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BENJAMIN DUNSTAN, QUEENSLAND GEOLOGIST, ASSAYER, PUBLIC SERVANT

The postcard had two Queensland QV stamps, a green ½d and an orange 1d ‘Four Corners’, both with the ‘OS’ perfin. They were postmarked with a roller cancel BRISBANE/ ( ). JUL. 12. 6-PM / QUEENSLAND, and it was addressed to The Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. America (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The reverse was headed Geological Survey of Queensland, Brisbane, 15th July, 1912 and the contents were: The Receipt of the undermentioned Donation to the Library of the Geological Survey of Queensland is gratefully acknowledged. B. DUNSTAN, Government Geologist. Bulletin of the Wisconsin Natural History Society Vol. 9 No 4, October 1911 (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Benjamin Dunstan, geologist was born on 8 July 1864 at Vaughan, Victoria, son of Benjamin Dunstan, a Cornish miner, and his wife Hannah. He showed an early interest in geology by collecting sand samples from Brighton beach and taking them to the University of Melbourne. He was believed to have attended the Bendigo School of Mines, and he was later an evening student at Sydney Technical College, graduating in 1887 with honours in geology, mineralogy and mining. After graduation, he was employed by Cox & Seaver, consulting civil and mining engineers of Sydney, as assayer and draughtsman. On 27 December 1893 at St Paul's Anglican Church he married Ada May Wright.


Dunstan succeeded S. H. Cox as lecturer in geology, mineralogy and mining at Sydney Technical College, probably in 1891; he also acted as consulting geologist to the Australian Agricultural Co., Newcastle. He resigned in 1897 to join the Geological Survey of Queensland as assistant geologist, under Robert Jack. Appointed acting government geologist on 1 July 1902, he was not confirmed until 1908; his title was altered to chief government geologist in 1915. The range of Dunstan's geological interests was very broad. He investigated and made considerable collections of fossils from the Mesozoic rocks of the Sydney area. In Queensland he investigated the geology of central and northern Queensland, the coal deposits of the Dawson, Bowen, Styx and Burrum areas; and, the Anakie sapphire field and the Clermont and Croydon mineral fields. He prepared detailed geological maps of the Gympie goldfield and three editions of the geological map of Queensland.

Dunstan both wrote and illustrated the section on Coleoptera in Tillyard's paper of 1923; he was also the author of an important series of articles on Queensland's industrial minerals (1920-21). Undoubtedly his best known work was the compilation of the monumental Queensland Mineral Index (Brisbane, 1913). He completed work of 18,000 entries included details of mineral fields with references to geological reports, coloured geological maps, mineral production statistics, with bore details, and coal analyses. The amount and diversity of Dunstan's work is remarkable when his administrative duties are considered. He initiated many changes within the Survey to improve efficiency, established a proper reference library and reorganized the format of official publications. He worked tirelessly to build up the Survey despite being hampered by lack of staff. After 1908 numbers improved, until by 1914, the 'heyday of Dunstan's rule', the Survey promised to be an outstanding institution. World War I, however, brought about a disheartening fragmentation and he never seemed to recover his earlier enthusiasm.


Dunstan believed strongly in the administration of technical departments by technical persons and advocated the establishment of a geological and mining museum. Involved with many official organizations and conferences on geology, geophysics, artesian water and technical education, he was responsible for what may have been the first use of aerial photography for geological purposes in Australia, photographing, and producing a photographic mosaic of six sq. miles (16 km²) of the newly discovered Mount Isa mineral field in 1924. His strongly worded recommendations played a significant part in the decision to build the strategic railway line from Duchess to Mount Isa.


In the late 1920s Dunstan became convinced of the value of geophysical methods in mineral exploration; in 1928-29 he went to Germany to investigate methods used by the Elbof Geophysical Co. and also visited Poland, Romania, Britain and the United States of America. Unfortunately, his compulsory retirement from the Public Service on 31 January 1931 prevented any real implementation of his findings. He then became a consultant for the Commonwealth government in New Guinea and for private companies.
A small man, with great personal charm, Dunstan was a fellow of Sydney Technical College and of the Geological Society of London. He was a connoisseur of gemstones, a photographer and water-colour artist and was interested in music. He died of cancer on 2 September 1933 at Toowong, survived by his wife and by one son and three daughters. He was buried in Toowong cemetery.

The Public Museum of Milwaukee was chartered in 1882, but the Museum’s roots reached back to 1851, with the founding of the German-English Academy in Milwaukee by Peter Engelmann who stressed learning directly from objects. By 1857, the collections size prompted Engelmann to organize a natural history society. A newly formed Board of Trustees hired Carl Doerflinger, rented 3000 feet of space for exhibits and offices in the Industrial Exposition Building and opened the museum to the public in May 1884. Due to ill health he resigned in 1888 but he promoted the purchase of land on which was built both the Public Museum and the Public Library that opened in 1898. The combined Museum and Library, as seen in 1920, is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

 This paber on Benjamin Dunstan was extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 
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