Reg Sprigg
Reginald Claude Sprigg, AO
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

, HonDSc ANU, HonDSc Flinders, MSc Adelaide, FTSE (1 March 1919 – 2 December 1994) was an Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...

 and conservationist
Conservationists are proponents or advocates of conservation. They advocate for the protection of all the species in an ecosystem with a strong focus on the natural environment...

. At age 17 he became the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia. In 1946, in the Ediacara Hills
Ediacara Hills
Ediacara Hills are a range of low hills in the northern part of the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, around 650 km north of Adelaide. The area has many old copper and silver mines from mining activity in the late 19th century...

, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

 he discovered the Ediacara biota, an assemblage of some of the most ancient animal fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s known. He was involved in oceanographic research and petroleum exploration through various companies which he founded. In 1968, took up a derelict pastoral lease, Arkaroola and transformed it into a wild life sanctuary and wilderness reserve.

Early Life

Reginald Claude Sprigg was born 1 March 1919 on South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

's Yorke Peninsula
Yorke Peninsula
The Yorke Peninsula is a peninsula located north-west and west of Adelaide in South Australia, Australia, between Spencer Gulf on the west and Gulf St Vincent on the east. It has geographic coordinates of...

 where his family were living in the small town of Stansbury
Stansbury may refer to:People:* Howard Stansbury, Major, U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers and leader of the Stansbury Expedition to Utah in 1851* Jack Stansbury, the Boston Redsox baseball player...

. His parents were Claude Augustus Sprigg and Pearl Alice Irene née Germein who had married 17 September 1913 in Stansbury. Reg was their third and youngest child, a brother to D'Arcy Kingsley and Constance Vera (Connie).

Perhaps auspiciously for the future Reg, his father's family were pastoralists whilst the Germein family were mariners. The Sprigg family had moved to the Yorke Peninsula after being "forced off their pastoral lease at Oulnina because of drought". The Germein family were ship chandlers in Mutton Cove, Devonport, Plymouth, England: three brothers came to Australia.

Before he was five, the family had relocated to an Adelaide suburb which gave the young Reg access to the beach where he collected shells and fossils. This boyhood hobby developed into a serious interest in geology which brought him into his first contact with the geoscientists at the University of Adelaide to whom he took collected samples for identification.


In addition to pursing his studies in geology, Reg developed his drawing skills which gained him credit in the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts
University of South Australia
The University of South Australia is a public university in the Australian state of South Australia. It was formed in 1991 with the merger of the South Australian Institute of Technology and Colleges of Advanced Education. It is the largest university in South Australia, with more than 36,000...

 merit lists for 1934 and 1935.

He matriculated from the Adelaide Technical High School
Glenunga International High School
Glenunga International High School is a publicly-funded school in Adelaide, South Australia. It is located approximately four km south-east of the Adelaide city centre in the suburb of Glenunga, between L'Estrange St and Conyngham St, adjoining the major thoroughfare Glen Osmond Road...

 in 1938.

At the University of Adelaide, he studied under Sir Douglas Mawson who said that "Sprigg was his best ever student". He completed the requirements for his Bachelor of Science and was then graduated Master of Science in 1942.


In 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Royal Engineers, and was in Munitions from 1941 to 1942. He moved to work with the soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

s division in CSIRO until 1943.

Sprigg next worked for the South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

n Geological Survey, which sent him to reopen the Radium Hill
Radium Hill
Radium Hill is a former minesite in South Australia which operated from 1906 until 1961. It was Australia's first uranium mine, years before the country's next major mines at Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory , and the Mary Kathleen mine in Queensland...

Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 Field in 1944, and to map the Mount Painter uranium field. At the time, uranium was believed to be rare, and was required for the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

Sprigg was sent by the South Australian government in 1946 to inspect abandoned mines in the Ediacaran Hills, to ascertain whether old mines could be profitably reworked using new technologies. When he discovered the fossils, apparently while eating his lunch, he realised that these fossils were very ancient, either of Early Cambrian
The Cambrian is the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from Mya ; it is succeeded by the Ordovician. Its subdivisions, and indeed its base, are somewhat in flux. The period was established by Adam Sedgwick, who named it after Cambria, the Latin name for Wales, where Britain's...

, or possibly even of Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 age. He submitted a paper to Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

, but it was turned down. He travelled to London and presented his findings to the 1948 International Geological Congress
International Union of Geological Sciences
The International Union of Geological Sciences is an international non-governmental organization devoted to international cooperation in the field of geology.-About:...

, but failed to excite either interest or belief.
Subsequent work by Prof Martin Glaessner
Martin Glaessner
Martin Fritz Glaessner AM was a geologist and palaeontologist. Born and educated in Austro-Hungarian Empire, he spent the majority of his life in working for oil companies in Russia, and studying the geology of the South Pacific in Australia...

 at the University of Adelaide demonstrated that they were indeed of latest Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 age. Although Precambrian animal fossils had been reported before, they had not been universally accepted as organic. This discovery led ultimately to the erection in 2004 of the Ediacaran Period, the first new geological period created in more than one hundred years.

Of other significance, Sprigg helped set up Santos (an acronym for South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search), which discovered the gas deposits in Cooper Basin
Cooper Basin
The Cooper Basin is a sedimentary geological basin in Australia. The basin is located mainly in the north-east part of South Australia and extends into south-west Queensland. It is named after the Cooper Creek which is an ephemeral river that runs into Lake Eyre. Part of the Cooper Basin is...

