Allan Walkley [1906-1961]

By Helen WolffNovember 25th, 2020

Dr. Allan Walkley made important contributions in a number of fields of research including soil chemistry, hydrometallurgy, and electrochemistry.

Early life

Born in Adelaide in 1906, Walkley studied at St. Peter’s College and the University of Adelaide from which he graduated B.Sc. in 1927.

Prior to CSIRO

He spent 1928 in Zurich on organic chemical research with Professor Karrer. There he became an expert skier and continued to take a keen interest in skiing throughout his life.


At Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. in the Natural Sciences Tripos, having added biochemistry and physiology to the physical and geological science of his earlier studies.

He was thus admirably equipped for the research in soil chemistry which earned for him in 1933 the Ph.D. degree of the University of London.

The same year he became M.A.(Cantab.). His final degree was that of D.Sc. of the University of London in 1949.

Time at CSIRO

Walkley came from Rothamsted to the Soils Division of C.S.I.R. in 1933. At the Waite Institute be published a dozen papers on the chemical and physical properties of soils and on various aspects of zinc deficiency.

He joined his old friend, R. G. Thomas, in the Division of lndustrial Chemistry in 1942, and there his versatility and meticulous attention with respect to essentials led him into some very interesting though unusually difficult assignments.

First he worked on the raw materials for the dry cells for which the Army was so hungry, then on the complex systems met in recovery of copper and gold by hydrometallurgical methods.

Some of his numerous papers were applied, some fundamental: they were all good.

Walkley enjoyed a fine reputation in mining circles; indeed, he visited and reported on the African copper mining fields on behalf of four Australian companies in 1956.

Well known to the chemical profession, he served as Honorary General Secretary to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute from 1958-60.

He will be missed as much for his charm of manner as for his scientific leadership. If one might offer a word of comfort to his widow and son, it is that Australia will be forever in his debt.


Adapted from a submission by Ian W. Wark to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter (no. 32, November 1961), p. 1