Friday 18 July 2014

A Distinguished Geologist

Few people from Campbelltown have made as much impact on the world as geologist Sam Carey. Carey was influential in the world of geology as an early advocate of continental drift and later plate tectonics. He became founding Professor of Geology at the University of Tasmania for 30 years from 1946 to 1976 and continued his vigorous belief in Earth expansion as an explanation for what he observed in his studies of continental drift.

Samuel Warren Carey was born was born on 1 November 1911 at Campbelltown to Tasman George and Hannah Elspeth Carey. He was born at home with his father and a neighbour in attendance, several days after his mother was thrown from a sulky when the horse bolted. The family had built a small stone cottage on a 4 ha farm on the Georges River. His name was chosen by his father to honour his own father. He was the third of six surviving children in a family of nine. As primary school students at Campbelltown, he and his siblings had to walk the five kilometres to school whatever the weather or their state of health. When he was six or seven years of age, the family moved to Campbelltown where his father had a job as typesetter for a local newspaper.

Sam later attended high school at Canterbury where he was strongly influenced by his teachers. After completing high school he enrolled at the University of Sydney.

The people of Campbelltown took a keen interest in his academic development. An article in the Campbelltown Ingleburn News in 1933 talks about the 'success of a Campbelltown native' and how he received 6 scholarships in 5 years. It proudly went on to list all Carey's achievements up to that time.

Professor Sam Carey received a DSc from the University of Sydney in 1939 for his work on the tectonic evolution of New Guinea and Melanesia. He worked in the petroleum industry in New Guinea and then served with the Australian Infantry Forces from 1942-44.

Carey supported the theory of continental drift, explaining the movement of the continents through a model in which oceanic crust was formed at mid-ocean ridges and old oceanic crust underwent subduction at deep ocean trenches. The University of Tasmania became a leading university in tectonics and in 1957 he organised the Continental Drift Symposium, which influenced many scientists about the importance of continental drift.

Following his retirement from the University of Tasmania in 1976 Sam Carey was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the field of geology. He continued to support and investigate expanding earth models up until his death in 2002 aged 90.

Written by Andrew Allen


Campbelltown Ingleburn News 23rd June 1933

Australian Academy of Science website at

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