Mary Wade (paleontologist)

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Mary Julia Wade (3 February 1928 – 14 September 2005) was an Australian palaeontologist, perhaps best known for her work on the Precambrian Ediacaran biota in South Australia.[1]

Mary Wade (1928-2005) was born in Adelaide, South Australia and spent her early life on a property in the northeast of the state. Her family moved when she was seven to Thistle Island in Spencer Gulf where she first became interested in geology. Studying remotely via correspondence, Wade was sent on scholarship to the Wilderness School in Adelaide as a boarder from the age of 13.[2] After she finished school, she undertook a B.Sc. with honours in geology at the University of Adelaide before graduating in 1954. Wade worked as a demonstrator while she undertook her PhD on tertiary aged microfossils, under the supervision of Professor Martin Glaessner.


After graduation in 1958, Wade took up research at the University into the earliest forms of animal life until 1968. While at the University of Adelaide she worked with Martin Glaessner on the Precambrian jellyfish fossils found in the Ediacara Hills of the Flinders Ranges.

In 1971, Wade moved to the Queensland Museum as curator of geology, and continued there becoming Deputy Director in 1980.[2] She explored much of western Queensland, studying the fossils of early nautiloid molluscs. She developed a network of contacts around Winton, and with Dr Tony Thulborn, they organised and supervised the excavation of 3000 dinosaur footprints in the Tully Ranges. This site, known as Lark Quarry, is now a major tourist destination, and is on the National Heritage list for the quality of the dinosaur footprints.[2]

In 1987, with the assistance of contacts in the Hughenden area, Wade recovered a second skull of the Queensland dinosaur, Muttaburrasaurus. She was able to excavate specimens of Kronoaurus, and secure the site and remains of Jurassic sauropod, Rhoetosaurus, which had been lost since the 1920s. In 1990, Wade excavated the most complete Pliosaurus fossil at Hughenden, presently known. She continued research into mollusc fossils of the Great Artesian Basin.[2]

Wade became an Honorary Research Associate of the Queensland Museum after retiring in 1993. She moved to western Queensland, helping to develop the fossil centres at Richmond and Hughenden.


Wade was awarded the Queensland Museum medal in 1996. Her research led to the development of Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond, the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden, and Lark Quarry near Winton. The Dinosaur Trail tourist program is based on the work she and her contacts began.[2]

In 1998, the Geological Society of Australia dedicated a special symposium in her honour. A prize is now given in her honour at the biennial Palaeo Down Under conference.[3]

Mary Wade died in Charters Towers, Queensland in 2005. She did not marry, and was survived by her brother.[2]

Selected papers[edit]

Thulborn, R. A. & Wade, M. 1984. Winton dinosaur footprints. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 21.

Turner, S. & Wade, M. 1986. The records in the rocks. In: Mather, P. (ed.) A Time for a Museum. The History of the Queensland Museum 1862–1986. Queensland Museum, Brisbane, 128–149.

Wade, M. 1994. Fossil Scyphozoa. In: Grasse´ , P. (ed.) Traite´ de Zoologie. Masson et Cie, Paris


Bright Sparcs, Biographical entry

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  2. ^ a b c d e f Cook, Alex. "Mary Wade 1928-2005 based on an obituary from the Courier Mail". Mary Wade 1928-2005. Retrieved August 24, 2016. 
  3. ^ Garcia-Bellido, Diego (5 April 2016). "AAP Awards". AAP Awards. AustralAsian Association of Palaeontogists. Retrieved August 24, 2016.