Reg Sprigg

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Reg Sprigg

Reginald Claude Sprigg

(1919-03-01)1 March 1919
Died2 December 1994(1994-12-02) (aged 75)
Glasgow, Scotland
Resting placeArkaroola, South Australia (ashes scattered)
EducationAdelaide Technical High School, University of Adelaide (BSc, MSc 1942)
Occupationgeologist, conservationist
Years active1942-1994
Known fordiscovery of Pre-Cambrian fossils at Ediacara Hills, South Australia; initiator, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Spouse(s)Patricia Day (div.) and Griselda A. Findlay Paterson
Parent(s)Claude Augustus Sprigg and Pearl Alice Irene nee Germein
AwardsRoyal Society of South Australia Verco Medal (1968), HonDSc ANU (1980), HonDSc Flinders (1990)

Reginald Claude Sprigg, AO, HonDSc ANU, HonDSc Flinders, MSc Adelaide, FTSE (1 March 1919 – 2 December 1994) was an Australian geologist and conservationist. At 17 he became the youngest Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia. During 1946, in the Ediacara Hills, South Australia he discovered the Ediacara biota, an assemblage of some of the most ancient animal fossils known. He was involved with oceanographic research and petroleum exploration by various companies which he initiated. During 1968, he acquired a derelict pastoral lease, Arkaroola, and transformed it into a wildlife sanctuary and wilderness reserve.[1]

Early life[edit]

Reginald Claude Sprigg was born 1 March 1919 on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula where his family were living in the small town of Stansbury.[1][2] His parents were Claude Augustus Sprigg and Pearl Alice Irene née Germein, who had married on 17 September 1913 in Stansbury.[3] Reg was their third and youngest child, a brother to D'Arcy Kingsley[4][5][6] and Constance Vera[7] (Connie).

His father's family were pastoralists, whilst the Germein family were mariners.[8] The Sprigg family had relocated to the Yorke Peninsula after being "forced off their pastoral lease at Oulnina because of drought".[9] The Germein family were ship chandlers in Mutton Cove, Devonport, Plymouth, England: three brothers came to Australia.[10] One, Ben Germein is remembered as a hero of the Admella rescue mission.

Before he was five years old, the family had relocated to the Adelaide suburb of Goodwood, 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 contact with the geoscientists at the University of Adelaide to whom he took collected samples for identification.[11]


In addition to pursuing his studies in geology, Reg developed drawing skills which gained him credit in the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts merit lists for 1934[12] and 1935.[13]

He matriculated from the Adelaide Technical High School during 1938.[14]

At the University of Adelaide, he was a pupil of Sir Douglas Mawson who said that "Sprigg was his best-ever student". He completed the requirements for his Bachelor of Science and then graduated Master of Science during 1942.[1][15]


During 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Engineers, and worked with Munitions from 1941 to 1942. He transferred to work with the soils division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) until 1943.

Sprigg next worked for the South Australian Geological Survey, which sent him to reopen the Radium Hill Uranium Field during 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.

Sprigg was sent by the South Australian government during 1946 to inspect abandoned mines in the Ediacaran Hills, to ascertain whether old mines could be reworked profitably using new technologies. When he discovered the fossils, apparently while eating his lunch, he realised that they were very ancient, either of Early Cambrian, or possibly even of Precambrian age. He thought that the organisms had probably been jellyfishes.[16] He submitted a paper to the journal Nature, but it was rejected. He travelled to London and presented his findings to the 1948 International Geological Congress, but failed to excite either interest or belief.[17] Subsequent work by Prof Martin Glaessner at the University of Adelaide demonstrated that they were indeed of latest Precambrian age. Although Precambrian animal fossils had been reported before, they had not been accepted universally as organic. This discovery resulted ultimately in the definition during 2004 of the Ediacaran Period, the first new geological period created in more than one hundred years.

Of other significance, Sprigg helped establish Santos (an acronym for South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search), which discovered gas deposits in Cooper Basin, including the Moomba Gas Field, which supplies natural gas to South Australia, New South Wales and Canberra. During 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 in the north west corner area of South Australia as well as working for Santos.

