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Biographical entry Adams, Philip Francis (1828 - 1901)

Mildenhall, Suffolk, England
22 June 1901
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Surveyor and Viticulturist


Philip Adams worked for the New South Wales (NSW) land surveyors department, and was Surveyor-general from 1868-1887. During this time, Adams initiated the department's shift to trigonometrical surveying in 1867 and took charge of it from 1870. He was also an avid wine grower, first establishing a successful vineyard in Ettamogah (1857c) and then again in 1888 after he retired. He gained a good reputation in the wine industry and spent much of his retirement attending conferences for wine-growers and fruit-growers, judging wine shows, and writing many articles on the subject. Adams was a keen amateur astronomer and was appointed one of the official observers of the transit of Venus in 1874 and 1882. Adams was heavily involved in local affairs, participating in the Public School Board and in many charities.


Born in England, Philip Adams moved to Ireland with his family where he was educated mainly at the Belfast Academical and Collegiate Institution. In 1848 he was appointed land surveyor and after three years emigrated to Canada and then the United States. He returned to Canada to try and make his fortunes on the goldfields, but was unsuccessful. He then moved to Sydney in 1854. Adams quickly gained employment as a district surveyor for the NSW government. He convinced them to give up on their time-consuming, haphazard surveying techniques and introduced trigonometrical surveying. This saw Philip Adams rise through the ranks and eventually be appointed Surveyor-general in 1868. During his reign, he introduced competitive examinations for surveyors and advised select committees. Adams retired in 1888 to pursue his love of wine-making, a job he did successfully and was highly respected in the industry.


1848 - 1851
Career position - Land Surveyor in Ireland
1851 - 1853
Career position - Surveyor in Canada and USA
Career position - Prospector (unsuccessful) in the California goldfields, USA
Life event - Migrated to Australia (Sydney)
1854 - 1859
Career position - District Surveyor in Maitland, New South Wales (NSW)
1857 - 1862
Career position - District Surveyor in the southern district of NSW
Life event - Married Harriet Burnet in Newcastle, NSW
1862 - 1864
Career position - Acting Deputy-Surveyor-General for NSW
Career position - Member of the Royal Society of New South Wales
1864 - 1868
Career position - Deputy Surveyor-General for NSW
Career position - Reported on the need to change the existing haphazard survey system to a trigonometrical survey system
Career position - Trigonometrical survey commenced
1868 - 1887
Career position - Surveyor-General for NSW
Career position - Manager of the trigonometric survey
Career position - Official Observer of the transit of Venus in Woodford, NSW
Career position - Official Observer of the transit of Venus at Lord Howe Island
Career position - Member of the New South Wales Commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition
1887 - 1901
Career position - Retired to establish a vineyard in Casula, NSW

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McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci