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T.G.B. Osborn (1887-1973)
Papers 1908-1968

MSS 0020

Biographical Note

T.G.B. Osborn, 1912T.G.B. Osborn obtained his B.Sc. from the University of Manchester in 1908 with First Class Honours in Botany, and was appointed Lecturer in Economic Botany in the University upon his graduation. The position was renewed in September 1910 with the status of Senior Lecturer. In 1911 he proceeded to the degree of Master of Science, and in February 1912 applied for the position of Professor of Botany at the University of Adelaide, with the support and encouragement of F.E. Weiss, Professor of Botany at Manchester. In May 1912 he was notified of his appointment and took up the position in September.

As the Foundation Professor of Botany at Adelaide Osborn was responsible for establishing the botany course and department, for although Botany had been taught within the Arts degree course from 1877 (as part of biology) and from 1882 as a separate subject within the new Science degree course, it was available only as a single subject, largely devoted to taxonomic work. From 1913 a three year Botany course and an Honours degree in Botany were introduced into the syllabus, and particular compulsory courses in plant pathology and mycology and agricultural botany were also established for students in Agriculture.

The appointment of a Professor in Botany had been made possible by a Government subsidy of £600 p.a., on the understanding that the Professor act as consultant to the Government and undertake investigation of parasitic and other diseases of plants. The appointment was also closely linked with the proposed establishment of courses in forestry. Osborn accordingly was required to act as consulting botanist and vegetable pathologist to the Government and teach forest botany and entomology in addition to his teaching duties in Botany. In July 1916 the Government further proposed that Osborn be appointed Director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens (without salary), but this appointment was vigorously opposed by the Board of Governors of the Gardens, protecting their autonomy rather than objecting to Osborn in particular, and was not taken up.

During his period at Adelaide Osborn developed and pursued research interests in plant ecology and in the primitive lycopod phylloglossum, for which he was awarded the D.Sc. by the University of Manchester in 1920. He was closely involved with the establishment of training and research in agriculture from the time of the original offer of the Urrbrae property by Peter Waite to the University in 1913, and was a member of the Special Council Committee appointed to consider the best means of utilising the gift. In 1921, jointly with Professors Wood-Jones, Cleland and Brailsford Robertson, Osborn proposed the use of Kuitpo Forest under University control for courses and experimentation in forestry, and was also associated with the development of Flinders Chase as a reserve. In 1925, through Osborn's efforts, the pastoral company of Hamilton-Wilcox Ltd. determined to make available a portion of their property Koonamore Station for a reserve to allow the study of arid flora and its regeneration after grazing*.

In 1927 Osborn applied successfully for the position of Professor of Botany at Sydney University, in succession to A.A. Lawson. He remained at Sydney University from January 1928 until appointed Sheradian Professor of Botany at Oxford in 1937, a Chair formerly occupied by A.G. Tansley. While at Sydney Osborn was still able to make regular visits to Koonanmore to continue his research on vegetation regeneration, and published in 1931 and 1935 reports on work done at the Reserve. He also developed a research interest in the vegetation of coastal N.S.W. and in the plants of its higher rainfall area, retaining his emphasis on the ecological aspects of plant life.

At Oxford Osborn's work at Koonamore was inevitably discontinued, and he spent much of his 16 years there planning and raising funds for the redevelopment of the Oxford University Gardens and for a new Botanical Department building, officially opened finally in October, 1951. Osborn retired from Oxford in 1953, and on returning to Australia renewed his association with Adelaide University. He gave a series of lectures to Botany Department students on gymnosperms and prepared a book on the same topic - ultimately never published. He was also appointed in 1959 as Acting Master of St. Mark's College, with the foundation of which he had been closely associated in the 1920's. Following Osborn's death his ashes were scattered at Koonamore on 8 August, 1974, with a memorial service conducted there by his son, the Rev. Peter Osborn, attended by members of the Botany Department.
* Osborn had initially gone to the property to report on soil erosion for Hamilton-Wilcox. The reserve was fenced in July 1925 and a house completed the following April. The first work of establishing the quadrat sites was undertaken by Osborn, T.G. Paltridge, M.R. Jacobs and Osborn's eldest son Peter. A number of subsequent working parties were undertaken by Osborn and other Botany staff and students. Osborn's visits inevitably became less frequent following his appointment to Sydney University late in 1928, but comprehensive mapping and photography and collection of specimens was possible with the appointment of Paltridge as a field officer stationed at Bindyi from april 1928-July 1931 with C.S.I.R. funding.

