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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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King, Haddon Rymer Forrester (1905–1990)

by D. F. Branagan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Haddon Rymer Forrester King (1905-1990), geologist, was born on 4 February 1905 in Georgetown, British Guiana, son of George Forrester King and his wife Jessie Ann, née Kingsland. He began his career as a surveyor’s assistant on the Geological Survey of British Guiana in 1926 under the supervision of H. J. C. (Terence) Conolly, and obtained his surveyor’s licence in 1929. Moving to Canada, he studied mining engineering at the University of Toronto (B.A.Sc., 1934) and gained experience in mineral exploration in the Timmins and Sudbury regions, working with Conolly.

In 1934 King was invited to join the newly formed Western Mining Corporation Ltd in Western Australia `to apply the latest ideas in geology, geophysics, geochemistry and aerial photography to the scientific search for new mineral deposits’, collaborating with American consultants. He became senior geologist in 1936. Research at Norseman revealed a repetition of the original gold ore body, increasing the life of the mine by more than fifty years. He married Noreen Sheahan (d.1965), an accountant, on 19 January 1937 at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Perth.

On 8 April 1942 King was called up for full-time duty in the Militia. Serving with the Australian Army Ordnance Corps (later the Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) in Western Australia, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in May. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in October and was promoted to captain in January 1943. Posted to the 12th Advanced Workshop, he served on Bougainville from October 1944 to December 1945. His AIF appointment terminated on 18 January 1946.

That year King was appointed chief geologist of the Zinc Corporation Ltd at Broken Hill, New South Wales. He moved to Melbourne in 1953 as chief geologist at Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd. In 1962, when the company became part of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, he was made director of exploration. He oversaw the discovery and development of the vast iron deposits in the Hamersley Range, Western Australia, and the Panguna copper deposit on Bougainville. From 1965 he also chaired the Baas Becking Geobiological Laboratory. Retiring in 1970, he continued to work as a consultant. On 16 August 1969 at the Collins Street Independent Church, Melbourne, he had married with Congregational forms Eleonore Umbach, a secretary.

King’s major contribution to mining geology came from his recognition that the Broken Hill ore body, and other similar deposits worldwide, originated as sedimentary layers of metals, rather than later replacements from metallic solutions. Although King was supported in his work by some colleagues, the concept initially `raised fierce opposition’ in both Australia and North America. Over the following twenty years it gained wide acceptance, based on Lourens Baas Becking’s evidence of deposition of ore sulphides by bacteria in sea water. King’s ideas are encapsulated in a book of essays, The Rocks Speak (1989).

A shy man, Haddon King was renowned for his quiet, thoughtful, positive response to people’s ideas, although he was not afraid to criticise academic conservatism. He received many awards: the Penrose medal of the Society of Economic Geologists (1970), the (William Branwhite) Clarke medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1972), the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy medal (1973), an honorary D.Sc. from the University of New England (1975), an honorary fellowship of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, London (1975), and the W. R. Browne medal of the Geological Society of Australia (1984). Survived by his wife and the two daughters and son of his first marriage, he died on 11 March 1990 at Kippa-Ring, Brisbane, and was cremated with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • AusIMM Bulletin, no 3, 1990, p 43
  • Economic Geology, vol 86, no 2, 1991, p 460
  • Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, vol 124, 1991, p 85
  • King papers (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

D. F. Branagan, 'King, Haddon Rymer Forrester (1905–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 14 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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