George Bennett OAM


Image A4: Associate Professor George Bennett.

(Image courtesy of The Pathfinders.)


George Gordon Bennett was born in the United Kingdom in 1926.  After sevice with the British Army he settled in Australia in 1948.  Between 1950 and 1954 he studied full time as a Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme student.  (Vocational training for ex-service men and women under this scheme commenced in 1944 and had virtually ceased in 1954.  The scheme accepted some 334,000 trainees but only about 67 per cent of university trainees completed their courses.)  In 1954 George was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Surveying (with First Class Honours) from The University of Melbourne.


Between 1954-1959, George Bennett worked as a surveyor with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.  In December 1956, George was appointed as an honorary fire patrol officer under the Bush Fires Act 1949.


In 1957 as part of International Geophysical Year activities, George was seconded to the Division of National Mapping to make precise astronomical observations at the Long Range Weapons Establishment (Woomera rocket range) in South Australia.  This Establishment was a joint project by the British and Australian governments.  Some of the Laplace observations from the Woomera work were used in George’s thesis Laplace determinations: rationalization of observation and calculation procedures; for which George was awarded a Master of Surveying degree from The University of Melbourne in 1962.


In 1959, George was appointed as a lecturer the University of New South Wales.  Later he became an Associate Professor of Surveying and head of the School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems.  During his time at the University, George lectured in surveying, geodesy, photogrammetry, astronomy, hydrographic surveying, and mining surveying.  He also prodigiously published papers and articles in professional journals and also authored a number of books.


George registered articles with the New South Wales Board of Surveyors on 8 April 1960.  He signed an agreement on 21 February 1960 with registered surveyor Guy Raoul de Low to be trained as a surveyor with service effective from 4 July 1955.  George was registered as a surveyor in New South Wales on 23 March 1961.  (Guy Raoul de Low was registered as a surveyor in New Sourh Wales on 30 March 1954.  In 1958 he resided at Cooma North and in 1961 he resided at Parramatta.)  On 24 February 1967, George was appointed as a mining surveyor under the New South Wales Mining Act 1906.


During 1969, George undertook experimental work in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica on gyroscopes used in surveying.  This work was incorporated in a thesis that led to the awarding of a Doctor of Philosphy degree from the University of New South Wales in 1970.  Image A3 below shows George in November 1969 at Cape Hallet station a joint United States and New Zealand base that was built for the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958.  The instrument is a Wild GAK-1 north-seeking gyrotheodolite attachment on a Wild T16 theodolite.

Image A5: George Bennett in Antarctica 1969.

(University of New South Wales pictorial history gallery image 1969-08-01)


During the 1970s, George became interested in yachting and ocean navigation.  He won the inaugural Navigator's Trophy in the 1977 Sydney to Hobart yatch race.  Later, George developed calculator and computer programs for the reduction of observations and for generating almanac data.  He also taught navigation at TAFE, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.


George was a member of the Board of Surveyors of New South Wales for 15 years and served a term as the President of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales.  In recognition of his service and contributions, George was elected as a Fellow of the Institution of Surveyors in 1965 and also as a Fellow of the Institute of Navigation.  During December 1983-Januray 1984, he served as a visiting scientist at Her Majesty's Nautical Almanac Office at the Royal Observatory then located at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex.


George retired from the School of Surveying at the University of New South Wales on 21 December 1986 at age 60 years.  After he retired George designed and managed the construction of the Millennium Sundial at the University  Later he established a prize for the top performing student in the first year of study in the School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems.  This prize now bears George's name.


On 26 January 2006, Dr George Gordon Bennett was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to surveying and mapping, particularly as an educator and a specialist in the field of celestial navigation and positional astronomy.