Emily Dornwell: first Adelaide Uni female graduate; Australia’s first in science in 1885

(Edith) Emily Dornwell went from the Advanced School for Girls to become Australia’s first female science graduate at Adelaide University.
Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia

(Edith) Emily Dornwell was the first woman in Australia to graduate with a science degree, and the first woman graduate and first science graduate from Adelaide University.

After her father's early death when she was 14, Dornwell won a bursary to attend the Advanced School for Girls (now Adelaide High), the only state high school in 19th Century South Australia. In 1880, she won first prize and £20 in the Exhibition for Girls exam. She matriculated in 1882 with honours in French, German, animal physiology and modern history.

Dornwell was the first woman in a bachelor of science course at Adelaide University in 1883, two years after it changed its charter to allow women students officially.
Dornwell excelled. In 1883, she received the Sir Thomas Elder Prize (a microscope) in physiology, taught by professor Edward Stirling. After graduating in 1885 with first class honours in physics and physiology, Dornwell taught mathematics, physics, Latin and physiology at her former Advanced School for Girls.

In 1887, she moved Hawthorn, Victoria, as resident teacher at the Methodist Ladies College and, in 1890, she became headmistress at the private Riviere Ladies' College in Woollhara, New South Wales. She was unsuccessful in applying for the position of principal at the new women's college at Sydney University.

Dornwell married Lionel Raymond at St Andrew’s Church, Walkerville, in 1895, and moved to Fiji where he worked for Commonwealth Sugar Refineries. When her husband's retired, Dornwell returned to Sydney where she was active in the Lyceum Club and the National Council of Women but never pursued her science qualifications.

Other related ADELAIDEAZ articles

William Bragg furthers X-ray crystallography and popularises science via the Royal Institution

William Bragg was appointed to the Quain chair of physics at University College, London, in 1915. Here, and on becoming Fullerian professor of chemistry and director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain in 1923, he built up vigorous schools of X-ray crystallography, principally studying organic molecules. At the Royal Institution, he started a tradition of popularizing science with Christmas lectures for young people. His wife Gwendoline died in 1929 followed by William in 1942

 

Christian Leopold von Buch backs 'Prinzessin Luise' bringing eminent group to South Australia

Christian Leopold von Buch, one of the 19th Century’s most important geologists, was a sponsor for what has been called “the single most important group of German intellectuals to come to Adelaide” in 1849. Von Buch influenced Charles Darwin’s work and was called the greatest geologist of his time by another famous German colleague Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt was a patron of the Schomburgk brothers: explorer Robert, botanist Richard and physician Otto. Humboldt intervened when Otto was arrested in 1839 for political activities. By 1848, Richard and Otto, as black-listed liberals, saw little hope for democracy after the failed 1848 German social revolution and formed the Berlin Emigration Society of mainly professional and business men and artisans. With help from Humboldt, Berlin Academy of Sciences and a generous 300 thalers from von Buch, the Schomburgks joined others to charter the Prinzessin Luise (Princess Louise) that took 162 men, women and children from Hamburg in March 1849 and arrived in Port Adelaide in August. Besides future Adelaide Botanic Gardens director Richard Schomburgk, others in this group to become eminent South Australians included composer Carl Linger (who wrote the "Song of Australia"), naturalist Marianne Kreusler, educationist Carl Meucke, painter Charles Schramm and winemaker Herman Buring. The Princess Louise group as a company in 1850 bought land four miles from Gawler Town on the Gawler River. Several families funded a church and school for a township they called Buchfelde after Christian Leopold von Buch.

South Australian Film Corporation's Lottie Lyell Award 100 years after 'Woman Suffers'

