Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Stephen Hart (1871–1960)

by Lyndsay Farrall

This article was published:

Thomas Stephen Hart (1871-1960), scientist, was born on 30 March 1871 at Caulfield, Melbourne, sixth child of John Hart, a London-born accountant and secretary to the Shire of Caulfield, and his wife Mary Anne Sibella, née Stephen, sister of J. W. Stephen. Thomas's elder brother was John Stephen Hart.

Thomas attended East St Kilda Grammar School and completed his secondary education at John Craig's Toorak College in 1886. He studied at the University of Melbourne, graduating B.A. in 1890 and M.A. in 1892. He was awarded first-class honours in mathematics and natural philosophy and the Wyselaskie scholarship in mathematics. Hart's university studies also included Latin, Greek, comparative philology, mining and engineering. He completed practical requirements for an engineering degree in 1895-96, but did not graduate B.C.E. formally until 1901.

In July 1896 Hart was appointed lecturer in geology, mineralogy, mining and botany as well as curator of the museum at the Ballarat School of Mines which in 1908 conferred on him the title of professor. In May 1913 he was appointed first senior master in charge of the Creswick School of Forestry. He joined the Education Department and became a member of the foundation staff of Footscray Technical School in 1916. The next year he took an appointment at the Bairnsdale School of Mines where he taught mathematical, geological, and botanical subjects. In 1931 he transferred to Brighton Technical School and later that year to the Correspondence School in Melbourne from which he retired in 1936.

Hart had a lifelong interest in science, especially natural history. In 1886-87 he read papers to the Hart family 'Natural History Society and Saturday Club'. In 1887 he joined the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria and in 1894 the Royal Society of Victoria. He was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1901. He attended the congresses of the Australasian and British associations for the advancement of science when they were held in Melbourne. He contributed over fifty papers to the Victorian Naturalist between 1892 and 1954 and ten to the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria between 1899 and 1913, most of them descriptive accounts of botanical and geological features in Victoria. Hart became well known among Australian naturalists for his wide knowledge of Victorian plants about which he carried on a vigorous correspondence with both expert and novice.

He loved cycling and combined this with his favourite recreation of botanical and geological rambles through the Victorian countryside. An orchid which he discovered near Bairnsdale in 1925 was named Prasophyllum Hartii by R. S. Rogers in his honour. He was a foundation and long-serving member of the committee of management for the Lakes National Park at Sperm Whale Head and a member of the Victorian Plant Names Committee of the Field Naturalists' Club.

Hart had married Ethel Jane, daughter of Rev. James Rickard, at Brighton Congregational Church on 14 December 1898. They had no children but adopted three Rickard nephews and a niece. He was an active Christian. While living in Ballarat he was secretary of the Sebastopol Congregational Church and vice-president of Christian Endeavour. In Bairnsdale, where there was no Congregational church, he acted as a Presbyterian lay preacher. Predeceased by his wife in 1940, Hart died at Croydon on 26 June 1960. He was buried in Box Hill cemetery according to Congregational forms.

Select Bibliography

  • M. M. McCallum, Ballarat and District Citizens and Sports at Home and Abroad (Ballarat, 1916)
  • Ballarat School of Mines, Students Magazine, Sept 1899
  • Victorian Naturalist, 77 (1960)
  • Taxon, 23 (1977)
  • Ballarat Courier, 19 Jan 1905
  • Age (Melbourne), 10 Feb 1914, 20 Apr 1929, 27 June 1960
  • Sun-News Pictorial, 27 June 1960
  • Ringwood Mail, 7 July 1960
  • Hart papers (State Library of Victoria and National Herbarium of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

Lyndsay Farrall, 'Hart, Thomas Stephen (1871–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 March, 1871
Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


26 June, 1960 (aged 89)
Croydon, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.