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Charles Ernest Carter (1885–1976)

Charles Carter was Principal of the Victorian School of Forestry at Creswick from 1916 to 1926 and later Senior Lecturer at the Australian Forestry School at Canberra from 1926 to 1956. A skilled teacher, he had a marked influence on the observational powers and thinking of his students. As a result he gave a significant contribution to forestry in the different Australian States and overseas countries in which his students worked after graduation. Most of his Creswick students have retired from Government Service, but several continue to help the industry as consultants. The students he taught at the Australian Forestry School will give service to the profession in various Government Departments or as consultants well into the next century.

Mr. Carter’s main personal interest was education in its widest sense and thereby aiding the development of the many young people who entered his classes. He read widely and observed with precision, not only in the biological sphere in which he taught, but also in history, music, philosophy, sport and the general state of humanity. Titbits from his wide experience were likely to intrude into his formal teaching at any time. They are frequently recalled around campfires – now perhaps more frequently in comfortable loungerooms. These intrusions did not prevent him from giving his classes a sound basis of their subjects, and a critical eye as to plant classification and the disorders or other problems that influenced the welfare of their forests. His past students tend to value his teaching more as the years progress.

Charles Carter was born in South Melbourne in 1885. He left school at the age of 13 with a Merit Certificate and worked for two years with a timber merchant for five shillings a week. He then worked for four years in the Accounts Department of Dalgety & Co. and during this time he matriculated in eight subjects by night study. In 1906 he was awarded a Scholarship to the Melbourne Teachers’ Training College and obtained a Primary Teacher’s Certificate in 1908. He taught at various State Primary Schools and at Ballarat High School in 1915 and at Coburg High in 1916. He was selected by the Education Department to return to the University of Melbourne for further study in Education and Agriculture. This work was combined with his personal duties at Creswick and with studies at the Dookie Agricultural Field Station. He graduated with Honours in Agriculture in 1920.

In 1920 Mr. Carter was sent by the Government of Victoria to Yale University, where he studied for two and a half years. He was the first of several Australian foresters to graduate from Yale, being awarded the M.F. cum laude in 1922. The Yale class of 1922 still refer to him as “Our Grand Old Man”. Their high regard is evidenced by a memorial plaque in the Episcopalian Cathedral in Washington D.C. by the Yale Class of 1922 “to Charles and Lucy Carter”. While at Yale he was elected to the Scientific Fraternity of Sigma Xi.

Although he did not publish many personal papers Mr. Carter made an important contribution to the early C.S.I.R.O. work of Dr. Eric Dadswell on the structure and properties of Australian woods. After he retired from the Australian Forestry School he taught Plant Science subjects for several years at the Canberra Technical College. He was Captain of the football and cricket teams at the Teachers’ Training College in Melbourne and continued his interest in sport at Creswick and in Canberra.

In 1915 Mr. Carter married Miss Lucy Emily Small of Surrey Hills, Melbourne. They had two daughters, Corinne and Philippa. Corinne is now Mrs. Corinne Sutherland of South Yarra with three daughters and a son. Philippa is Dr. Philippa Currie of Kew with two sons and one daughter. Those who remember Charles’ respect for medical training will understand his pleasure when all of Philippa’s children studied medicine. Their father is also a doctor.

Mr. and Mrs. Carter continued to live in Canberra after Mr. Carter’s retirement. They had a wide circle of friends and were both greatly respected. Mrs. Carter died in 1972. Charles adapted himself to the new circumstances and even found an interest in cooking lessons as well as continuing his broad reading, and, of course, delighting in the progress of his seven grandchildren. He died suddenly on the 27th of October 1976, at the age of 91.

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'Carter, Charles Ernest (1885–1976)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

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