Dr Germaine Anne Joplin

Dr Germaine Anne Joplin (1903- 1989)

Dr Germaine Anne Joplin AM, affectionately known as ‘Joppy’, arrived at ANU over 70 years ago. It’s clear she made a lasting impact.

She was quite a pioneer when it came to looking at rocks across south-east Australia in particular.

She’s still spoken of fondly as a trail-blazer at the Research School of Earth Sciences, where her rock specimens are in storage and her textbooks sit on shelves.

Joppy was one of the first academics – male or female – hired by Professor John Jaeger to join the newly formed Department of Geophysics (now the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences) in 1952.

“There weren’t many women in geology at that time, so it’s quite amazing that she was one of the first hires when Jaeger set up the school in the early 50s,” current PhD candidate Hannah James says.

“She was quite a pioneer when it came to looking at rocks across south-east Australia in particular.”

Along with her scientific research, Joppy also found time to serve on the University House Board of Fellows from its inception in 1953, taking on the role of Steward from 1955 to 1957. During this period, she even moved out of her house in Yarralumla to take up permanent residence in University House.

In 1986 she was awarded the prestigious WR Browne Medal ‘for distinguished contributions to the Geological Sciences of Australia’ and in the same year was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

That she was able to achieve so much over the course of her career is even more remarkable considering some of the setbacks she faced.

Her former colleague Mervyn Paterson recalls she lost the sight of one eye in her youth, but ‘nevertheless spent much of her life on the microscopy of rocks’.

“She always used a monocular microscope, even when binocular microscopes became available,” Paterson says.

In 1960 a fire destroyed many of her records, partly completed manuscripts and extensive collection of rock specimens.

Throughout her career Dr Joplin published numerous research papers and six books, she was awarded the prestigious W.R. Browne Medal for ‘distinguished contributions to the Geological Sciences of Australia’, as well as being made a Member of the order of Australia.

Dr Joplin published two textbooks on the petrography of Australian igneous and metamorphic rocks which were used by generations of geology students. These books contain beautiful illustrations of thin sections of Australian rocks, which she drew while looking down a microscope. These thin sections are stored in the ANU Earth Science collection.

She told The Canberra Times in 1968: “When I started in the early twenties, girls were not supposed to go wandering about with maps and sacks of rocks, but if you were really interested in your work you had to.

“Travel grants, scholarships and field allowances were unheard of, so it had to be in your time and with your own money.”

*Dr Germaine Anne Joplin AM died in Sydney in 1989.