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Thomas Ranken (1863–1940)

The death has occurred at a private hospital at Rose Bay, of Mr. Thomas Ranken, of Boronia Road, Bellevue Hill, aged 77 years, who until a few years ago was District Surveyor at Dubbo. The deceased gentleman was for many years attached to the North Coast Survey Office, being Chief Staff Surveyor at both Grafton and Lismore up till about 1907, where he and Mrs. Ranken were held in high and even affectionate regard by a wide circle of friends. Whilst Mrs. Ranken was prolific in her works of charity, Mr. Ranken gave in valuable aid to several of our most deserving institutions, notably the School of Arts. As a self-taught amateur astronomer, Mr. Ranken was widely known, also as a fine mathematician. He applied the principles of analytical trigonometry, co-ordinated geometry and the differential and integral calculus to the solution of some of the important problems in astronomy and contributed his findings to the scientific literature of the day. As a lecturer he was most entertaining. Many will recall his lectures in the old Lismore School of Arts' Hall, outside of which he erected a powerful reflector telescope and transferred to the screen within the hall the image of the planets and stars of the southern heavens, enabling the understanding eye to appreciate the marvels of the unknown worlds.

Mr. Ranken published several works on mathematics, notably on the metric system, advocating its adoption by Great Britain. In recent months he contributed articles in the "S.M. Herald" "on the stupendous financial burden imposed by six Parliaments of Australia, and his figures were never challenged.

In the literature of the period Mr. Ranken occupied an honored place. He contributed to the district press, which he was ever out to assist. In 1936 he published "Our Continental Need" and other verses, being a retrospect of subjects and happenings extending over 40 years. His best poem was probably the "Song of the Northern Rivers," which was first published when stationed at Lismore. It introduced all the geographical features and landmarks:

"The Smoky Cape looms where the fair Macleay
Winds east to meet the morn,
And Lindesay proud in his robe of cloud
Holds court on his border throne."

And alone would give him a place m literature, being comparable with Henry Kendall's "Orara" and Brunton Stephens' "Cape Byron." Incidentally Mr. Ranken was a keen historian and made a close study of the geographical explorations of Allan Cunningham and party among the border ranges m 1827-28 and was convinced that the mountain he ascended and named Mt. Lindesay was none other than the present Mt. Barney.

Mrs. Ranken died at Dubbo a few years ago, but an adult family of sons and daughters survive. Thus passes one of the best and noblest of men whose friendship was valued by all who knew him.

Original publication

Citation details

'Ranken, Thomas (1863–1940)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia


21 November, 1940 (aged ~ 77)
Rose Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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