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Biographical entry Gentilli, Joseph Hefetz (1912 - 2002)


13 March 1912
San Daniele del Friuli, Italy
8 August 2002
Western Australia, Australia
Climatologist and Geographer


Joseph Hefetz Gentilli was a key figure in Australian climatology and an equally capable geographer. Gentilli migrated to Australia as a war refugee in 1939 and soon gained employment as a lecturer in statistics at the University of Western Australia (1940). He remained at the University for over fifty years and was founder of its Department of Geography. Gentilli was one of the first to report on the Northwest Cloudbands which originate over the Indian Ocean and occasionally blow across Australia, sometimes bringing with them widespread rain and storms to the south. He also made some of the earliest studies of Western Australia's climate records looking for evidence of changes which may have influenced an increase in soil salinity (1952) and in 1977 was part of a world panel of climatologists who examined the phenomenon of climate change and its possible impacts. Joseph Gentilli published widely, in four different languages, and received many honours and awards including an appointment as a Commander Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). He was also involved in many professional scientific bodies, was President of the Geographical Society of Western Australia and a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society (FRMetS) and the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS).



Education - Doctorate in Political Science completed at the University of Venice Economics Institute in Italy
1934 - 1935
Career position - Junior Lecturer in Geography at the University of Florence
1935 - c. 1936
Life event - Evaded military service by disappearing 'over the mountains' and court-martialled on his return
1939 - 1940
Career position - Lecturer of Statistics (part-time) at the University of Western Australia
20 August 1939
Life event - Migrated to Australia (Fremantle, Western Australia)
1940 - 1942
Career position - Lecturer in Economics at the University of Western Australia
1941 - ?
Career position - Lectured in Geography and introduced Economic Geography to the University of Western Australia
Award - Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
1977 - c. 1997
Career position - Retired and appointed Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia
Education - Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) received from the University of Western Australia
1988 -
Award - Honorary Life Member of the Institute of Australian Geographers
Award - John Lewis Gold Medal received from the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia
Award - Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
Award - Griffith Taylor Medal received from the Institute of Australian Geographers
Career position - Keynote Speaker at the Australia New Zealand Climate Forum in Perth

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Armstrong, Patrick, 'Obituary: Joseph Gentilli', Australian Geographical Studies, 39 (2) (2001), 249-252. Details
  • Cramb, J., 'Obituary: Joseph Gentilli 13th March 1912 to 1st August 2000', Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, 13 (2000), 109-111. Details
  • Gentilli, J., 'A History of Meteorological and Climatological Studies in Australia', University Studies in History, 5 (1967), 54-88. Details


Annette Alafaci