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Julius Frederick Valentine Knight (1909–1986)

by John Atchison

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Julius Frederick Valentine Knight (1909-1986), surveyor, was born on 16 June 1909 at Drouin, Victoria, son of Frederick John Gregory Knight, engineer’s fitter, and his wife May, née Dobson, both Victorian born. He attended primary schools at Swan Hill, South Melbourne and South Yarra, Melbourne Junior Technical School (1921-23) and, on a scholarship, the Working Men’s College (1924). In February 1925 he started work with Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd.

Developing an interest in surveying, `Jule’ was indentured to Frank Doolan and licensed on 16 June 1930, becoming one of the youngest qualified surveyors; the previous November he had been elected a member of the Victorian Institute of Surveyors. When planning of the Ray of Light for Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance was deputed to the government astronomer Dr Joseph Baldwin and the surveying firm of Doolan & Goodchild, Knight’s calculations in 1931 positioned the floor plate and roof slit to ensure that the sun would shine on the Stone of Remembrance at 11 a.m. on 11 November each year. He worked in and around Melbourne, as well as at Warrnambool, where on 22 December 1934 at Christ Church he married with Anglican rites Martha Mary (`Mollie’) Moore.

After a brief stint in 1937 as a mining surveyor at Norseman, Western Australia, Knight was appointed chief surveyor of Lake George Mines Ltd at Captains Flat, New South Wales. In 1939 he joined the Department of the Interior, Canberra. He defined various wartime defence facilities in the States and the Northern Territory, including a 100-mile (161 km) section of the Stuart Highway. Postwar surveys included the rocket range at Woomera, South Australia. In Canberra he surveyed residential subdivisions, and worked on topographical and engineering projects. As chief development officer from 1952, he helped to effect the transfer of Melbourne-based departments. The establishment in 1957 of the National Capital Development Commission altered his duty statement, but he retained control of leases of land for business, industries and embassies. He brought to this responsibility a reputation for meticulous detail. His quiet and modest but resolute and ethical character, combined with a sharp memory, won respect, as did his generosity in sharing knowledge with subordinates.

Following his retirement in 1969, Knight worked part time for both the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority and the Australian National University. Joining the staff of the registrar, property and plans, at the ANU, he drew on his vast knowledge of planning and regulatory requirements. He was retained as a consultant until his death.

A foundation member of the Canberra division of the Institution of Surveyors, Australia, Knight was elected president (1963) and a fellow (1964). He was a member of the Royal Australian Planning Institute. His knowledge of the development of the national capital enriched the Canberra and District Historical Society. Belonging for almost forty years to the Royal Canberra Golf Club, he relished his win in 1985 of the Scrivener Cup. He was also a keen gardener. Julius Knight died on 12 November 1986 in Canberra and was cremated; his wife and their two daughters and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Russell, We Will Remember Them (1991)
  • Canberra Times, 1 Dec 1986, p 11
  • ANU Reporter, 12 Dec 1986, p 7
  • Australian Surveyor, Mar 1987, p 457
  • private information.

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Citation details

John Atchison, 'Knight, Julius Frederick Valentine (1909–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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