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Georg Heinrich Friedrich (George Henry Frederick) Ulrich (1830–1900)

by Michael Hoare

This article was published:

Georg Heinrich Friedrich (George Henry Frederick) Ulrich (1830-1900), geologist and mineralogist, was born on 7 July 1830 at Zellerfeld, Upper Harz, Germany, son of Friedrich Engelhard Ulrich, engineer, and his wife Catherine Elisabeth, née Herstall. He was educated at Clausthal at the Königliches Gymnasium, and from 1847 at the Königliche Preussische Bergakademie, graduating 'with distinction' in September 1851. He worked for a short time for the Prussian mines service and, after an attempt to go to Bolivia as a mining superintendent, migrated to Melbourne, arriving in the Wilhelmsburg on 3 August 1853.

Ulrich went to the diggings and prospected at Forest Creek, Daisy Hill, Tarrangower, Bendigo and other fields until 1857 when, through the good offices of Ludwig Becker and F. McCoy he became assistant secretary and draftsman to the royal mining commission. Next year he became field geologist and surveyor to the expanded government Geological Survey. He was naturalized on 29 July 1858 and anglicized his forenames. A meticulous geologist and painstaking cartographer he prepared plans and reports on the goldfields. His quarter sheets, some of them published with Christopher Aplin and Henry Lyell Brown, were among the most accurate work of Alfred Selwyn's staff. In 1864 he was promoted to senior field geologist; in November all his 'moveable property' was destroyed in a bush fire near Maldon.

On leave in 1867-68, Ulrich studied the most recent techniques of ore treatment in central Europe and visited the Paris Universal Exhibition to gather specimens for the proposed Industrial and Technological Museum in Melbourne. Back in Victoria he published a short work on the occurrence and treatment of auriferous lead and silver ores at Chemnitz (Karl-Marx-Stadt). After the disbanding of the Geological Survey in 1869, he was appointed curator of the mineral collection and lecturer in mineralogy at the Industrial and Technological Museum in June next year under James Newbery. He prepared detailed catalogues of the museum's rock and mineralogical specimens. He also became lecturer in mining at the University of Melbourne and continued in private practice as a consulting mining expert. On 31 July 1871 at Christ Church, South Yarra, he married Catherine Sarah Spence of Belfast, Northern Ireland; they had four daughters and three sons, one of whom, Frank Ferdinand Aplin, became a well-known New Zealand surgeon and another, George Henry Roemer, a prominent lawyer.

In 1872 Ulrich published a report for the South Australian government on mineral resources near Port Augusta; he later reported on the Mount Bischoff tin and the Mount Ramsay bismuth mines in Tasmania. In 1875 he visited New Zealand and published, with Professor F. W. Hutton, Report on the Geology & Goldfields of Otago. Ulrich was now one of the foremost petrologists, crystallographers and mineralogists in Australasia. In 1864 he named Maldonite and later, in New Zealand, identified Awaruite. In 1877 he became foundation director of the School of Mines and professor of mining and mineralogy at the University of Otago. He contributed much to New Zealand geology and mineralogy and did valuable work as Hutton's successor in 1878-80 at the Otago Museum.

Ulrich, a Freemason and accomplished amateur singer and musician, was modest and kindly, highly respected throughout Australasia by colleagues and students alike as an industrious, enthusiastic teacher and accurate scientist. He was a fellow of the Geological Society of London, an original member of the Australian Institute of Mining Engineers and a corresponding member of several other colonial learned and Royal societies. Examining rock specimens on Flagstaff Hill, Port Chalmers near Dunedin, on 26 May 1900 he fell 100 feet (30 m) and died later that day. He was buried in the Northern cemetery, Dunedin.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Perry, The Science Museum of Victoria (Melb, 1972)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, Victoria), 1874 (C14)
  • E. J. Dunn and D. J. Mahony, ‘Biographical sketch of the Geological Survey of Victoria’, Victorian Geological Survey, Bulletin, 23 (1910)
  • Otago Daily Times, 11 June 1880, 28, 29 May, 5 June 1900, A. D. McRobie, An Administrative History of the Otago Museum (M.A. thesis, Otago, 1966)
  • Ulrich papers (Hocken Library, Dunedin)
  • Otago University Archives, Dunedin
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Michael Hoare, 'Ulrich, Georg Heinrich Friedrich (George Henry Frederick) (1830–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 July, 1830
Upper Harz, Germany


26 May, 1900 (aged 69)
Port Chalmers, New Zealand

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