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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Teakle, Laurence John Hartley (1901–1979)

by Jack F. Loneragan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Laurence John Hartley Teakle (1901-1979), professor of agriculture, was born on 2 August 1901 at Hawker, South Australia, eldest of seven children of David John Teakle, farmer, and his wife Bertha, née Bridgeman, both South Australian born. In 1903 the family moved to Western Australia and settled on a farm in the Northampton district, north of Geraldton. Hartley was educated at a small one-teacher school at Isseka siding, at Perth Modern School and at the University of Western Australia (B.Sc.Agric., 1923) where he won the Amy Saw scholarship. Joining the Department of Agriculture as an agricultural adviser in 1923, he travelled to the United States of America to study plant nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley (M.S., 1924; Ph.D., 1927). On 7 June 1927 at Berkeley he married with Methodist Episcopal forms Beatrice Elizabeth Inch, a schoolteacher.

Returning to Western Australia, Teakle was appointed research officer and adviser in plant nutrition in the Department of Agriculture in 1928. For the next nineteen years he investigated soils and plant nutrition from Esperance to the Ord River. He also lectured at the university on 'Soil Science and Fertilizers'. His numerous reports and research papers (over sixty as senior author) made major contributions to the understanding of soil salinity and agricultural development through their analysis of soils, examination of phosphate fertiliser experiments and identification of micro-nutrient deficiencies in crops. In his presidential address to the Royal Society of Western Australia in 1938, he offered a description of Western Australian soils and their properties which has served as a standard for all subsequent work. He was gazetted commissioner of soil conservation in July 1946.

Next year Teakle was appointed professor of agriculture at the University of Queensland. Developing broad interests in the agricultural and pastoral industries, he promoted research into many of the problems that affected them. In 1951 he was awarded the Farrer medal. He chaired (1957-63) the Queensland Wheat Industry Research Committee and published (with R. A. Boyle) Fertilizers for the Farm and Garden (Sydney, c.1958). Becoming increasingly involved in university administration, he served as president (1960-62) of the professorial board, deputy vice-chancellor (1963-70) and acting vice-chancellor (1967 and 1969). These difficult years saw a rapid growth in enrolments, student unrest, and an increasingly antagonistic government and press. The university conferred an honorary LL.D. on Teakle in 1969. He retired in December 1970, the year in which he was appointed C.M.G.

An associate (1929) of the (Royal) Australian Chemical Institute and an honorary member of the Australian Society of Soil Science, Teakle was a fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (1962) and of the Australian College of Education (1970). A building at the university was named after him in 1971. He was a staunch Methodist, a devoted family man, and a person of 'boundless mental and physical energy'. In his retirement he wrote The David Teakle Saga (1979), a 290-page family history. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and three sons, he died on 8 December 1979 at Auchenflower and was buried in Pinaroo lawn cemetery, Aspley.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Burvill (ed), Agriculture in Western Australia (Perth, 1979)
  • M. I. Thomis, A Place of Light and Learning (Brisb, 1985)
  • Journal of Royal Society of Western Australia, 63, 1980, p 63
  • Soil News, no 48, 1981, p 12
  • G. H. Burvill, information on L. J. H. Teakle (Western Australian Dept of Agriculture Library, Perth).

Citation details

Jack F. Loneragan, 'Teakle, Laurence John Hartley (1901–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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