Contents Listing

Contents Series
Personal documents and correspondence 1-15
Reports, research papers and addresses 16-27
Laboratory, field and lecture notes 28-41
Photographs and drawings 42-47
Papers of Edith May Osborn (Kershaw) 48-49
Miscellaneous notes and publications 50-57
Maps 58-60

See also related material in the papers of Rev. Peter Osborn (MSS 0063 Series 1-2, 7, 14 and 49)

Personal Documents and Correspondence

1.  Personal documents.  1908, 1920, 1935.  2cm.

[Manchester University Degree Day Programme, 1908; Passports for T.G.B.  and E.M. Osborn, 1920 with endorsements to 1936; University of Sydney, Faculty to Arts degree programme, 1935 and letters of introduction for P.G. Osborn, 1935.]

2.  Letters received.  1911-51, 1954.  10cm.

[Arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent. Principally with botanical colleagues and mentors, largely over the period 1912-28. (Refer to supplementary listing of principal correspondents)

3.  Correspondence relating to the Adelaide University Botany Chair.  1912.  1cm.

[Includes original and printed testimonials and letters from colleagues and from the Adelaide University Registrar. For related material, see dockets 202, 280/1912 in the University of Adelaide Archives correspondence files]

4.  Papers relating to the Botany Department and staff appointments.  1912-27.  2cm.

[See also Series 27, notes by Osborn, 1968, on the teaching of Botany at Adelaide up to 1912, principally re the work of E.J. Benham; and Series 16.3, reprints of scientific papers by Adelaide staff 1918-38.]

5.  Correspondence and notes relating to the Directorship of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, with newspaper cuttings and proposals for the Gardens by Osborn.  1916.  3cm.

6.  Correspondence with Manchester University administration re appointment to an Honorary Research Fellowship and award of the D.Sc.  1920.  1cm.

7.  Correspondence re Osborn's application for the Sydney University Botany Chair, and with A.C.D. Rivett, C.S.I.R.O., re the proposed Economic Botany Section of C.S.I.R.O.  1927.  3cm.

8.  Letters of congratulation received on appointment to the Sydney University Botany Chair.  August-November 1927.  2cm.

9.  Correspondence relating to life insurance policy (September 1928-July 1937) and house purchase (August 1937).  1928-37.  1cm.

10.  Correspondence with A.G. Tansley re handbook of Vegetation of Australia, for series of Handbooks of British Empire Vegetation. November 1933-October 1934. 1cm.

11.  Application for Carnegie Grant.  July-September 1934.  1cm.

12.  Letters of acknowledgement from M.B. Crewe, J. Hutchinson and A.S. Watt of Osborn's congratulations on their election to the Royal Society.  March 1947.  1cm.

13.  Letters received from C.D. Darlingron re his intention to apply for the Oxford Chair, and notes by Osborn on staff and their duties, research area and publications, prepared for his successor.  January, February 1953 and undated.  1cm.

14.  Correspondence re references for E.A.C. L.E. Schelpe, Nicholas Polunin, J.H. Burnett, B.N. Bowden and J.H. Chinner.  1955.  2cm.

15.  Letter of congratulation on appointment as Emeritus Professor and the Jubilee of the Botany Department, 1962.  1cm.

Reports, Research Papers and Addresses

16.  Reprints.  1909-61.  18cm.

[1. Scientific papers by T.G.B. Osborn (as sole or joint author) 1909-60.
 2. Obituaries by T.G.B. Osborn 1938-61. (A.J. Ewart 1938, R.W.T. Gunther 1941, R.S. Rogers 1944, J.G. Wood 1923-36, J. Davidson 1938).
 3. Scientific papers by other members of the University of Adelaide 1918-38 (Marjorie Collins 1918, F. Wood Jones 1922, R.S. Adamson 1922, Geoffrey Samuel 1922, J.G. Wood 1923-36, J. Davidson 1938).
 4. Nuyts Archipelago reprints no. 1-15, 18. 1922-25.
 5. List of exchanges, University of Sydney, n.d. (names and addresses of individuals and institutions with whom reprints exchanged).]

