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Hertzberg, Adolphus Marcus (Mark) (1924–2015)

by Alison Crook, Neil Tuffley and Alan Ventress

Mark Hertzberg was one of that rare breed of people who could properly be called "a scholar and a gentleman". He was a classical scholar, enthusiastic historian and perfect gentleman.

Marcus Hertzberg was born in Brisbane on December 25, 1924. The Depression hit his family hard and he achieved his secondary and tertiary education by securing scholarships and entering essay-writing competitions in school holidays to pay for textbooks.

He was dux at Brisbane Grammar School and gained first-class honours and the University Medal in Applied Science at the University of Queensland. He then earned a PhD in chemical engineering at the Imperial College, University of London. In 1955, he married the author Nancy Keesing.

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He returned to Australia to work with the Colonial Sugar Refining company (CSR). His career there spanned the 1950s to the mid-1980s. He retired as general manager, CSR Sugar Division, in 1983, but maintained a close relationship with his many CSR contacts up to the day he died.

Hertzberg was an internationally recognised expert on sugar technology. His advice was sought worldwide in resolving serious technical issues. In 1985, he received the prestigious Crystal Award from Sugar Industry Technologists Inc, the international sugar-refining technology association, for his contribution to the industry.

His career was also characterised by his concern and support for, and commitment to both the personal and career development of the company's staff. He earned the respect of all those who worked with him and his influence extended far beyond the technical field of the company. CSR was one of the top three companies on the Australian Stock Exchange well into the late 20th century and many of the technical and managerial staff who "passed through his hands" went on to achieve senior positions both inside and outside of CSR as a result of his leadership. In 1987, Hertzberg was made an officer of the Order of Australia.

In 1983, Hertzberg was appointed a member of the Library Council of the State Library of NSW, and in 1987 he was appointed president, a position he held until 1990.

He was a truly good man, a man who lived his life in accord with carefully thought-through high principles. Hertzberg brought his keen intellect to bear in all he did, but it was an intellect tempered by great warmth and a generosity of spirit. He was always careful with and concerned for the wellbeing of others.

Hertzberg provided leadership without being domineering. He always tried to lead by engaging the mind, exploring issues, gaining a shared understanding, and exercising balanced careful judgment. He was also an innovator, interested in new technologies, keen to stay abreast of developments himself, and an enthusiastic supporter of the state library's technological developments.

Recognising the need for additional ongoing funding to enable the library to achieve its mission, Hertzberg was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the State Library NSW Foundation. He ensured council support for its formation – the first among the NSW cultural institutions. The foundation has gone on to contribute more than $30 million to the library's work, and last year celebrated 25 successful years.

Hertzberg was widely travelled, and when travelling became too difficult, he remained in frequent email contact with his overseas colleagues. As a prolific reader and continuous acquirer of knowledge, he also had a remarkable memory, being able to recount events and conversations, and recite poetry he learnt when five years old, Shakespeare, Elizabethan poetry and Virgil. Most of his computer passwords were from Virgil.

Cooking was a great pastime. He shared his typed recipes with annotations resembling a laboratory manual. For instance, at the end of a recipe for matzo balls, he wrote, "Note! Organic material can burn if overcooked in a microwave: and can even catch fire. So it is important to take care."

After his wife died in 1993, Hertzberg endowed the State Library of NSW with an annual fellowship in her memory to encourage emerging researchers. He is survived by his children, Margery and John, and grandchildren, Sarah, Mark and David.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 2015

Additional Resources

Citation details

Alison Crook, Neil Tuffley and Alan Ventress, 'Hertzberg, Adolphus Marcus (Mark) (1924–2015)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hertzberg-adolphus-marcus-mark-22739/text32250, accessed 25 November 2017.

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