Guide to the Papers of Isobel Bennett
National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record
- Isobel Bennett
- Papers of Isobel Bennett
- Date Range
- Collection Number
- MS 9348
- 1.85 metres (12 boxes)
- Language of Materials
- National Library of Australia
Scope and Contents
The papers document many aspects of Isobel Bennett's career as a marine biologist, including her fieldwork, writings and participation in a number of scientific expeditions. They include correspondence, personal documents, biographical references, field notebooks, typescripts of most of her books, reviews and other cuttings, photographs, reprints, reports and other publications. Particular strengths of the collection are the records of her research on the coasts of eastern Australia, the Great Barrier Reef and Macquarie Island.
The earliest papers date from 1944, when Bennett was 35. There are, however, a number of autobiographical and biographical writings that provide information about her family and childhood and her early years in the Department of Zoology at the University of Sydney.
Conditions Governing Access
Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (http://nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn3036494).
Conditions Governing Use
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Isobel Bennett, National Library of Australia, MS 9348, [box number and series and/or file number]'.
The papers were donated by Dr Bennett to the National Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme in 1996 and 1997. A further consignment was received in September 2000.
A collection of 556 colour transparencies, assembled by Isobel Bennett for the 1987 edition of Australian seashores, is held in the Pictorial Section of the Library.
Although the general arrangement of the papers has been imposed by the Library, all files created by Bennett have been kept intact.
Isobel Bennett was born in Brisbane on 9 July 1909. She was educated at Somerville House, Brisbane. She left school at the age of 16 and enrolled in a business college. She worked at a patent attorney's office and, when her family moved to Sydney in 1928, she spent four years on the staff of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
In 1933 Bennett joined the staff of the Zoology Department of the University of Sydney. Until 1943 she was the secretary, librarian, demonstrator and research assistant to Professor W.J. Dakin. From 1945 to 1948 she was research assistant to Professor Dakin and, after his death, she was research assistant to Professor P.D.F. Murray. From 1950 onwards she regularly led parties of students to the Heron Island and Lizard Island Research Stations in the Great Barrier Reef and in the 1950s did field work on the Victorian and Tasmanian coasts. In 1959 she made her first visit to Macquarie Island with the ANARE relief ship and she returned in 1960, 1965 and 1968. In 1963 she was Dean of Women on the Stanford University research ship Te Vega, which sailed from San Diego to Singapore. She was a delegate to the 11th Pacific Science Congress in Tokyo in 1966.
Since her retirement from Sydney University in 1971, Isobel Bennett has maintained an active life of research and writing. In 1973 she attended the 2nd International Symposium on Coral Reefs. She carried out surveys of the coastal rock platforms at Jervis Bay and Ulladulla in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and did fieldwork on the coasts of Lord Howe Island in 1974, Norfolk Island in 1980 and Flinders Island in 1981. She continued to visit Heron Island until 1995.
In 1963 Bennett was awarded the first Honorary Master of Science degree at Sydney University. In 1982 she was awarded the Mueller Medal by the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science and in 1984 she became an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 1995 she was made a Doctor of Science by the University of New South Wales.
Bennett assisted W.J. Dakin on the research for his book Australian seashores (1952). She was co-author of the revised editions of 1960, 1963, 1966, 1969, 1976 and 1980 and sole author of the 1987 and 1992 editions. Her other books are The fringe of the sea (1966), On the seashore (1969), Shores of Macquarie Island (1971), The Great Barrier Reef (1971 and later editions), A coral reef handbook (1978 and later editions), Discovering Lord Howe Island (1979), Discovering Norfolk Island (1983) and Australia's Great Barrier Reef (1987).
This series comprises two albums of cuttings, letters and photographs and a large number of looses cuttings about Bennett, curricula vitae, lists of publications and entries in biographical reference works. Among the more substantial biographical pieces are an autobiographical essay published in Against the odds, edited by Madge Dawson and Heather Radi (1984) and essays about Bennett by Margaret Spencer (1969) and Nessy Allen (1993). There are also documents relating to the conferral of her Master's degree (1962) and doctorate (1995) and the Order of Australia investiture (1984).
