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Charles Gould (1834–1893)

by Maxwell R. Banks and M. L. Yaxley

This article was published:

Charles Gould (1834-1893), geological surveyor, was born on 4 June 1834 in England, son of John and Elizabeth Gould. After graduating from the University of London (B.A., 1853), he won the Duke of Cornwall's exhibition at the Royal School of Mines in 1854 and a Board of Trade certificate with many first-class passes in 1856. He then travelled with his father in eastern North America early in 1857, worked with the Geological Survey of Great Britain and left for Hobart Town on 12 April 1859. His initial contract at £600 a year with travelling expenses was to make a geological survey and prepare a book on the geology of Tasmania. The contract, first offered on the recommendation of Sir Roderick Murchison, was renewed several times. His surveys covered much of the colony and added greatly to geographical knowledge of western Tasmania. He named peaks along the West Coast Range after contemporary English scientists. He also served as a coal commissioner from March 1862 to June 1867, as a gold commissioner of the western district in 1862 and a magistrate of the territory.

Gould's wide experience, careful observation and well-developed stratigraphic and structural senses led to the first establishment of the order and correlation of Ordovician to Lower Devonian rocks over much of Tasmania, to the correct deduction of the succession of Permian and Triassic coals and Jurassic dolerite and to the suggestion of mining for coal under dolerite sills as along the Mount Nicholas Range, the development of which he strongly urged. The first recognition of glacial deposits in Tasmania was his. His strategy in looking for gold was sound and economical and his results, though negative, still stand. He tried to make the public aware of the dangers of relying too much on analyses of single samples.

An impression of incompleteness is conveyed by his reports and papers; something more or better soon was a common promise and the colonial secretary did not always get the reports when he wanted them. Another area of continuing tension was that of the function of the Survey: Gould wanted a regional geological survey and the secretary a mineral prospecting unit, preferably one for gold; but the final compromise was rather closer to Gould's stand. Combined with these difficulties, the depressed finances of the colony in 1868-74 probably led to the lapse of Gould's contract in August 1869. Gould then seems to have acted as a geological consultant and land surveyor in Tasmania, the Bass Strait islands and New South Wales where he was licensed as a surveyor on 29 January 1873. While in Tasmania he was actively interested in its Royal Society and the fauna and flora. He left Tasmania late in 1873 and seems to have returned to London where he stayed until at least June 1874. From 1880 he travelled in Burma, Singapore, Siam, Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan, apparently advising on mining properties. He also collected ornithological specimens and material for his Mythical Monsters (London, 1886), a rather credulous book, the culmination of an interest extending at least as far back as his Tasmanian days. He returned to Europe early in 1889 but soon sailed to Buenos Aires. He travelled in South America until he died, probably unmarried, in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 15 April 1893.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell (Melb, 1954)
  • Government Gazette (New South Wales), 29 Jan 1873
  • C. P. Whitley, ‘John Gould's Associates’, Emu, Oct 1938, vol 38, part 2, Oct 1938, pp 141-67
  • ‘Charles Gould to John Gould’, Victorian Naturalist, vol 56, no 6, Oct 1939, pp 99-101
  • A. H. Chisholm, ‘Mrs John Gould and Her Relatives’, Emu, vol 40, part 5, Apr 1941, pp 337-54
  • Mercury (Hobart), 14 May 1862
  • Colonial Secretary's letters (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • private information.

Citation details

Maxwell R. Banks and M. L. Yaxley, 'Gould, Charles (1834–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1834


15 April, 1893 (aged 58)
Montevideo, Uruguay

Cultural Heritage

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