, including the Moomba
Moomba, South Australia
Moomba is a Santos-owned gas exploration and processing town located in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins, in central Australia, approximately 770 kilometres north of Adelaide....

 Gas Field. This supplies natural gas to South Australia, New South Wales and Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

. In 1954 Sprigg formed the company Geosurveys of Australia, which was a consulting and contracting company for geological and geophysical work. They prospected for uranium in the Northern Territory and nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 in the north west corner of South Australia as well as working for Santos.

In 1962 Geosurveys became incorporated into Beach Petroleum Ltd, of which Sprigg was General Manager.

In 1968, Sprigg purchased the pastoral lease of Arkaroola
Arkaroola, South Australia
Arkaroola Village is the settlement and resort at the hub of a wilderness sanctuary in the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia, adjacent to Gammon Ranges National Park and the Mawson Plateau....

, a property and important uranium exploration field of 610 square kilometres in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, and turned it into a wildlife refuge and tourist attraction. A governing board of Reg Sprigg, his wife Griselda and Dennis Walter, a mineralogist and old friend, oversaw the creation of Arkaroola Village out of existing buildings and the opening to tourists in October 1968.


Sprigg attracted the attention of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is Australia's national security service, which is responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically-motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, and...

 (ASIO) in 1950, due to Sprigg's knowledge of uranium deposits in Australia and throughout the world. In 1943 Sprigg had been secretary of the Australian Association of Scientific Workers. The Association was concerned with the transfer of scientific workers from wartime to peacetime projects once hostilities ceased, and encouraged debate on the social responsibility of science. ASIO suspected the organization of communist ties, and as a result Sprigg was under surveillance for some ten years.

Family Life

In 1942, Sprigg married Patricia Day who had been born in Wiltshire, England and moved to Adelaide with her parents in 1927. In 1943, she was graduated BA (Adelaide), taking first place in Political Science and worked in the History School in 1945 and 1946 reading essays and lecturing. In 1948, Patricia, aged 25, left Adelaide on the P&O "Stratheden" arriving in London on the 27th March 1948. In London she worked at Future magazine whilst reading law at Lincoln’s Inn. Reg and Patricia divorced in 1950 and she moved to Sweden in 1951 to marry Gillis Een.

On the 3rd February 1951, Sprigg married Griselda A. Findlay Paterson, daughter of Robert Findlay Paterson and Grace née Dreghorn, born December 1921 in Paisley
Paisley is the largest town in the historic county of Renfrewshire in the west central Lowlands of Scotland and serves as the administrative centre for the Renfrewshire council area...

, Scotland. Griselda had studied in Glasgow and qualified as a radiographer.

In 1948, Reg, still with the South Australian Mines Department, was in Britain in connection with uranium on behalf of the government; Griselda has said that she met Reg "on ...the island of Arran, .... Well there was with three nursing sisters I’d held up with, and as I walked out of the restaurant that night, they stopped me and said, ‘I bet you can’t get a date with the Australian before midnight tonight, for tomorrow. I said ‘How much is it worth’, they said ‘five quid’, and I said ‘that’ll do me’. I got the five quid, got the date, and I always say, I won him in a bet."

In 1952, a daughter, Margaret and in 1954, a son, Douglas were born in South Australia.

Griselda and the children often accompanied Reg in his outback travels. In 2001, Griselda published an account of those travels in Dune is a four-letter word.

Reg Sprigg died on 2 December 1994 whilst on holiday in Glasgow, Scotland. His ashes were scattered at Arkaroola.

Griselda Spigg died 20 March 2003.

Awards and Honours

In 1980, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in science by the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...


In 1982, he was the inaugural Lewis G Weeks Medalist awarded by the then Australian Petroleum Exploration Association
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, known as APPEA, is an Australian industry association representing companies which explore and produce oil and gas in Australia. APPEA is a non-profit organisation....

 . Reg had been foundation President in 1959 of the Association. The Association has renamed its Gold Medal for "highly valued contributions within or for the Australian oil and gas industry or through sustained, notable leadership within APPEA" in his honour.

In 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

In 1986, he was the recipient of the Royal Society of South Australia
Royal Society of South Australia
The Royal Society of South Australia is a Learned Society whose interest is in Science, particularly, but not only, of South Australia.The Society stems directly from the Adelaide Philosophical Society founded on the 10 January 1853. The title "Royal" was granted by her Majesty Queen Victoria in...

 Verco Medal; at 17, he had been the youngest Fellow of the Society.

In 1990, Flinders University
Flinders University
Flinders University, , is a public university in Adelaide, South Australia. Founded in 1966, it was named in honour of navigator Matthew Flinders, who explored and surveyed the South Australian coastline in the early 19th century.The university has established a reputation as a leading research...

 conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

In 1998, the Geological Society of Australia
Geological Society of Australia
The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support earth sciences in Australia...

, South Australia Branch launched the biennial Sprigg Symposium "in recognition of the contributions
Dr Reginald Sprigg made towards many aspects of geology in South Australia".

In 2001, the University of Adelaide announced that it had founded the Reg Sprigg Chair in Petroleum Engineering in the (now) Australian School of Petroleum.

The genus Spriggina
Fossils of Spriggina are known from the Ediacaran period, around . The segmented organism reached about 3 cm in length and may have been predatory...

 has been named in his honour.

A mineral, Spriggite, Pb3[(UO2)6O8(OH)2].3(H2O), has been named in his honour.

External links

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