Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry George (Harry) Foxall (1884–1966)

by John Atchison

This article was published:

Henry George (Harry) Foxall (1884-1966), engineer and surveyor, was born on 7 October 1884 at St Leonards, Sydney, second son of English-born parents Edward William Foxall, accountant, and his wife Margaret Nerissa, née Dobbie. Named after Henry George, Harry was captain (1900-01) at Fort Street Model School; he remained a keen student of English and Roman history, Shakespeare and the classics. At the University of Sydney (B.E., 1906) he was awarded the Deas Thomson scholarship for geology in 1904, and gained first-class honours in practical metallurgy and assaying next year. Foxall's assistantship with Professor (Sir) Edgeworth David in the geological survey of Newcastle coalfields led to publications on isolated augite crystals at Gerringong and to notes on the microscopic and crystallographic characteristics of pseudomorphglendonites.

After spending four and a half years working in Queensland mines and at a refinery at Port Kembla, New South Wales, he returned to Sydney in 1910 and joined the staff of his uncle, S. R. Dobbie. In 1912 Foxall passed the land surveyors examination. At Port Kembla on 6 November that year he married with Catholic rites Eugenie Mary Hanley (d.1925); they were to have two sons and two daughters. Dobbie took him into partnership in 1914. Foxall's developing expertise and innovatory methods were shown in his publications (1916) on graphical methods to solve survey problems, in his plane table applications to underground exploration and in his use in the 1930s of aerial photography for mining surveying. His work included reports on the prospects of finding oil in Timor (1911) and Papua (1925), on hydro-electric resources on Vita Levu, Fiji (1935), and on the search for oil around Roma, Queensland. When Dobbie retired in 1936, A. J. Lines (d.1959) joined the firm.

From 1917 Foxall had also lectured on surveying, while employed part time at Sydney Technical College; he insisted that his pupils received a solid grounding in mathematics. His lecture notes, illustrated by his pupil Alan Wood during the Depression, were expanded into Foxall's Handbook for Practising Land and Engineering Surveyors (1958). Joint-editor (1919-21) of the Surveyor, he was a councillor (1922-49), president (1924-25 and 1944-46) and an honorary fellow (1949) of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales. He was appointed to the Board of Surveyors of New South Wales in 1929 and in the 1930s was vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Institute.

At St Andrew's Anglican Church on 11 January 1928 Foxall had married a clerk, Margaret Mabel Reeves. An unassuming gentleman of the old school, with sober habits and high principles, he had a keen sense of humour and the ability to talk and debate on many subjects. Madge and Harry sponsored musical evenings at their Chatswood home. A member of Roseville Golf and Elanora Country clubs, he belonged, as well, to bowling clubs at Gordon and Newport. His elder son Geoffrey entered into the partnership in 1959; his younger son Ian was engineer for surveys with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in 1955-61. Harry Foxall died on 22 April 1966 at Mona Vale District Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife and the children of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Surveyor (Sydney), Feb, Dec 1916
  • Australian Surveyor, 14, Sept-Dec 1952, p 85, 21, June 1966, p 821
  • Royal Society New South Wales, Journal and Proceedings, July 1904, p 404
  • Records of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, 8, 1905, p 161
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Feb 1924
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Foxall, Henry George (Harry) (1884–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 October, 1884
St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 April, 1966 (aged 81)
Mona Vale, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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