Obituaries Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: use double quotes to search for a phrase
  • Tip: lists of awards, schools, organisations etc

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Adolphus Peter Elkin (1891–1979)

Emeritus Professor A. P. Elkin, the Anglican minister who became one of the world's leading anthropologists and a devoted worker for the welfare of the Aborigines, died on Monday. He was 88.

Appointed in 1933 for five years as Professor of Anthropology at Sydney University, he retained that position until his retirement in 1956.

Born at West Maitland on March 27, 1891, Adolphus Peter Elkin attended East Maitland High School and, after brief employment in a bank, decided to become a clergyman.

He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree at Sydney University in 1915 and, in that year, was ordained as a minister in the Church of England.

At various times between 1918 and 1937, he was rector of Wallsend, Wollombi and Morpeth, and he was vice-warden of St John's College, Armidale, in 1919-21.

After graduation, and while performing his clerical work, he completed a thesis, Myth and Ritual in Australia. For this, London University awarded him in 1927 the degree of doctor of philosophy.

He did field work for five years among the Aborigines in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and in northern areas of South Australia.

In 1932, he became a member of the Australian National Research Council and, later, a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

In 1933, when he obtained the Chair of Anthropology at Sydney University, he began important work as editor of Oceania, a journal primarily concerned with the study of the native peoples of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

His post-retirement activities included books on Aborigines and more field trips to Arnhem Land and the central highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Professor Elkin is survived by his wife and two sons.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Elkin, Adolphus Peter (1891–1979)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 March, 1891
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia


9 July, 1979 (aged 88)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations