Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur Wade (1878–1951)

by T. G. Vallance

This article was published:

Arthur Wade (1878-1951), geologist, was born on 12 November 1878 at Halifax, Yorkshire, England, son of Samuel Wade, master butcher, and his wife Sarah, née Gathercole. From school at Isleworth, London, he went to the Royal College of Science (University of London) and won its Murchison medal and prize (1903). He taught geology at the Liverpool Municipal Technical School and in 1906 was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of London. In 1909 he was appointed a senior demonstrator at the Royal School of Mines, London. Having worked in Egypt on the geology of petroleum, he graduated D.Sc. (1911) from the University of London and pioneered the teaching of that subject at the Imperial College of Science and Technology.

In 1913 Wade was recommended to the Australian government to further the search for oil in Papua where inspections by J. E. Carne and the government geologist E. R. Stanley had encouraged the decision to sponsor a survey. Wade produced his Report on Petroleum in Papua in 1914 and visited the Territory intermittently until 1919. As director of oilfields, he reported on petroleum prospects for the Commonwealth government between 1915 and 1919 when he resigned to become an industrial consultant. In 1920-24 he worked in Africa, North America and Australia; later, based in London, he shifted his attention to southern Europe and Poland. On 29 January 1924 at Pace Baptist Church, Mississippi, United States of America, he had married Mayme Lou Souter.

Resuming his antipodean career with the Freney Kimberley Oil Co. in 1933, Wade made his most significant contributions to Australian geology. Over the next two years, with rarely more than a surveyor and a couple of assistants, he used innovative aerial reconnaissance combined with ground traverses to cover much of the Canning Basin in Western Australia. He systematically recorded its stratigraphy and found evidence in the basin of ancient barrier reefs of Devonian age. With the petrologist R. T. Prider, he also studied leucite-bearing volcanic rocks in the West Kimberley area. A member (1936) of the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee and successor to W. G. Woolnough as chairman (1938), in 1940 Wade became geological adviser to the Shell (Queensland) Development Co. of Australia. During World War II he served on the staff of the United States Army, South-West Pacific Area (1943-44), and with Allied Intelligence (1944-46). He was a freeman of the city of London, and a councillor and fellow of the Institute of Petroleum.

An erudite and fluent writer, Wade contributed many papers to scientific journals. He also wrote poetry: his Vagabond Verse (Melbourne, 1917, 1918, Brisbane, 1947) was said to have been first published without his knowledge. In addition he claimed authorship of the Borneo Book for Servicemen (c.1944).

A man 'notably equable in temperament', kind, considerate and a good companion, Wade yet had 'all the tenacity of purpose and bluntness of a true Yorkshireman'. He died on 8 April 1951 after a heart attack while surfing at Mermaid Beach, Queensland, and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did their son and daughter after whom the volcanic Mounts Cedric and Gytha in the West Kimberley are named. The mineral wadeite is named after their father.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Government Mining Journal, 20 Mar 1951
  • American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Bulletin, 35, 1951, p 2643
  • Geological Society of London, Quarterly Journal, 107, 1952, p lxi
  • Earth Sciences History, vol 6, no 2, 1987, p 159
  • private information.

Citation details

T. G. Vallance, 'Wade, Arthur (1878–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 November, 1878
Halifax, Yorkshire, England


8 April, 1951 (aged 72)
Mermaid Beach, Queensland, Australia

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