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

During 1968, Sprigg purchased the pastoral lease of Arkaroola, a property and important uranium exploration field of 610 square kilometres in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, and converted 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 during October 1968. [18][19]


Sprigg attracted the attention of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) during 1950, due to Sprigg's knowledge of uranium deposits in Australia and throughout the world. During 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 surveilled for some ten years.[18]

Family life[edit]

During 1942, Sprigg married Patricia Day who had been born in Wiltshire, England and relocated to Adelaide with her parents during 1927. During 1943, she graduated as a BA (Adelaide), scoring first place in Political Science and worked in the History School during 1945 and 1946 reading essays and lecturing. During 1948, Patricia, aged 25, left Adelaide on the P&O ship "Stratheden", arriving in London on 27 March 1948. In London she worked at Magazine of the Future whilst reading law at Lincoln's Inn. Reg and Patricia divorced during 1950 and she moved to Sweden in 1951 to marry Gillis Een.[18][20][21][22]

On 3 February 1951, Sprigg married Griselda A. Findlay Paterson, daughter of Robert Findlay Paterson and Grace née Dreghorn, born December 1921 in Paisley, Scotland.[19][23][24][25][26][27] Griselda had studied in Glasgow and qualified as a radiographer.[26]

During 1948, Reg, still with the South Australian Mines Department, was in Britain in association with uranium on behalf of the government; Griselda has said that she met Reg "on ...the island of Arran, .... Well there was I 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."[28]

During 1952, a daughter,[29] Margaret[23] and during 1954, a son,[30] Douglas[23] were born in South Australia.

Griselda and the children often accompanied Reg in his outback travels.[19][31] During 2001, Griselda published an account of those travels in Dune is a four-letter word.[32]

Reg Sprigg died on 2 December 1994 whilst on holiday in Glasgow, Scotland.[1][33] His ashes were scattered at Arkaroola.[34]

Griselda Sprigg died 20 March 2003.[35]


Reg Sprigg is the author or coauthor of these books:

  • Uranium Deposits in South Australia with Dickinson, Samuel Benson, D. King, M. L. Wade, B. P. Webb, A. W. G. Whittle, F. L. Stillwell, and A. B. Edwards, Australia (South) Geol. Survey Bull., 1954.
  • Arkaroola – Mt Painter in the Flinders Ranges with Griselda Sprigg, 1976.
  • Arkaroola – Mt Painter in the Flinders Ranges: The Last Billion Years, 1984 and 1988.
  • Geology is Fun,1989
  • A Geologist Strikes Out, Recollections by Reg Sprigg, December 1993, ISBN 0-646-16410-4.

Awards and honours[edit]

