Sir Edgeworth has special significance to the hearts of Hunter TAFE and the Hunter region. The famous geologist and explorer spent much of his earlier career in the Maitland area surveying mineral and water resources. He also dedicated time to his interest in palaeontology – studying relics from the Pleistocene Great Ice Age around the Hunter River district. From 1907 to 1909 he joined Ernest Shackleton on expeditions to Antarctica excited by the promise of scientific work. In 1908 Sir Edgeworth was the leader of the first successful climbing party to reach the summit of Mount Erebus. The following year, while leading Mackay and Mawson, they reached the South Pole and completed the longest Antarctic man-hauling sledge journey of 122 days. On his triumphant return to Australia, he used the publicity to complete a lecture tour and set about raising funds for the publication of scientific results. During World War I he set up the Australian Mining Corps, and the tunnelling companies were directed to the Western Front. He was involved in geological investigations to aid the construction of dugouts, trenches and tunnels, and mining enemy positions. In 1920 after returning to Australia, he was knighted and became known as Sir Edgeworth.
Sir Edgeworth was dedicated to science and particularly interested in promoting the learning and mentoring of students and the publication and dissemination of scientific work. He has been commemorated for his achievements in many ways including prizes, appointments, buildings, and has been depicted on two Australian postage stamps. Here in the Hunter Region, the suburb of Edgeworth was named in his honour. At Hunter TAFE’s Newcastle Campus, the first building to be completed on the Tighes Hill site in 1938 was named the Sir Edgeworth David Science Building. During the opening ceremony the Minister for Education, Mr Drummond said: “When young people who pass through this building falter and tremble at some crisis in their life, they will assuredly, as their thoughts turn to their alma mater, be inspired to achieve against great odds in the same spirit as that of the master of science which they have elected to follow – Sir Edgeworth David”. Today, 78 years after the building opened, Hunter TAFE staff and students are still pursuing their scientific endeavours.
Would you like to know more about Sir Edgeworth David? Click here to visit the Hunter TAFE Historical Collection LibGuide and the section on TAFE Identities.