17.  Papers re participation in Weed Survey by Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry.  February-March 1919.  1cm.

[List of weeds, schedule, correspondence with Secretary of the State Committee.]

18.  Notes by Osborn on the functions of the Sydney Botanic Gardens.  1937.  1cm.

19.  Annual Reports of Sheradian Professor of Botany, Oxford.  1932-53.  2cm.

20.  Notes, articles and copies of early mss. relating to the establishment and development of Oxford Botanical Gardens.  1942-51 and undated.  3cm.

[Copied material covers the 17th to 19th Century]

21.  Opening address at Opening of New Building, Department of Botany, Oxford, October 1951 with related notes and correspondence.  1951.  1cm.

22.  Paper on Banks; Botanical Discoveries, prepared for Festival of Britain 1951, with notes and related correspondence, and review of H.C. Cameron's biography of Banks.  1950-53.  3cm.

23.  Copy of address at Sydney University Centenary Celebrations given on behalf of the British Universities, with copies of centenary publications and photographs.  1952.  2cm.

24.  Typescript and published copy of address on Rovert Brown 1773-1858, ? given in Adelaide 1958, and related notes and correspondence about its publication in Australian Journal of Science.  1958.  3cm.

25.  Reviews of paper by G. Scurfield and A.B. Wardrop on reaction wood, and of The Eucalupts by A.P. Penfold and J.L. Willis.  n.d. and c.19613  1cm.

27.  Notes on teaching Botany at Adelaide before 1912, with related correspondence about E.J. Benham.  1968.  1cm.

Laboratory, Field and Lecture Notes

28.  Field notebooks.  1924-49.  10v.

[Volume 1 1924 Bindyi to Alice Springs; Volume 2 1927-34 Koonamore, National Park, N.S.W. etc.; Volume 3 February and Octover 1925, August 1936; Volume 4 June-September 1935, May 1937; Volumes 5-6 July-November 1938 Switzerland and England; Volume 7 March-April 1939 Corsica; Volume 8 1943-48 Britain and various; Volume 9 P[hytogeographic] E[xcursion] Ireland July 1949; Volume 10 1949-52, various.]

29.  ? Laboratory notes.  1946-47.  1v.

30.  "Coniferales papers" - notes for lecture series on coniferales, c.1946-58, and ms. draft of book on Coniferales, Chapter I-VII, VIII-XII, undated.  5cm.

31.  Notes, graphs, lists and articles re Australian vegetation (general, and subdivisions for parts of N.S.W. and Victoria).  1937-51 and undated.  4cm.

32.  Notes, photographs and articles re Phylloglossum.  1950-55 and undated.  2cm.

33.  Laboratory notes, drawings and ms. article re Podocarpus Falcatus.  1958-59.  3cm.

34.  Notes on ? cell morphology.  n.d.  2cm.

35.  Notes on O.Enothera fruits.  c.1942.

36.  Notes and drawings re Hydrochasia (dehiscence) in O.Enothera species.  n.d.  1cm.

37.  Notes and photographs re New Forest Valley bogs.  n.d.  2cm.

38.  British Ecological Society papers.  1939-48.  3cm.

[Notes, programme of Summer Excursion 1939 to the New Forest; report 1943 on Nature Conservation and Nature Resources and correspondence with A.G. Tansley on the report; notice of 1948 summer meeting].

39.  Notes, excursion guide and articles on Irish flora and fauna, relating to Phytogeographic Excursion, Ireland, July 1949.  3cm.

40.  Lecture notes.  1945-46 with some later additions.  5cm.

[Include Hons. Lectures on "Fern allies" and "Filicales".]

41.  Course notes, Botany II, Man, Vegetation and Habitat, and Honours Botany.  1950, 1962 and undated.  3cm.

Drawings and Photographs

42.  Phylloglossum drawings.  1917-18.  2cm.

43.  Cycad photographs.  1914-24 and undated.  2cm.

44.  Conifer (and ? ephedra) photographs.  1936 and undated.  1cm.

45.  Drawings of Bowenia by E.M. Kershaw, n.d. and of germinating seedlings, July, September 1921.  1cm.

[Bowenia drawings prepared for paper "Structure and Development of the Ovule of Bowenia Spectabilis" published by E.M. Kershaw (Mrs. Osborn) in 1912.]

