TATE, Ralph (1840-1901)


TATE, Ralph (1840-1901)
geologist and botanist
was the son of Thomas Tate (1807-1888), mathematician and author of many educational books. He was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, England, in March 1840, and was educated at the Cheltenham training college. His uncle, George Tate, well known as a naturalist, was his first master in geology, which he began to study at 12 years of age. In 1857 he obtained an exhibition at the royal school of mines, London, of £80 a year for two years. He began teaching at the polytechnic institution, and then became the senior science master at the trade and mining school, Bristol. He was for two years at Belfast, in the north of Ireland, where he founded the Belfast naturalists' field club, drew up a flora of Belfast, and a descriptive list of Irish liasic fossils. In 1864 he became assistant-curator of the Geological Society, London, and began to write papers on palaeontology for the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. He also wrote three botanical papers in 1866. In this year he published his volume, A Plain and Easy Account of the Land and Freshwater Mollusks of Great Britain. In 1867 he went on an exploring expedition to Nicaragua and later went to Venezuela. On his return he held a teaching position at the mining school at Bristol, and published in 1871 his Rudimentary Treatise on Geology. He was then an instructor at the mining, schools at Darlington, and Redcar. In 1872 appeared A Class-book of Geology, and in conjunction with J. F. Blake he prepared a work on The Yorkshire Lias, which was published in 1876. In 1875 Tate was appointed Elder professor of natural science at the university of Adelaide.
In Australia Tate energetically worked at his task of teaching botany, zoology and geology. He found at Adelaide a Philosophical Society which as vice-president and then as president he encouraged in every way. Well-established under the new title of the Royal Society of South Australia, he encouraged the members to send in original papers, and himself contributed nearly 100 to its Transactions and Proceedings. In 1882 he went to the Northern Territory and made a valuable report on its geological and mineralogical characteristics. In 1883 he became a fellow of the Linnean Society, and in 1888 was president of the biological section at the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. Five years later he was president of the meeting of this association held at Adelaide. He had published his valuable Handbook of the Flora of Extratropical South Australia in 1890. In 1894 he was a member of the Horn expedition to Central Australia and wrote the palaeontology report, in collaboration with J. A. Watt, that in general geology, and with J. H. Maiden (q.v.), the botany report. He paid a visit to England at the end of 1896 partly for the good of his health, but early in 1901 it began to fail again and he died on 20 September of that year. He was married twice. His second wife survived him with one son and two daughters of the first marriage, and two sons and a daughter of the second. A list of about 150 of his scientific papers will be found on page 89 of the Geological Magazine for 1902.
Tate had a remarkably wide knowledge of science, a fine critical sense, and a passion for accuracy. He was the most distinguished botanist of his day in South Australia, a good zoologist, and an excellent palaeontologist and geologist, as his series of papers on the tertiary and recent marine fauna of South Australia and Victoria show.
J. F. Blake, The Geological Magazine, 1902; J. H. Maiden, A Century of Botanical Endeavour in South Australia; The Register, Adelaide, 21 September 1901; E. W. Skeats, Some Founders of Australian Geology.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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