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Dr Arthur Bache Walkom, 1889–1976

Born in Grafton, New South Wales, Arthur Walkom was introduced to natural history by his father, whom he accompanied to meetings of the Field Naturalists’ Club. Walkom studied geology at the University of Sydney, and worked under Professor Edgeworth David as a junior demonstrator. He subsequently lectured at the University of Queensland and was honorary paleobotanist at the Queensland Museum. He was awarded a doctorate in 1918 for research on geology of the lower Mesozoic rocks of Queensland.

Walkom had a long association with the Linnean Society of New South Wales. He was the society’s Secretary (1919-1940), President (1941-2) and also edited its Proceedings for 36 years. In 1926 a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship enabled him to spend a year in Cambridge studying under eminent palaeobotanist Professor (Sir) Albert Seward.

Dr Arthur Bache Walkom, Director, 1941-1954
Dr Arthur Bache Walkom was active in scientific societies and served on UNESCO’s Australian committee for museums. Image: unknown
© Australian Museum

Scientific societies

Walkom became an elected Trustee of the Australian Museum in 1939 but resigned when he was appointed as director in November 1940, following the retirement of Charles Anderson. As director Walkom published few scientific papers, but remained very active in scientific societies. He served (1947-1954) on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Australian committee for museums, and on its Australian national advisory committee.

Walkom was a capable administrator, but a conservative man, and there was little renewal or innovation under his leadership. The scientific staff was greatly reduced during the Second World War. Concern over a lack of available science graduates led Walkom to introduce a ‘science trainees’ scheme in 1947. For the remainder of Walkom’s term there was little change to the galleries, but the addition of a mezzanine floor in the original building almost doubled the working space of the scientific staff.

Walkom retired from the Museum in November 1954.