The correspondence kept in these files by Bennett mostly dates from the 1970s onwards. The subjects include the identification of fauna and flora, fauna of sand lakes, sand mining, the Great Barrier Reef, the Raine Island beacon, proposed publications and talks by Bennett. Among the correspondents are Peter Harrison, Bruce Thom, Professor A.F. O'Farrell, Sir Garfield Barwick, Patricia Mather (Queensland Museum), Graham Shirley, Nessy Allen, Hugh Lavery, Professor A.J. Underwood and Ruth Lane (National Museum of Australia).
The notebooks in this series document in particular Bennett's early fieldwork on the shores and estuaries of New South Wales in 1944-47. Three of the notebooks cover her later work, including research in the Great Barrier Reef and Macquarie Island.
Notes of fieldwork at Gerringong, Harbord, Newport, Mona Vale, Shellharbour, Seven Mile Beach, Pittwater, Moreton Bay, Currumbra Rocks, The Entrance
Notes of fieldwork at Pittwater, Gerringong, Harbord, Newport, Long Reef, Botany Bay, Heron Island, Port Sorell, Maroubra, Gunnamatta Bay, Nowra, Fairlight, Narooma, Hobart, Macquarie Island
Typescript report of a trip by Bennett, Elizabeth Pope (Australian Museum) and Helen Newton Turner (CSIR) along the coast from Shellharbour to Eden, NSW. Includes maps and photographs.
Notes of fieldwork at Tuggerah Lake, Toukley and The Entrance
Two typescript reports, one by Elizabeth Pope, of fieldwork on the North Coast of NSW.
Notes of fieldwork at Long Reef, Botany Bay, Heron Island, Port Stephens, Myall Lakes, Harbord, Lake Illawarra, Jervis Bay, Macquarie Island
From 1944 onwards Isobel Bennett carried out research for W.J. Dakin on the animals and plants of the Australian seashores. She was often accompanied by her friend Elizabeth Pope of the Australian Museum. In 1948 Angus and Robertson accepted the manuscript of Australian seashores, but it was not published until 1952, two years after Dakin's death. Bennett saw it through the press and was responsible for all the reprintings and new editions in the next forty years.
Reviews of Australian seashores are contained in an album in Series 1, item 1.
Includes list of mollusca of Sydney district, 1948
The first of Bennett's own books, Fringe of the sea, was published in 1966. She went on to write books on the Great Barrier Reef, Macquarie Island, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and coral reefs. The manuscripts of some of these works can be found in series 5-7.
Isobel Bennett first visited the Great Barrier Reef in 1946. Between 1950 and 1995 she made 23 field trips to the Heron Island Research Station, usually in charge of groups of students from Sydney University. She also made visits to the reefs and research station at Lizard Island. In 1954 she took part in a resurvey of Low Isles for comparison with the survey made in 1929. She later carried out research in the northern part of the Reef and in Torres Strait in preparation for her book The Great Barrier Reef, which was published in 1971.
Isobel Bennett was one of the first four women to visit the Australian base at Macquarie Island. She was a member of the ANARE expeditions that sailed on the Thala Dan (1959), Magda Dan (1960) and Nella Dan (1965 and 1968). In 1971 Rigby published her book Shores of Macquarie Island. In February 1995 Bennett was a passenger on a Qantas flight to the Antarctic.
Two notebooks referring to Macquarie Island can be found in Series 3.
Box containing about 250 colour transparencies, 1959-95, grouped under such subjects as ships, Antarctic flight, Green Gorge (Macquarie Island), camp buildings, personnel, Dumont d'Urville (French Antarctic base), elephant seals, invertebrate fauna, fish, albatross, cormorants, penguins (File 8) - Box 10
The Royal Danish Deep Sea Expedition, led by Anton Bruun, left Plymouth on the Galathea in October 1950. Bennett joined the expedition in December 1951 for three weeks while it was in Australian waters. She was the only woman among a crew of 113.
Rolf Bolin, Professor of Marine Biology and Oceanography at Stanford University, acquired the German ship Te Vega in 1962 and converted it into a floating laboratory and classroom. The ship sailed from San Diego in July 1963 and participated in the International Indian Ocean Expedition in 1964. During the first leg of the expedition, Bennett was Dean of Women and lectured on tropical marine ecology and coral reefs. She left the ship at Singapore in October 1963, but continued to correspond with Bolin for several years.
This series comprises a short sequence of subject files maintained by Bennett.
Photographs of Isobel Bennett have been placed in Series 1 and photographs can also be found in Series 3, 6,7, 8, 9 and 10.