Slides of rock samples prepared by Dr Germaine Anne Joplin AM. Photo by Bethany Ellis.
From the archives
A road in Kambri has been named after a trail-blazer in geology. Jess Fagan reports.
It’s been nearly 70 years since Dr Germaine Anne Joplin AM, affectionately known as ‘Joppy’, arrived at ANU. It’s clear she made a lasting impact.
She was quite a pioneer when it came to looking at rocks across south-east Australia in particular.
She’s still spoken of fondly as a trail-blazer at the Research School of Earth Sciences, where her rock specimens are in storage and her textbooks sit on shelves.
Now there’s another permanent reminder of her ground-breaking work, with a street in the new Kambri precinct at ANU named after her.
Joppy was one of the first academics – male or female – hired by Professor John Jaeger to join the newly formed Department of Geophysics (now the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences) in 1952.
“There weren’t many women in geology at that time, so it’s quite amazing that she was one of the first hires when Jaeger set up the school in the early 50s,” current PhD candidate Hannah James says.
“She was quite a pioneer when it came to looking at rocks across south-east Australia in particular.”
Along with her scientific research, Joppy also found time to serve on the University House Board of Fellows from its inception in 1953, taking on the role of Steward from 1955 to 1957. During this period, she even moved out of her house in Yarralumla to take up permanent residence in University House.
In 1986 she was awarded the prestigious WR Browne Medal ‘for distinguished contributions to the Geological Sciences of Australia’ and in the same year was made a Member of the Order of Australia.
That she was able to achieve so much over the course of her career is even more remarkable considering some of the setbacks she faced.
Her former colleague Mervyn Paterson recalls she lost the sight of one eye in her youth, but ‘nevertheless spent much of her life on the microscopy of rocks’.
“She always used a monocular microscope, even when binocular microscopes became available,” Paterson says.
In 1960 a fire destroyed many of her records, partly completed manuscripts and extensive collection of rock specimens.
Joppy got straight back to work and went on to publish dozens of papers as well as her highly regarded textbooks on the petrography of Australian igneous and metamorphic rocks.
Her books contain beautiful illustrations of thin sections, which Joppy drew herself while looking down the microscope. The ANU Research School of Earth Sciences shared a handful of the stunning pictures to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2019, introducing a whole new generation of aspiring female scientists to her work.
Hannah James and her colleagues at the School were delighted to learn one of the streets in Kambri would be named ‘Joplin Lane’ after a vote by the ANU community.
Joplin was selected from a shortlist along with other women like Marie Raey – whose name now adorns the teaching centre – who made a significant contribution to ANU.
No doubt ‘Joppy’ would be delighted to see a focus on encouraging more women to pursue a career in STEM.
She told The Canberra Times in 1968: “When I started in the early twenties, girls were not supposed to go wandering about with maps and sacks of rocks, but if you were really interested in your work you had to.
“Travel grants, scholarships and field allowances were unheard of, so it had to be in your time and with your own money.”
*Dr Germaine Anne Joplin AM died in Sydney in 1989.