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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Longman, Albert Heber (1880–1954)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Albert Heber Longman (1880-1954), newspaper publisher and museum director, was born on 24 June 1880 at Heytesbury, Wiltshire, England, son of Frederick Longman, a Congregational minister of liberal views, and his wife Susan, née Passmore. Educated at Emwell House, Warminster, he was encouraged in his leanings towards botany, geology and archaeology. Because of a chest weakness he came to Queensland in 1902 and settled at Toowoomba where, on 29 January 1904, he married Irene Maud, daughter of Congregational minister James Molineux Bayley.

Heber Longman had bought the plant of a recently defunct newspaper and produced a news-sheet, the Downs Post. This lively publication attracted local support and businessmen formed a small company to produce a weekly paper, named the Rag, from November 1904. George Essex Evans became editor, Longman sub-editor and manager until ill health caused Evans to withdraw; then Longman, as editor, renamed it the Citizen.

Keenly interested in the plant life of the district, Longman became an assiduous collector and initiated the Field Naturalists' Club at Toowoomba. After one of its members, Dr Ronald Hamlyn-Harris of the Toowoomba Grammar School staff, had been appointed director of the Queensland Museum, Longman gladly accepted his invitation in 1911 to join the staff as a scientific assistant. Although lacking formal qualifications, Longman established a considerable reputation as a scientist over the next forty years. In 1917, when Hamlyn-Harris resigned, he was appointed acting director, then director on 24 April 1918. The museum channelled his interests around zoology. He did not entirely neglect plant science, but no longer undertook any detailed tasks of botanical taxonomy.

Most of Longman's publications—some seventy papers—appeared in the Queensland Museum Memoirs. While the animals and insects of Queensland were included in his researches, his contributions to vertebrate palaeontology established his reputation internationally. New genera described included dinosaurs, marine reptiles, fish and a marsupial. His book, The Religion of a Naturalist (London, 1911), expressed his emancipated position as an agnostic and foreshadowed his membership of philosophical and rationalist clubs and societies.

Shortage of funds and staff, particularly during World War II, resulted in overwork and Longman's increasing ill health. He retired from the museum in 1945. Described as courteous and kindly, he had distinguished himself as president of the Royal Society of Queensland (1919, 1939) and the Queensland Naturalists' Club, as vice-chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Committee, member of the Australian National Research Council, fellow of the Linnean Society of London and of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London. In 1946 he received the Australian Natural History medallion and in 1952 the coveted Mueller medal.

For the last six years of his life, his urbane and unpretentious column 'Nature's ways' had a wide and devoted following in the Courier Mail. Heber Longman died at his home at Chelmer on 16 February 1954 and was cremated. Childless, he was survived by his wife.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Naturalist, 15 (1954), no 1, 2
  • Queensland Museum, Memoirs, 13 (Apr 1956), pt 2
  • Royal Society of Queensland, Proceedings, 42 (1957), no 7
  • State Government Insurance Office, Insurance Lines, 42, Oct-Dec 1959
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 1 Jan 1946, 17, 20 Feb 1954
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Feb 1954.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Longman, Albert Heber (1880–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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