The South Australian Film Corporation launched an award in 2018 to commemorate Lottie Lyell’s trail-blazing impact on the Australia screen industry and to give significant financial support to a female-driven screen project. The annual $20,000 Lottie Lyell Award will be for a female film practitioner, based in South Australia, to develop or deliver a work – feature film, TV series, documentary, script or game – that’s bold, ambitious and full of promise. The award marked a century since Lottie Lyell starred in Australia’s first feminist film The Woman Suffers, also the first feature made by Southern Cross Feature Film Co, the first production company founded in South Australia. Screen pioneer Lyell was a writer, producer, director, editor and art director, and an accomplished horsewoman who did all her own stunts. Together with her partner in work and life Ray Longford, she made 28 films. They had been working together since 1909 as actors in a touring theatre company. Longford directed her in the film of The Fatal Wedding in 1911. Their second film, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole, established her as Australia’s first female film star. Lyell became Longford’s partner in the making of their films and in their private life. The Woman Suffers, filmed in Adelaide when Lyell was 27, was their 13th film together since 1911. The next year they made The Sentimental Bloke, the most successful Australian film of its day. She appeared in all of Longford’s films as director up until On Our Selection, made in 1920 ( he is credited as co-writer). Lyell died of tuberculosis in 1925, aged 35. 

Temperance alliance's Elizabeth Nicholls helps gather 8,268 signatures for suffrage petition

A founding member and later president of Adelaide's Women's Christian Temperance Union, Elizabeth Webb Nicholls, with Serena Thorne Lake, helped gather 8,268 of the 11,600 signatures for the 1894 suffrage petition to the South Australian parliament. As its president of the Women's Non-Party Political Associatio from 1911, she led a deputation to premier John Verran stressing the need for women jurors, justices of the peace, police matrons, and for sex instruction for young people

 

Thousands of women join Adelaide's factories making World War II munitions, equipment

Adelaide became an arms-making machine for the World War II campaign. Finsbury Munitions Factory, employing 4,000 women, from 1941, made cartridges, It had about 20 major buildings spread over 50 hectares and housed 300 women in fibro huts (later Finsbury migrant hostel). Another huge complex was Salisbury Explosives Factory with a workforce of more than 6,000 men and women. A Hendon factory (taken over by Philips Electronics after the war) made .303 rifle ammunition. Car body production lines at General Motors-Holdens in Woodville, Beverley and Birkenhead and the T.J. Richards' Keswick factory (later LeCornu’s on Anzac Highway) switched to producing guns, tanks and military aircraft parts. Islington railway workshops churned out armoured cars. British Tube Mills (Australia) Kilburn factory, from 1939 the only one in Australia making steel tubing, was thrown into producing aircraft guns, warships' boilers and oil/fuel bottles for torpedoes, within days of the war's start. Other  factories making war equipment included Colton, Palmer & Preston (grenades), David Shearer of Mannum (track links for machine-gun carriers), Horwood Bagshaw at Mile End (anti-tank guns), ICIANZ at Osborne (calcium chloride), Kelvinator at Keswick (primers), Perry Engineering at Mile End (shell forging and machining), Pope Products at Beverley (aircraft practice bombs), Southcott of Adelaide (heat treatment of tools and gauges), Wheatley and Williams of Bowden (non-ferrous castings), Wiles Chromium and Electroplating of Mile End (Wiles mobile cookers).

Adelaide Observatory on West Terrace active in sky/land watch; 1940 takeover by university

Takeover of Adelaide Observatory in 1940 by the University of Adelaide signalled its end, although it didn’t finally close until 1952. The observatory on West Terrace, Adelaide, only had two South Australian government astronomers in charge: Charles Todd, who started it in 1880, and George Dodwell, who took over in 1909 and stayed to the end. In 1908, the observatory’s meteorology had been taken over by the commonwealth government and it lost most of its staff. Under Dodwell, the observatory took on astronomical and other work. Observing and photographing eclipses became a priority, with international involvement in the 1922 Cordillo Downs venture a highlight. From 1930, Adelaide joined other observatories around the globe monitoring the Chandler wobble of the Earth’s axis. Seismographs installed in 1909 and 1925 allowed the observatory to measure earthquake components. The observatory was involved in meteor searches after sightings. Dodwell discovered what became Comet Dodwell-Forbes during a photo search in 1932. Dodwell led expeditions on a magnetic survey of South Australia, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington. Latitudes and longitudes were fixed as part of general survey of the state. The observatory also did education work, including lectures and continued the practice from the 1880s of allowing public visit son Friday evenings. The observatory merged with the university in 1930 and came under into its control in 1940. The university had its own observatory from the 1950s. Dodwell continued until retiring in 1949 and doing three more years contract work. 

Contact Us

We welcome positive constructive feedback