Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Fauna Campbell (1853–1938)

by John Atchison

This article was published:

John Fauna Campbell (1853-1938), surveyor, was born on 21 August 1853 at Loch Leven, Kinross-shire, Scotland, second son of Donald Campbell and his wife Jane (Jean), née Robertson. After schooling at Redgorton and Monzie, Perthshire, he was apprenticed to an architect, then he migrated to Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1879. After employment with the New Zealand Public Works Department and the Southland Agricultural Co., Campbell reached Sydney on 3 January 1881. Here he adopted the name 'Fauna' for identification purposes. He joined the Department of Lands as a cadet draftsman and was soon promoted. Completing examinations, he was registered as a licensed surveyor on 10 January 1884, and that year attended W. H. Warren's lectures in engineering at the University of Sydney; he was registered as valuer in August 1894.

Late in 1888 Campbell was sent to the Walcha district of the Armidale Land Board. On 7 February 1889 in Sydney he married Althea Louisa Gissing, an Englishwoman. Well-known locally, he served on the Walcha Municipal Council for eight years. Until 1903 he pioneered cadastral survey of southern New England, recording his intimate knowledge of rural development before intensive settlement. A member of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, he studied and collected new botanical specimens, working with Ernst Betche, and with J. H. Maiden who named a papilionaceae Pultenaea campbellii after him. His geological notes were incorporated in Sir Edgeworth David's Geological Map of the Commonwealth of Australia (1931). In 1903 Campbell moved to Sydney for the education of his children. He returned to New England as crown representative and chairman of the Armidale Forest Board in 1906-07 and was surveyor to the Closer Settlement Advisory Board from 1909, advising on land valuation, improvements and subdivision in the Monaro and Riverina.

An active member of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales, from 1893, Campbell was a council-member in 1909-12, and published sixteen papers in the Surveyor. Retirement from December 1913 at his Burwood home was creative and fruitful. He regularly contributed scientific articles to newspapers, chiefly for the Sydney Morning Herald's column 'On the land'. He was president of the metropolitan branch of the Farmers and Settlers' Association in 1915-17. In 1916 he seconded a proposal for a national soil and feature survey to aid post-war settlement and increase production; to further this campaign he published Story of the Soil (1917).

Campbell's varied interests crystallized around history as he delved into land settlement. He was a council-member of the Royal Australian Historical Society in the 1920s: 'The discovery and early settlement of New England' was the first of twenty-eight papers that he published in its Journal and Proceedings. A reticent man who combined the practical and scientific, Campbell shunned publicity but had 'unflagging zeal and patience' in detailed research. His publications remain a valuable source on early settlement.

Survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter, Campbell died in the Masonic Hospital, Ashfield, on 25 January 1938 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • J. F Campbell, ‘Squatting’ on Crown Lands in New South Wales, B. T. Dowd ed (Syd, 1968)
  • N. C. W. Beadle, Students Flora of North Eastern New South Wales, part 3 (Armidale, 1976)
  • Scottish Australasian, Mar 1916
  • Australian Surveyor, June 1938
  • JRAHS, 24 (1938), and for publications
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26, 27 Jan 1938
  • Walcha News, 28 Jan 1938
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Campbell, John Fauna (1853–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


21 August, 1853
Loch Leven, Kinross-shire, Scotland


25 January, 1938 (aged 84)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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