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Frederick Stanley (Stan) Colliver (1908–1991)

by Jennifer Harrison

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Frederick Stanley Colliver (1908-1991), fitter and turner, field naturalist, and curator, was born on 22 August 1908 at Ballarat East, Victoria, eldest child of locally born parents Frederick William Colliver, warehouseman, and his wife Edith Florence, née Furlong. Stan attended state and technical schools, and then worked for the chemical and scientific apparatus manufacturers H. B. Selby & Co. in Melbourne for three years before joining the Victorian Railways. Training as a fitter and turner, he later worked as a toolmaker at the railway workshops at Newport.

During his early working years Colliver attended evening classes in chemistry, geology, and palaeontology; he later studied zoology, chemistry, and botany at the University of Queensland. An untiring student of natural history, he travelled widely throughout eastern Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania collecting geological and other specimens. In 1938 he travelled with Charles Barrett to Central Australia, collecting for the Commonwealth Northern Territory exhibition.

In 1931 Colliver had joined the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria, serving as honorary secretary (1931-46) and president (1946-47). On a trip to Geelong with FNCV members in 1939, he discovered the lower jaw of a Tertiary toothed whale, subsequently named Mammalodon colliveri; Cralopa colliveri, a species of endemic minute land snails, was also named after him. The following year, on 21 December, he and a fellow club member, Scottish-born Mary Wilson Ferguson, were married by a Methodist minister at Essendon North. In 1948, after a warm recommendation from F. W. Whitehouse, Colliver became museum curator at the University of Queensland’s department of geology.

The Collivers were members of the Queensland Naturalists’ Club for over forty years, with Stan serving as president (1951-52), councillor, and librarian. He was also librarian of the Royal Society of Queensland and of the Great Barrier Reef Committee. From 1963 to 1975 he was a member of the advisory board of the John Oxley Library within the State Library of Queensland, and vice-chairman (1975-84). He was section secretary for anthropology at the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science conferences held in Brisbane in 1961 and 1971. From 1971 his great love was the Museum Society of Queensland, for which he organised excursions, became president, and headed and inspired a team of volunteers.

A foundation member of both the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra and the Anthropological Society of Queensland, following his retirement from the University of Queensland in 1973 Colliver researched and published on Aboriginal prehistory. He was a member of the Queensland place names committee (1956-81) and served on the State’s place names board (1975-85), offering insights into the origins of Aboriginal place names. Appointed OBE in 1985, he received the Queensland Museum medal in 1988.

Colliver’s capacity to arrange and catalogue became evident during his years of service to the University of Queensland as well as through his stewardship of the libraries and collections of his favoured societies. In 1989 his extensive collection (which he had commenced at the age of ten) of over four hundred thousand Mollusca and some five thousand geological specimens, along with anthropological artefacts, was transferred to the Queensland Museum. Many items had been in the possession of earlier experts who shared their rare bounty and knowledge with the eager curator who wrote and inspired articles based on these treasures. Colliver’s encompassing reference library and extensive collection of cutting books and society papers were donated to the museum after his death.

The Collivers regularly entertained friends and colleagues at their Red Hill home, occasions at which Stan’s gentle sense of humour and talented piano playing emerged. Survived by his wife and childless, Colliver died on 25 September 1991 in Royal Brisbane Hospital and was cremated. For some years after his death the Royal Society of Queensland honoured his memory with the Stan Colliver memorial lecture (later memorial meeting).

Select Bibliography

  • Cairns Post. ‘Current Nature Topics.’ 23 August 1946, 6
  • Hegarty, E., B. R. Jahnke, E. E. McKenzie, and E. N. Marks. ‘Obituary. Frederick Stanley Colliver.’ Queensland Naturalist 31, nos. 3-4 (1992): 49-53
  • John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. M 662 and M 878, Stan Colliver Papers
  • Stanisic, John. ‘The Colliver Shell Collection.’ Queensland Naturalist 31, nos. 3-4 (1992): 54-57.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jennifer Harrison, 'Colliver, Frederick Stanley (Stan) (1908–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

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