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Robert Eliah Vallis (1887–1954)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Eliah Close Vallis

Robert Eliah Vallis (1887-1954), naturalist, and Eliah Close Vallis (1890-1965), entomologist, were born on 17 June 1887 at Emerald, Queensland, and 19 February 1890 at Westwood, third and fourth of five children of English-born parents Eliah Close Vallis, railway inspector, and his second wife Amy Edith, née Hansom, late Edwards. Both of their parents had children by previous marriages. The brothers attended North Rockhampton State School. Fond of the bush, they continued to educate themselves in natural history. They collected birds' eggs as schoolboys before progressing to butterflies and beetles. Bob and Close began collecting insects in the nearby Berserker Range, on North Keppel Island and in the central coastal areas, and learned the skills required to preserve and mount their specimens. In time they extended their endeavours to the rainforests of North Queensland.

Bob worked as a labourer. On 26 January 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served (from November) on the Western Front with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion. After losing the second, third and fourth fingers of his right hand in an accident in August 1917, he was sent home and discharged from the A.I.F. on 23 January 1918. At St Barnabas's Church of England, North Rockhampton, on 16 June 1919 he married Mildred Honor Bainbridge; they were to remain childless. Bob took a job with the railways, but suffered chronic ill health and was unable to make arduous bush treks in his later life. He set aside a room in his North Rockhampton home as a natural history museum. He also collected artefacts from North America and from New Guinea. In 1948, with his brother Close, he helped to found the Rockhampton and District Field Naturalists Club. They rarely missed a meeting or an excursion, and taught young people about nature. That they lived only a few doors from one another enabled them to compare their entomological specimens. Bob Vallis died of a coronary occlusion on 17 October 1954 at North Rockhampton and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife survived him.

Close worked for the Lakes Creek meatworks as a maintenance carpenter. On 7 January 1929 at St Barnabas's he married Agnes Elizabeth Bainbridge, Mildred's sister. Claiming that the State had some of the finest butterflies in the world, he spent his annual holidays collecting in North Queensland. He believed that the best way to obtain perfect specimens was to propagate them: 'capture the caterpillar and feed him till he pupates into [a] chrysalis'. Beetles and dragonflies proved less troublesome. Two new species that he discovered were named after him: a dragonfly, Phasmosticta vallisi (1955), and a beetle, Stigmodera (Castiarina) vallisii (1964).

Survived by his wife and their daughter, Close Vallis died on 26 May 1965 in his home and was cremated. That year Livingstone Shire Council named a park on Bluff Hill, Yeppoon, after him. The butterflies and beetles from the brothers' collections were donated to the Queensland Museum and the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens.

Select Bibliography

  • Entomologist's Monthly Magazine, 91, Sept 1955
  • Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, 89, 1964, p 128
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 20 Oct 1954, 19 July 1989
  • private information.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Vallis, Robert Eliah (1887–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 June, 1887
Emerald, Queensland, Australia


17 October, 1954 (aged 67)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

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