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Obituaries Australia

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Mitchell, John (1848–1928)

The late Mr. John Mitchell, of High strcet, Waratah, who died yesterday at a private hospital at Waverley, was one of the foremost geologists in Australia, and, it Is believed, the only palaeontologist (student of ancient life) in the Commonwealth.

Mr. Mitchell was born at Ballieston, near Glasgow. In 1848, and landed in Australia with his people when only 12 months old. In 1853 the family settled in the Newcastle district.

Mr. Mitchell spent 25 years as a public school teacher at Teralba, Balranald, and other parts of New South Wales. He was principal of the Newcastle Technical College up to 16 years ago, when he retired.

Mr. Mitchell commenced his scientific work with Mr. R. Etheridge, then curator of the Australian Museum in the early eighties. He continued his research work up to the time of his death, working in conjunction with Mr. Dunn, of the Mines Department, and Dr. Tillyard, recently appointed to the position of Commonwealth Entomologist.

Mr Mitchell attained wide fame in his palaeontological work, and he contributed more papers on geology to tho Linnean Society of New South Wales than any other member of the society during its Jubilee period ending in 1924.

In research work his most import ant discovery was the insect fossils in the coal measures of Newcastle, and these, after being placed in the hands of Dr. Tillyard for classification and description, proved of immense value. In the solving of the problem of insect evolution.

Previous to Mr. Mitchell's discovery, it was not known that the forests of millions of years ago contained vast numbers of insect forms.

Mr. Mitchell also found what was claimed to be the most perfect fish in the world, belonging to tho genus clonichthys. The fish was about a foot long, and the fins resemble those of the shark.

Mr. Mitchell's collection of fossils, said to be the best in Australia, was accumulated over a period of more than 45 years.

Mr. Mitchell is believed to be the last member of the bodyguard of the Duke of Edinburgh when be visited Newcastle in 1868.

Mr. Mitchell was president of the Waratah branch of the National Association, and was instrumental in having a School of Arts built at Wallsend many years ago.

In his early days he was interested in cricket. He was the oldest surviving member of the Linneen Society of New South Wales.

Mr. Mitchell is survived by a widow and six children — Emma and Ethel (Waratah). Mrs. R. McLean (Llangothlin), George (Sydney), Hector (Waratah) and Keith (Gunnedah).

Three sons were on active service during the late war, one (John) being killed.

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Citation details

'Mitchell, John (1848–1928)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 October 2020.

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