Richard (Dick) Grenfell Thomas

By Helen WolffSeptember 6th, 2018


Chemist, naturalist, lover of minerals and raconteur extraordinaire, Dick Thomas was the man responsible for initiating research in CSIRO on minerals as industrial raw materials.

After graduating at the University of Adelaide in 1924, Mr Thomas did post-graduate work as a mineralogist under the direction of Sir Douglas Mawson.

He then spent three years as chemist with the Australian Radium Corporation, where he was responsible for devising methods for treating the complex ore mined at Radium Hill in the Flinders Ranges, an area which he visited frequently and for which he retained a great attachment.

In 1928 he joined Professor T. Brailsford Robertson in the unit at the Biochemistry Department of the University of Adelaide, which soon afterward became the CSIR Division of Animal Nutrition.

With Brailsford Robertson and later with H. R. Marston Mr Thomas played a distinguished part in the research on the role of trace elements in animal nutrition that culminated in solution of the problem of ‘coast disease’ in sheep.

In 1940, when Dr (later Sir lan) Wark was establishing the Division of Industrial Chemistry in Melbourne, he invited Mr Thomas to set lip a Section of Minerals Utilization, the forerunner of the present Minerals Research Laboratories. This Section became the Division of Mineral Chemistry of which Mr Thomas remained Chief until he retired in 1961.


Adapted from a submission by to CoResearch, CSIRO’s staff newsletter¬†(no. 182, July 1974), p. 2