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Norman William Jolly (1882–1954)

by N. B. Lewis

This article was published:

Norman William Jolly (1882-1954), forester, was born on 5 August 1882 at Mintaro, South Australia, son of Henry Dickson Jolly, storekeeper, and his wife Annie, née Lathlean. Educated at Mintaro State School, Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, (where he was dux) and the University of Adelaide (B.Sc., 1901), he taught at Townsville Grammar School, Queensland, before proceeding to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1904 as South Australia's first Rhodes Scholar. His sporting ability matched his intellectual brilliance: he played A-grade cricket, rowed in the Adelaide university eight and three times represented South Australia in Australian Rules football. After graduating B.A. from Oxford with a first in natural science (1907) he studied under (Sir) William Schlich, and briefly in Europe, to obtain the Oxford diploma of forestry. He joined the Indian Forest Service in Burma in 1907 but returned to Australia in 1909 to teach at Geelong Church of England Grammar School.

Next year, as instructor in forestry for the South Australian Department of Woods and Forests, Jolly founded the first course in higher forestry training in Australia; he was also assistant conservator of forests in 1911. On 18 August at Parkside Methodist Church he married a widow, Mary Clyatt Gellert, née Colebatch, and that month moved to Queensland as director of forests, remaining there until 1918 when he became one of the forestry commissioners in New South Wales. An appointment as the first professor of forestry at the University of Adelaide followed in 1925. However, when that school was closed after the formation of the Australian Forestry School by the Commonwealth government in 1926, Jolly resigned to return to New South Wales as sole forestry commissioner. He retired in October 1933 with impaired health after continual conflicts with the government over policy, and returned to Adelaide. In 1937 Jolly undertook consultancy work with New Zealand Perpetual Forests Ltd and in 1939 he became forestry consultant to the South Australian Woods and Forests Department and a member of the South Australian Forestry Board. He was elected an honorary member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia in 1953.

Reticent about his personal achievements, Jolly commanded the enduring respect of students and subordinates. He is credited with the establishment of proper forest management in Queensland and his 'Silvicultural notes on forest trees in Queensland' and 'The structure and identification of Queensland woods', published by the Public Lands Department in 1917, were pioneering technical forestry publications in that State. The authorship of the first manual of Australian silviculture, published by the Forest Commission of New South Wales in 1920, is also attributed to Jolly. Yet he was a reluctant author and his sixteen papers do not fully indicate his contribution to Australian forestry. Regrettably he restricted publication of his adaptation to South Australian conditions of German mensuration work on the volume line theory to internal manuscript only, although that work was the corner-stone of South Australia's subsequent high international standing in the forecasting and management of the yield from plantation forests.

Jolly's outstanding characteristic was his professional integrity; in all matters of administrative judgement he was first and foremost a forester. This led, on the one hand, to implementation of sound forestry practice in both Eucalyptus forests and Pinus plantations, and, on the other, to some difficulty in compromising over conjoint matters.

Jolly died in Adelaide of pyelonephritis on 18 May 1954 and was cremated; he was survived by a daughter. In 1954 the Institute of Foresters established the N. W. Jolly medal as its highest award and in 1957 a cairn to his memory was unveiled in a 180 ft (55 m) high stand of virgin Eucalyptus microcorys (tallow wood) in Moonpar State Forest, near Dorrigo, New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • N. B. Lewis, A Hundred Years of State Forestry (Adel, 1975)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1933-34, p 383
  • Australian Forestry, 17 (1953), no 2, p 31
  • Empire Forestry Review, 33 (1954), no 3, p 200
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 1 July 1904, 19 May 1954
  • Observer (Adelaide), 19 Sept, 3 Oct 1925
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 Sept 1933
  • private information.

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Citation details

N. B. Lewis, 'Jolly, Norman William (1882–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 July 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

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