What’s in a name? The Henry Caselli (H.C.) Richards (Richards Building)

In December we remember Henry Caselli (H.C.) Richards (1884-1947), first Professor of Geology at UQ, and a dynamic teacher, administrator and academic. Richards was born in Melton, Victoria and would come to Queensland as a lecturer at the Central Technical College (CTC now QUT). He would quickly join the staff of the newly formed University of Queensland (which shared the same buildings with the CTC) in 1911, becoming the first lecturer in geology.

By 1925, Richards carried a huge load of administrative, research and teaching work, being involved with all aspects of the University’s administration, outreach with the Queensland government and industry, teaching within the school, camps, social activities and collaboration with other agencies. His study of the building stones of Melbourne and later Brisbane, gave him many opportunities to speak and later advise on the building stones selected for the new UQ campus which was purchased in 1926. Along with Sir Matthew Nathan, he founded the Great Barrier Reef Committee which sponsored scientific research into the Reef, and led to bore drills and a very successful international expedition in 1928-29, as well as the Heron Island Research Station. He mentored the students of his Department, and assisted his most successful students to obtain scholarships to study abroad. He was a keen advocate for building the library collection of the University believing that the University would always struggle to produce quality original work without a good quality library, and in the absence of a proper facility, built a department library and collection of fossils and rocks for the new University. He was active in the establishment of a seismological station for UQ after the 1935 Gayndah earthquake.

When Richards died “in harness” as his former student, F.W. Whitehouse would describe it, [1] the University elected to name the newly built Geology building at the St Lucia campus for him.

One of his most successful students, Professor Dorothy Hill described Richards in his heyday -

“..liked to demonstrate he was physically fitter than they were, by leading them pell mell up a hill, describing what was ..visible there from before more than the vanguard of students had arrived, then darting full steam down it and up the next one...” [2]


Hill, Dorothy (1981). "The first fifty years of the Department of Geology of the University of Queensland". Papers of the Department of Geology, the University of Queensland: 10(1): 1-68.

Hill, Dorothy (1981). Oral history interview with Professor Dorothy Hill by John Cole, 10 September, 1981 (toward a history of the University of Queensland). http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:371876

Whitehouse, F.W. (1947). "The work of H.C. Richards". Gazette (University of Queensland), September, p.5-6.

[1] Whitehouse, F.W. (June 1966). "Obituary: Walter Heywood Bryan". Queensland naturalist, 18(1&2): 34-35.

[2] The Dorothy Hill Collection UQFL25 https://www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer-library/ms/uqfl25.pdf

Last updated:
30 November 2016