History of the School

The University of Sydney appointed its first teacher in the discipline of Geology and Geophysics in December 1866, when A.M. Thomson arrived from London to take up his duties as Reader in Geology and Mineralogy. Originally taught as a component of a course in Natural Science, Geology became a subject in its own right in about 1875, with Archibald Liversidge as Professor. Australia's oldest Department of Geology was established in 1893 with T.W. Edgeworth David as Professor of Geology and Physical Geography (1893-1924). The first student to graduate as a Bachelor of Science, with Firsts in Mineralogy and Geology, did so in 1894. Many of Australia's venerated and famous geologists were either trained by David, (Sir Douglas Mawson, Leo Cotton, Griffith Taylor, and C.E. Tilley) or influenced by their contact with him (Sam Carey, Alan Voisey, and Germaine Joplin), during his long association with the Department that lasted until his death in 1934.

David's influence spread wider than just geology and geophysics however. He was an enthusiastic supporter of geography and advocated strongly for the existence of a free-standing department of geography at the university.

Thus it was that in 1920 Edgeworth David's ex-student, good friend and colleague Thomas Griffith Taylor was appointed as the foundation head of the University of Sydney's Department of Geography, the first in the country. Coming from the Commonwealth Weather Service, Griffith Taylor had already established himself as a physical geographer of some note, especially through his work in Antarctica alongside the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott. His stewardship of the Department lasted until 1928 when Marie Bentivoglio, the first Australian woman to receive a scholarship to Oxford, assumed the position of Head.

A Professorial Chair of Geophysics was established in 1949 and the name of the Department of Geology was changed to the Department of Geology and Geophysics by resolution of the University Senate in 1954. The Department of Geology & Geophysics was combined with the Department of Geography in 1998, to form the School of Geosciences.


Madsen Building, School of Geosciences