46.  Photograph of vegetation (various), including those used as plates for articles by Osborn and Ademson, 1922. Undated.  3cm.

47.  Photographs, negatives and slides.  c.1912-68.  1m.

[An indication of the principal locations is appended]

Papers of Edith May Osborn (Kershaw)

48.  Correspondence re appointment as Evening Lecturer, 1926 and Lecturer (proposed) in W.E.A. course.  1926-27.  1cm.

49.  Reprints 1909-10, 1912.  4cm.
See also Series 1 and 45.

Miscellaneous Notes and Publications

50.  Typescript article on Corsica.  n.d.  1cm.

[Possibly by Osborn - identified "Department of Botany, Oxford University". Osborn visited Corsica in 1939.]

51.  Notes re Waite Arboretum by C.M. Eardley and D.E. Symon.  1956-58.  1cm.

52.  Reprint by J. Burtt Davy, contribution to discussion "Correlation of Taxonomic Work in the Dominions and Colonies with Work at Home" at Imperial Botanical Conference, July 1924.  1cm.

53.  Article by H.K.C. Mair "On the Plant Pathology of the Coastal Lagoon and Swamps from Port Jackson to the Hunter River".  1931.  3cm. (a Botany IV Project - typescript)

54.  Notes on Australian Grasslands by William Davies, 1933 and on African Veldt Grass, undated.  1cm.

55.  Institute of Biology Bulletin, circulars and publications and letter of invitation to Osborn to become a Fellow.  1950-53, July 1963.  3cm.

56.  Copy of act 1364/1919, to establish a Reserve on Kangaroo Island.  1cm.

57.  Pamphlets: Opening of The New Botanical Laboratories, University of Manchester, 1911; Opening of the New Chemical Laboratories, University of Manchester, 1909; University of Sydney, New Building for Botany School 1925; University of Oxford, New Building for Department of Botany, 1951.  5 items.]


58.  Sketch maps showing Eucalyptus distributions in N.S.W. , Victoria and S.A.  n.d.  2cm.

59.  Maps of National Park, N.S.W.; Central-Southern and North-Eastern Tourist districts of N.S.W.; Ecological map, 90 Mile Plain (S.A.)

60.  Catalogue of maps, University of Adelaide Map Library and Geography Department 1964-65.  2cm.

Supplementary Listing of Principal Correspondents - Series 2

  • Adamson, R.S.  1921-24, 1927
  • (includes letter of support for Osborn's application for the Sydney Chair of Botany, 1927)
  • Bowen, F.O.  1914-25
  • Blackman, V.H.  1911, 1921
  • Collins, Marjorie  1920, 1923
  • (see also Series 4)
  • Compton, R.H.  1913-21
  • Cockayne, L.  1912-14
  • Cannon, W.A.  1918, 1921
  • Cavers, F.  1913-15
  • Dakin, W.J.  1914-17, 1921
  • David, T.W. Edgeworth  1920
  • Ewart, A.J.  1912-13
  • Fiddes, Edward  1913, 1921
  • Hawkins, Herbert (L.?)  1913-24
  • Hill, Arthur  1923, 1925
  • Kellaway, Charles  1921 and undated
  • Lang, William H.  1911-44
  • (see also Series 3)
  • Lamb, Horace  1912
  • Lawson, A. Anstruther  1913-19
  • Murray, G.J.R.  1917, 1924
  • Oliver, T.W.  1912, 1931, 1940
  • Pear, T.H.  1914
  • Pethybridge, Geo.  1911
  • Pulleine, R.H.  1920
  • Rutherford, E.  1925
  • Rogers, R.S.  1912
  • Rendle, A.B.  1915, 1919
  • Rodway, L.  1912, 1916-17
  • Spencer, W. Baldwin  1915, 1918
  • Samuel, Geoffrey  1923
  • Tansley, A.G.  1913, 1924-25, 1950
  • (see also Series 10)
  • Tattersall, W.M.  1914, 1921-23
  • Watson, D.M.S.  1911-20
  • Wood, J.G.  1925
  • (see also Series 4)
  • Weiss, F.E.  1910-26, 1948
  • (includes testimonial in favour of Osborn for the Adelaide Chair of Botany, 1911)

Plus a collection of letters of thanks for copies of Osborn's article on the Oxford Botanic Garden in Endeavour, 1950-51.

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