorn home on 2 August 1956 and was buried in Springvale cemetery. His wife, two sons and daughter of his first marriage and daughter of his second marriage survived him. His research collections of fossil molluscs were purchased by the geology department, University of Melbourne, and the National Museum of Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Murray-Smith and A. J. Dare, The Tech: A Centenary History of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Melb, 1987)
  • Australian Mining Standard, 8 Sept 1898, p 3235
  • Melbourne Technical School Magazine, 1, May 1928, p 19
  • Victorian Naturalist, 64, no 2, 1947-48, p 33, 73, no 9, 1956-57, p 142.

Citation details

Thomas A. Darragh, 'Pritchard, George Baxter (1869–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 9 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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