  • During 1980, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the Australian National University.[36]
  • During 1982, he was the inaugural Lewis G Weeks Medalist awarded by the then Australian Petroleum Exploration Association.[1][37] Reg had been foundation president during 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.[37]
  • During 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.[38]
  • During 1986, he was the recipient of the Royal Society of South Australia's Verco Medal; at age 17, he had been the youngest fellow of the society.[1]
  • During 1990, Flinders University conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.[39]
  • During 1998, the Geological Society of Australia, South Australia Branch initiated the biennial Sprigg Symposium "in recognition of the contributions Dr Reginald Sprigg made towards many aspects of geology in South Australia".[40][41][42]
  • During 2001, the University of Adelaide announced that it had established the Reg Sprigg Chair in Petroleum Engineering in the (now) Australian School of Petroleum.[43]
  • The genus Spriggina has been named in his honour.[44]
  • The mineral Spriggite, a uranyl hydroxide mineral, has been named in his honour.[45][46]
  • The annual Sprigg Lecture Series is held by the South Australian Museum to commemorate his discovery of the Ediacara fauna.[47]
  • The main-belt asteroid 5380 Sprigg, discovered by Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in 1991, was named in his honour.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Walker, Rosanne (4 February 2010). "Biographical entry Sprigg, Reginald Claude (1919–1994)". Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  2. ^ Government of South Australia. Index of Births registered in the Daly District. Dal 34A/74: Reginald Claude Sprigg
  3. ^ Register of Marriages, Vol. 256, p. 776, Name: Pearl Alice Irene Germein, Father's name: John Germein, Spouse Name: Claude Augustus Sprigg, Spouse's Father's Name: Samuel Augustus Sprigg, Marriage Date: 17 September 1913, Marriage Place: Stansbury, Registration Place: Daly, South Australia
  4. ^ Register of Births, South Australia, 1907-1916, page 484: Darcy Kingsley Sprigg
  5. ^ "Family Notices". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 26 September 1914. p. 14. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Family Notices". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 10 March 1952. p. 16. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  7. ^ Register of Births, South Australia, 1907-1916, p. 578: Constance Vera Sprigg
  8. ^ Manning, Geoffrey H., ed. (July 2002), The Manning Index of South Australian History (database on-line), South Australia: Government of South Australia. State Library., Acknowledgements, retrieved 22 July 2011
  9. ^ Manning, Geoffrey H., ed. (July 2002), "Place Names of South Australia - B. Brentwood. Nomenclature." (database on-line), The Manning Index of South Australian History, South Australia: Government of South Australia. State Library.,, retrieved 22 July 2011, According to Mr R.C. Sprigg of Arkaroola the name was bestowed by the Sprigg family who, having been forced off their pastoral lease at Oulnina because of drought, settled on Yorke Peninsula:
    Just why our people seem to have set up or been associated with the setting up of "Brentwood Villages" in Australia since about 1870 respectively [in] South Australia, Wimmera, Victoria (c.1870) and near Wagin (c.1890) and perhaps in Queensland is a puzzle to us.
  10. ^ Manning, Geoffrey H., ed. (July 2002), "Place Names of South Australia - M. Mutton Cove - Myrtles, The. Mutton Cove." (database on-line), The Manning Index of South Australian History, South Australia: Government of South Australia. State Library.,, retrieved 22 July 2011, At Outer Harbor. Advice from Mr Reg Sprigg of Arkaroola, a descendant of the Germein family, suggested that:
    It was named by my great-great-grandfather – one of the three Germein brothers out of Plymouth. The family had a ship chandler's set up at Mutton Cove in England – down on the water's edge... of Plymouth Town... Ben [Germein] was the first man to sail a windjammer in full sail down the length of the Port River.
  11. ^ Ellis, David. "Reg Sprigg: the unsung rock legend (book review)". Lumen. ua. Retrieved 19 July 2011. Reg was born in 1919 at Stansbury on Yorke Peninsula, but his family moved to the Adelaide suburb of Goodwood in his early years. He used to collect shells and fossils on the beach from the age of five, and he became fascinated with geology by the age of 10, thanks to a chance meeting with a retired miner from Broken Hill, whose mineral samples were a source of amazement. Reg's first experience of the University of Adelaide came when, as a child, he took mineral samples he had collected into the Geology Department for identification.
  12. ^ "SCHOOL OF ARTS AND CRAFTS". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 21 December 1934. p. 29. Retrieved 19 July 2011. "Object Drawing"
  13. ^ "EDUCATION DEPARTMENT—SOUTH AUSTRALIA". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 18 December 1935. p. 11. Retrieved 19 July 2011. "Geometrical Drawing" and "Perspective"
  14. ^ "Who's Who S (alphabetical list of students)". Adelaide Technical High School Old Scholars Association. Adelaide Technical High School Old Scholars Association. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  15. ^ "Advertising". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 November 1940. p. 17. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  16. ^ Sprigg, Reg. C. (1947). "Early Cambrian (?) jellyfishes from the Flinders Ranges, South Australia". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 71 (2): 212–224.
