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Marks, Geoffrey Charles (Geoff) (1932–1990)

Geoff Marks, n.d.

Geoff Marks, n.d.

Geoffrey Charles Marks achieved scientific excellence in the field of forest pathology during the 27 years he worked in forestry research in Victoria. His sudden death on 30 August 1990 brought a productive career to a premature close.

Geoff was born in Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka) in 1932. He completed an honours degree in science at the University of Ceylon in 1956 then began his professional career as a research officer with the Department of Agriculture in Ceylon working on disease resistance in rice. In 1959 he gained the opportunity for a year of postgraduate study in Japan on crop disease research. His work there led to the award of a Rockefeller Scholarship to study crop diseases at the University of Wisconsin, USA, where he graduated M.Sc. in 1961 and Ph.D. in 1963.

He came to Australia in July 1963, when he was appointed to the position of Forest Pathologist with the Forests Commission of Victoria. He had a gifted intellect and brought a knowledge base and research skills which, when applied to the problems of forest diseases, opened up this field of research in Australia. He approached his work with enthusiasm and a professionalism which was an example to those who worked with him. He was keen to use the latest technology in his work and to draw on the expertise of others, and in so doing he established close liaison with scientists and students in tertiary institutions and CSIRO. This undoubtedly contributed to a wider understanding of the problems caused by diseases in forests and ensured that a more concerted research effort was undertaken, from which a better scientific basis of knowledge became available for use in forest management.

His major academic achievements included coeditorship of Ectomycorrhizae: Their Ecology and Physiology with Professor Kozlowzki of the University of Wisconsin in 1972, and co-authorship of Tree Diseases in Victoria published in 1982 by the Forests Commission. During his career he authored or co-authored over 70 publications in journals, 13 of which appeared in Australian Forestry. At the time of his death he was working as the senior editor of another major book Eucalypt Diseases and Disorders to be published by CSIRO.

The topics of his papers cover a diverse range of forest diseases and organisms, including mycorrhizae of conifers, Diplodia dieback and Dothistroma needle blight in radiata pine, Phytophthora root rot and dieback in eucalypts and proteas, nematodes in forest tree nurseries, leaf rusts in poplars, and many others. His greatest contribution, perhaps, was the study of, and development of control measures against, Phytophthora cinnamomi in Victoria. His interests in forestry went well beyond his research into aspects of disease. For example, his observations of silvicultural practices in eucalypt forests led him to an investigation of the effect of branch shedding on the incidence of defects in timber.

Geoff enjoyed his work and communicated his enthusiasm to his colleagues. He was constantly full of new thoughts, hypotheses, arguments and ideas that he insisted on testing. He was a creative and lateral thinker, a stimulus to his fellow scientists.

Geoff’s other achievements included being a champion swimmer, having represented Ceylon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. He had wide interests and he was an active member of the Australia-Ceylon Fellowship. He was very proud of his wife, Diana, and two children, Debbie and Paul, both of whom recently completed with distinction their degrees in medicine.

Geoff’s contribution to Australian forestry has been outstanding. His colleagues and many friends grieve his passing.

Original publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 53, no 3, 1990, p 218

Additional Resources

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Citation details

'Marks, Geoffrey Charles (Geoff) (1932–1990)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 11 August 2020.

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