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Ralph Tate 
Lecture notes on Geology, c.1890's

MSS 0016


Born in Northumberland, England, Tate received early instruction in geology from his uncle, George Tate, a well known naturalist. A gifted student, by 1861 Tate had been hired to teach natural science at the Philosophical Institution in Belfast, where he also founded the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club, drew up a flora of Belfast and a descriptive list of Irish liasic fossils. In 1864 he became assistant curator of the Geological Society, London, and began to write papers on palaeontology and botany. In 1867 he went on exploring expeditions to Nicaragua and Venezuela. On his return he held teaching positions at the mining schools at Bristol, Darlington, and Redcar, and in the early 1870s published his Rudimentary Treatise on Geology and A Class-book of Geology.

In 1875 Tate was appointed Inaugural Elder Professor of Natural Science at the University of Adelaide, and energetically began teaching botany, zoology and geology, as well as undertaking field studies.

Tate founded the Philosophical Society (which was to become the Royal Society of South Australia) and encouraged members to send in original papers, himself contributing nearly 100 to its Transactions and Proceedings. He played an important role in the professionalization of Australian science through his leadership of institutions such as Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, support of field studies, and teaching at the University.

In 1882 he went to the Northern Territory and made a valuable report on its geological and mineralogical characteristics, and in 1894 was a member of the Horn expedition to Central Australia, writing the palaeontology report, and co-writing the reports for geology and botany. In 1890 he had published his Handbook of the Flora of Extratropical South Australia, the first publication of its kind and a valuable resource for future botanical studies in South Australia.

Tate had a remarkably diverse knowledge of science, a fine critical sense, and a passion for accuracy. He was the most distinguished botanist of his day in South Australia, a good zoologist, and an excellent palaeontologist and geologist and published widely in many areas.

He paid a visit to England at the end of 1896, partly for the good of his health, but early in 1901 it began to fail again and he died on 20 September of that year.


2 Lecture Notebooks

  • Volume 1 – Geology Notebook. Includes 16 loose pages of notes.
  • Volume 2 – Palaeontology Notebook. Includes 17 loose pages of notes, some on Botany


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