The brown 1d South Australian postcard was addressed to Prof. Ralph Tate and was postmarked with the duplex G.P.O. ADELAIDE/ R/ JY 17/ 6 5 AM/ 99 (Figure 1).

The reverse of the card was printed for the Royal Society of South Australia, stating that the Council Meeting was to be held in the Society’s Room, S.A. Institute, Tuesday 18th July 1899 at 5 p.m. (the next day!). The remainder of the information on the card had a line drawn through it, for the Business it referred to was not relevant to this meeting (Figure 2).

Ralph Tate was born in May 1840 at Alnwick, Northumberland, England in May 1840, and his uncle, George Tate was his first master in geology, which he began to study at 12 years of age. In 1857 he obtained an exhibition at the Royal School of Mines, London. He began teaching at the Polytechnic Institution, and became the senior science master at the Trade & Mining School, Bristol. He was for 2 years at Belfast, where he founded the Belfast naturalists’ field club.

In 1864 he became assistant-curator of the Geological Society, London, and began to write papers on palaeontology. In this year he published his volume, A Plain and Easy Account of the Land and Freshwater Mollusks of Great Britain. He held a teaching position at the Mining School at Bristol, and published in 1871 his Rudimentary Treatise on Geology. He was then an instructor at the Mining Schools at Darlington, and Redcar. In 1872, A Class_book of Geology appeared, and he co-authored a work on The Yorkshire Lias, which was published in 1876.

In 1875, he was appointed Elder Professor of Natural Science at the University of Adelaide, and he taught botany, zoology and geology. He found at Adelaide a Philosophical Society, of which was vice-president and then president. It became well established under the title of the Royal Society of S. A. He contributed nearly 100 papers to its Transactions and Proceedings.

In 1882 he went to the Northern Territory and made a valuable report on its geological and mineralogical characteristics. In 1883 he became a fellow of the Linnaean Society, and in 1888 was president of its biological section at the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. Five years later he was president of the meeting of this association held at Adelaide.

He published his Handbook of the Flora of Extratropical South Australia in 1890. In 1894 he was a member of an expedition to Central Australia and wrote the palaeontology report, in collaboration with J. A. Watt, and with J. H. Maiden, the botany report. He paid a visit to England in1896 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. He was married twice, and his second wife survived him with one son and two daughters of the first marriage, and two sons and a daughter of the second.

Tate had a remarkably wide 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 (Figure 3).

information on Prof. Ralph Tate was extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Professors