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Biographical entry Babbage, Benjamin Herschel (1815 - 1878)

6 August 1815
London, Middlesex, England
20 October 1878
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Engineer and Explorer


Benjamin Babbage held various public appointments in South Australia. In 1858 he was leader of a northern expedition but because he was so thorough he was considered too slow and was replaced by P. E. Warburton in November. After an ensuing parliamentary inquiry he withdrew from public life.


Born London, 1815. Died Adelaide, 20 October 1878. Pupil of William Chadwell Mylne, engineer of the New River Co., London 1834-36, planning and building railways under Isambard Brunel in Italy and England 1842-48; engineering inspector, Board of Health, England 1848-51; geological and mineralogical survey of South Australia 1851-52; commissioner of gold licences 1852-53, government assayer from 1853, built the Adelaide city to port railway, the first with steam in the colony; explored the Flinders Ranges looking for gold 1856; member of the first House of Assembly 1857; leader of a northern expedition to explore the country between Lakes Torrens and Gairdner and further to the north and west (replaced by P.E. Warburton in November); South Australia's representative at the Intercolonial Exhibition, Melbourne 1866; assistant to Charles Todd (q.v.) in planning and plotting the Overland Telegraph Line and supervisor of contractors 1870-72; ran a large vineyard on his estate at St Mary's. Sometime president, Philosophical Society (later Royal Society of South Australia).

Mount Babbage in the Flinders Ranges is named after him.

Related Corporate Bodies

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Australian Botanists - Biographies, MS 064; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

Published resources


  • Cumming, D. A.; Moxham, G. C., They built South Australia : engineers, technicians, manufacturers, contractors and their work (Adelaide: D.A. Cumming and G.C Moxham, 1986), 241 pp. pp.19-20. Details

Book Sections

Edited Books

  • Bailey, M. R.; Chrimes, M. M.; Cox, R. C.; Cross-Rudkin, P. S. M.; Hurst, B. L.; McWilliam, R. C., Rennison, R. W.; Ruddock, E. C.; Sutherland, R. J. M.; Swailes, T. ed., Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 2: 1830-1890 (London, United Kingdom: Thomas Telford Publishing, 2008), 907 pp. pp.32-33. Details


McCarthy, G.J.