Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Hosking (1877–1971)

by Chris Clark

This article was published:

Richard Hosking (1877-1971), physicist and teacher, was born on 1 May 1877 at Ballarat East, Victoria, fifth child of Cornish-born parents Martin Hosking, missionary, and his wife Sarah, née Richards. In 1894 Richard entered Queen's College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1909; D.Sc., 1913); he was awarded the Kernot research scholarship in natural philosophy in 1899. Three years later he proceeded to the University of Cambridge (B.A., 1904) as an 1851 Exhibition research scholar in physics. Back in Melbourne, he lectured in science while continuing his studies; his D.Sc. was awarded for a thesis on the viscosity of water.

On 6 December 1905 Hosking had married Lilian Mary Florence Preston at the Palmerston Street Methodist Church, North Carlton. Physics and mechanics master at Sydney Grammar School from 1906, he contributed several articles to scientific journals. In March 1911 he was appointed professor of physics at the newly established Royal Military College, Duntroon, Federal Capital Territory. A neat, trim man who sported a moustache, he was remembered by his students principally for the clarity of his lectures. In early 1914 he agreed to preside over a science club begun by the cadets, but the venture foundered due to disruptions caused by World War I. During the Christmas vacation he assisted Professor (Sir) Thomas Lyle in the measurement of gauges made in Australia and used for testing locally produced shell-cases.

Retrenched in December 1922 as a result of severe reductions in the staff at Duntroon, in the following year Hosking obtained the post of senior master at Melbourne High School where he taught physics and mathematics. He also lectured in natural philosophy and had charge of laboratory classes at the university in the evenings. In January 1924 he took up a new position with the Royal Australian Air Force as science instructor.

Hosking taught aerodynamics, meteorology, air pilotage and wireless telegraphy to students at No.1 Flying Training School, Point Cook. He later organized classes for airmen about to sit examinations required for promotion and introduced tutorials for all ranks. In 1926 he was elected a fellow of the Institute of Physics, London. The air force expanded during the 1920s and he found his workload increasing. His title was changed to education officer and part of his time was spent at R.A.A.F. Headquarters, Melbourne. Officers were appointed to assist him in 1936 and he was elevated to principal education officer at headquarters.

Taking furlough before his formal retirement in May 1939, Hosking embarked with his wife on an extended overseas tour. In World War II he worked successively as a physicist at the Munitions Supply Laboratories, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, as a consultant to J. W. Handley Pty Ltd, manufacturers of military optical equipment, and, in an honorary capacity, with the R.A.A.F.'s Directorate of Technical Services.

In his final retirement he lived at Elsternwick. Survived by his wife and three sons, he died on 17 May 1971 at Brighton and was cremated. As an army and air force educationist, he had been one of a small number of civilians who made a significant impression on the defence forces before World War II.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Lee, Duntroon (Canb, 1952)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, Duntroon (Syd, 1986)
  • R. E. Frost, RAAF College and Academy 1947-86 (Canb, 1991)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 9 Nov 1938
  • Age (Melbourne), 20 May 1971
  • private memoir (privately held).

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Hosking, Richard (1877–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 13 June 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]


1 May, 1877
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


17 May, 1971 (aged 94)
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.