in memoriam - Ernest Hallsworth (1913-2002)

1/10/1913 – 14/2/2002

Ernest Gordon Hallsworth was a loving husband, a caring father, a great teacher, a man of supreme optimism and a leader who encouraged all adventurous scientific research. He was also a witty raconteur, a genial host and an excellent and adventurous cook. Until a few years ago Gordon, as he was known, still enjoyed tennis and badminton. He was born in Ashton under Lyne in Greater Manchester in 1913 and was educated at Ashton Grammar School and the University of Leeds from where he graduated with first class Honors in Chemistry. He was subsequently awarded a PhD and on the basis of his pedological studies in New South Wales received the Doctor of Science degree at the University of Leeds.. His first appointment was as assistant lecturer in Agricultural Chemistry at the University of Leeds during the years 1936-40. He was appointed as a Lecturer /Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney where he trained many prominent Australian Soil Scientists.. During his period in Sydney he married Elaine Seddon in 1942 (dec.1970).

He returned to England in 1951 to an appointment as Professor of Agricultural Chemistry and Dean of the School of Agriculture at the University of Nottingham School of Agriculture at Sutton Bonington. He remained there until 1964 and was Dean of the School for nine years. Before his appointment, the Sutton Bonington Agricultural College had been a centre where aspiring young farmers were trained and studied for diplomas in agriculture. The University of Nottingham had recently acquired the College and established it as its School of Agriculture. Dr Hallsworth guided the College, recruited first class academic staff, and was responsible for a comprehensive building and re-equipment programme. Under his guidance the School prospered and attracted a constant stream of undergraduates and postgraduates, eager to study at what became recognised as probably the leading Agricultural faculty in the British universities. In 1960, during his time at Sutton Bonington, he had a sabbatical year as Visiting Professor of Soil Science at the University of Western Australia.

He returned permanently to Australia in 1964, when he was appointed by CSIRO as Chief of their Division of Soils (1964-73) with headquarters in Adelaide and regional laboratories in Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart. During his tenure as Chief (1964 – 1973), the Division enhanced its already outstanding reputation as a research organisation, in Australia and internationally. In 1968, an International Society of Soil Science Congress was staged in Adelaide. Dr Hallsworth was at this time the President of the International Society and was the President of the Congress, which was a great success and attracted about 1,500 soil scientists from around the world. He was responsible for the construction of new laboratories for the Division at Canberra and Perth and, for the first time, a substantial soil research laboratory was established by the Division in the tropical north of Australia, at Townsville. In 1971 he was seconded to be Australia’s Chief Scientific Liaison Officer in London. On his return in 1973 he was made the Chairman of the Land Research Laboratories, which embraced three CSIRO Divisions, the Division of Soils in Adelaide, the Division of Land Use Research in Canberra, and the Division of Land Management in Perth, and he served in this capacity until his retirement in 1978. It was during this period (1976) that he married Merrily Ramly in Adelaide.

On retirement from CSIRO he returned to England as Professorial Fellow at the University of Sussex Science Policy Unit and established his home away from home at Blackboys, near Uckfield in Sussex. On his return to Australia he and Merrily built a new home annexed to an historic home on the Old Belair Road at Mitcham, South Australia..

During his long and distinguished career he was appointed to many national and international Scientific Advisory bodies. He was appointed Director of the ‘Save Our Soils’ project of the International Federation of Institutes of Advanced Studies (IFIAS); President of the International Society of Soil Science 1964-68 and was made an honorary life member in 1986; Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science; a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technical Science and Engineering and a member of the Academie d’Agriculture de France . He was Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Australia’s first representative on the O.E.C.D. Committee on Science Policy. He was an external examiner for the West Indies University.

Dr. Hallsworth was honored by many countries for his scientific contributions. He was awarded the Dokuchaev Medal by the All Union Society of Soil Science (USSR), the Prescott Medal by the Australian Society of Soil Science and the Schermerborn Medal from the International Training Centre, Groeningen, Holland. He published or edited many books on Soil Science, Experimental Pedology, Nutrition and Conservation. The quality and eminence of the scientists he trained in Australia and overseas will be his greatest memorial. During his retirement he wrote the monograph ‘Anatomy, Physiology and Psychology of Erosion’.

Gordon will be sadly missed by his wife Merrily, his stepson Paul, his daughter Cherry and two sons Peter and Michael, his stepdaughter Kartini and his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in Australia and England.

Reg M. Taylor


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Page created: 13.02.2015 | Page updated: 15.02.2015

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