Publication Details

This article was originally published as Organ, MK, "...a small fish in a small pond..." The Reverend W.B. Clarke (1798-1878): 200 Years On [Parts I & II], Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 131, 1998 and 132, 1999.


The Reverend W.B. Clarke remains something of an enigma in the annals of Australian science, despite the publication of numerous books and articles on his life and times. The author argues that this is mainly due to the deficiencies of previous researchers in addressing the full gamut of that Reverend gentleman’s work. Though the basic details of Clarke’s life are clearly known, numerous significant gaps exist in the surviving archive. For example, his personal collection of rocks, fossils, geological maps and library was destroyed in the Garden Palace fire of 1882; his large corpus of work which appeared in Australian newspapers between 1839-78 has only recently been identified; and a collection of personal correspondence awaits ‘translation’ and publication. Until these omissions are addressed, the jury must remain out as to whether W.B. Clarke deserves the title ‘Father of Australian Geology’ or any similar accolade.