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Biographical entry Bennett, Isobel Ida (1909 - 2008)


9 July 1909
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
12 January 2008
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Marine scientist


Isobel Bennett worked at the University of Sydney 1933-1971 as a secretary, librarian and research assistant. She wrote "The Great Barrier Reef", the first book to give a general picture of the whole of the Great Barrier Reef, in 1971. One genus, five species of marine animals and a coral reef have been named after her.



1925 - 1928
Career position - Secretary at the Patent Attorney's Office
1928 - 1932
Career position - Secretary of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
1932 - 1933
Career position - Research work for Professor W.J. Dakin
1933 - 1971
Career position - Working variously as Secretary to the Departmental Librarian and Demonstrator at the University of Sydney
1942 - 1945
Career position - Research Assistant to Dakin at Department of Home Security
1945 - 1948
Career position - Continued work with Dakin until his retirement
1948 - 1970
Career position - Made expeditions to the Great Barrier Reef
Career position - Took part in a complete ecological survey of the reef by the University of Queensland expedition to Low Islands
1959 - 1968
Career position - Made four visits to Macquarie Island
1959 - 1971
Career position - Professional Officer at the University of Sydney
Award - Honorary Master of Science (MSc) received from the University of Sydney
Career position - Temporary Associate Professor at Stamford University, USA
1974 - 1979
Career position - Co-opted to the New South Wales Fisheries Department
Award - ANZAAS Mueller Medal received (Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science)
Award - Whitley Memorial Award received from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
Award - Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
Award - Whitley Memorial Award received from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
Award - Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc (Hon)) received from the University of Sydney

Archival resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Interview with Dr Isobel Bennett, marine biologist [sound recording] / interviewer, Diana Giese, 20 July 1999, TRC 3910; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


Journal Articles

  • Allen, Nessy, 'The Sea Has Many Voices: Profile of an Australian Woman Scientist', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 38, 1992, pp. 41-50. Details
  • Allen, Nessy, 'Australian Women in Science: Two Unorthodox Careers', Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 15, no. 5-6, 1992, pp. 551-562. Details
  • Byrne, Margaret, Broadhurst, Linda, Leishman, Michelle and Belov, Kathy, 'Women in conservation science making a difference', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 24, no. 1, 2018, p. 6, Details


Resource Sections


  • Carey, Jane, 'Departing from their sphere: Australian women and science, 1880-1960', PhD thesis, The University of Melbourne, 2003, 356 pp. Details

See also

  • Herd, Margaret (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 2002, 38 edn, Crown Content, Melbourne, 2001, 2020 pp. Details

Rosanne Walker