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Whitehouse, Frederick William (1900–1973)

by Richard E. Chapman

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

Frederick William Whitehouse (1900-1973), by unknown photographer, 1945

Frederick William Whitehouse (1900-1973), by unknown photographer, 1945

Australian War Memorial, 122589

Frederick William Whitehouse (1900-1973), geologist, was born on 20 December 1900 at Ipswich, Queensland, eldest of five children of Queensland-born Frederick William Whitehouse, baker, and his wife Florence Amelia, née Terrey, from New South Wales. After boarding at Ipswich Grammar School, Fred graduated with first-class honours in geology and mineralogy from the University of Queensland (B.Sc., 1922; M.Sc., 1924; D.Sc., 1939), and won a government gold medal for outstanding merit. Taking up a university foundation travelling scholarship at St John's College, Cambridge (Ph.D., 1925), he wrote a thesis on marine Cretaceous sequences of Australia.

On his return to Queensland in 1925, Whitehouse was appointed government geologist. Next year he began lecturing in geology at the University of Queensland; over three decades he was to alternate between working for the State government and the university. He helped to map the geology of western Queensland while studying the region's fossil fauna. In 1941 he was awarded the Royal Society of New South Wales's Walter Burfitt prize and medal for his work on the stratigraphy of the Great Artesian Basin. On 7 July that year he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned lieutenant, Royal Australian Engineers, in January 1942, he applied his geological knowledge to road-building in Queensland and New Guinea in 1942-43, and to formulating procedures for amphibious assaults across coral reefs in 1944-45. He travelled extensively in the South-West Pacific Area and in September 1945 rose to temporary lieutenant colonel. Mentioned in dispatches for his work, he was demobilized on 21 December.

In 1946-47 Whitehouse was seconded to the Department of the Co-ordinator-General of Public Works; he was a member of the committee on postwar reconstruction and was involved with the northern Australia development project. He resumed lecturing at the university in 1948, and was promoted to associate-professor next year. Continuing his studies on the stratigraphy of the artesian basin, he described the natural leakage from the system, particularly the mound springs. This was probably his most significant contribution to geology, and was published as an appendix, 'The Geology of the Queensland Portion of the Great Australian Artesian Basin', in the report, Artesian Water Supplies in Queensland (1954). He was also interested in quaternary geomorphology.

With his energy and outstanding wit, Whitehouse inspired both colleagues and students. A governor of Cromwell College, University of Queensland, he was active in the university's rowing club and dramatic society. He was president of the Queensland Naturalists' Club and Nature-Lovers' League (1929) and the Royal Society of Queensland (1940-41). In the Boy Scouts' Association, he rose from rover leader in 1932 to deputy chief commissioner in 1954-55. He was leading eight hundred senior scouts on a hike across Fraser Island in 1951 when one contracted poliomyelitis and the camp was quarantined for a week. Rations were in short supply and he supervised the boys as they used their scouting skills to live partly off the land.

Whitehouse toured Queensland in 1953, visiting schools and showing a film to publicize the university. Two years later he was dismissed from his teaching post after receiving a three-month suspended sentence for committing an act of 'gross indecency' with a young man. There was no suggestion that the charge had any connection with his public activities. After repeated efforts to clear his name, the charges were eventually struck out in March 1957. After his dismissal, he then worked as a geological consultant. Continuing to participate in the work of scientific organizations, he was president (1972-73) of the Anthropological Society of Queensland. Unmarried, he died on 22 March 1973 in Brisbane and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Hill, The First Fifty Years of the Department of Geology of the University of Queensland (Brisb, 1981)
  • R. Fones, In the Light of all the Years (Brisb, 1992)
  • Brisbane Telegraph, 11 Mar 1957
  • Queensland Naturalist, 21, Jan 1974
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Apr 1955
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 13 May, 17 Aug 1955
  • University of Queensland Archives
  • personal file, A/54231, item 7153 (Queensland State Archives)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Richard E. Chapman, 'Whitehouse, Frederick William (1900–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/whitehouse-frederick-william-12017/text21553, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 May 2019.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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

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