  17. ^ Bryson, Bill (2003). A Short History of Nearly Everything. Doubleday. p. 410. ISBN 0-385-60961-2.
  18. ^ a b c Weidenbach, Kristin (2008). Rock Star. Adelaide: East Street Publications. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-921037-29-0.
  19. ^ a b c "THE SPELL OF THE WILDERNESS". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 17 February 1971. p. 30. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  20. ^ "ENGAGED". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 17 March 1942. p. 3. Retrieved 20 July 2011. ENGAGED – MISS PATRICIA DAY, only daughter of Mrs. A. E. Day, of Springfield, to Mr. Reginald Sprigg, younger son of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Sprigg, of Seaton Park.
  21. ^ Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives. Series BT26, Piece 1236, Item 143.
  22. ^ "From Near and Far (interview with Patricia Een)". Adelaidean: News from The University of Adelaide. 8 (12): 2. 26 July 1999.
  23. ^ a b c Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives. Series BT26, Piece 1345, Item 63.
  24. ^ Statutory Register of Marriages, General Register Office, Scotland t/as ScotlandsPeople. Kilmarnock District, Ayr. (1921) marriage of PATERSON, Robert F and DREGHORN, Grace B. GROS data 597/00 0109
  25. ^ Statutory Register of Births, General Register Office, Scotland t/as ScotlandsPeople. Paisley District, Renfrew. (1922) birth of PATERSON Griselda A Findlay. GROS data 573/01 0016
  26. ^ a b "Family Notices". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 January 1951. p. 22. Retrieved 19 July 2011. PATERSON— SPRIGG.— The marriage of Griselda, younger daughter of the late Robert Findlay Paterson, LDS and of Mrs. Paterson, Paisley, Scotland, to Reginald C. Sprigg, of Station Park, will be solemnised at Scots Church, North terrace, at 8 pm on Saturday, February 3.
  27. ^ "About People". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 5 February 1951. p. 10. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  28. ^ "Griselda Sprigg – A Lifetime of Adventure (interview with Trixi Oldfield, reporter)". ABC South Australia. 1 August 2002. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  29. ^ "Family Notices". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 25 June 1952. p. 16. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  30. ^ "Family Notices". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 24 November 1954. p. 32. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  31. ^ Atkey, Rae (22 April 2001). "Griselda Sprigg recalls journeys of discovery". The Sunday Mail (Adelaide). p. 44.
  32. ^ Maclean, Griselda Sprigg with Rod (2001). Dune is a four-letter word. Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press. ISBN 1-86254-516-2.
  33. ^ Statutory Register of Deaths, General Register Office, Scotland t/as ScotlandsPeople. Glasgow (Martha St) District, Glasgow City. (1994) death of SPRIGG, Reginald Claude GROS data 606/00 0564
  34. ^ "Arkaroola legend". Eastern Courier Messenger. Adelaide: News Ltd. 22 October 2008. p. 26.
  35. ^ Nelson, Reg (30 July 2003), "Obituary: Griselda Sprigg, 1921-2003", MESA Journal, Government of South Australia. Primary Industry and Resources. Division of Minerals and Energy Resources.: 63
  36. ^ "Honorary Degrees Committee, Honorary Graduates of the University". Australian National University. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  37. ^ a b "APPEA Gold Medals". Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  38. ^ It's an Honour Australian Government
  39. ^ "Honorary Degrees Recipients". Flinders University. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  40. ^ James G. Gehling (compiler. abstracts & programme), ed. (24–25 June 1998). Inaugural Sprigg Symposium: the Ediacaran revolution. The University of Adelaide, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Mawson Laboratories: Geological Society of Australia.
  41. ^ "Geological Society of Australia Inc., South Australia Division". Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  42. ^ "Sprigg Has Sprung". PESA News. Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  43. ^ "Media Release, Drilling for oil on campus". The University of Adelaide. 8 June 2001. Retrieved 20 July 2011. The Federal Government has also contributed $1 million to establish an additional chair, the Reg Sprigg Chair, named in honour of the late Reg Sprigg who made a significant contribution to the oil and gas industry in Australia.
  44. ^ Glaessner, Martin F. (1958). "New Fossils from the Base of the Cambrian in South Australia" (PDF). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 81: 185–188. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 September 2007.
  45. ^ Brugger, Joel; Krivovichev, Sergey V; Berlepsch, Peter; Meisser, Nicolas; et al. (Feb–Mar 2004). "Spriggite, Pb3[(UO2)6O8(OH)2](H2O)3, a new mineral with beta-U3O8-type sheets: Description and crystal structure". The American Mineralogist. Mineralogical Society of America. 89 (2/3): 339–347.
  46. ^ Spriggite,
  47. ^ South Australian Museum > Sprigg Lecture Series Accessed 22 July 2012
  48. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2007). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names – (5380) Sprigg. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. p. 460. ISBN 978-3-540-00238-3. Retrieved 29 March 2017.

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