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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Parker, Henry Thomas (1890–1957)

by Allan G. Anderson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Henry Thomas Parker (1890-1957), educationist and psychologist, was born on 27 April 1890 at Balmain, Sydney, second son of English parents John Parker, leather merchant, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth, née Morris. His father having become a Baptist clergyman, Henry, educated at Fort Street and Sydney Boys' High schools, also commenced instruction for the ministry, but was never ordained. In 1907 he became a pupil-teacher in the Department of Public Instruction and completed his training at Teachers' College in 1909. After teaching in New South Wales he was appointed temporary assistant at Battery Point State School, Hobart, in July 1914 and, 'successful in effecting an all round improvement' in a backward class, progressed in 1915-20 to teacher-in-charge of schools at Gormanston, Westbury, Strahan and Penguin. On 27 June 1916 at Sisters Creek, Table Cape, with Methodist forms, he married Ina Silvester Belcher; she also became a teacher.

As an outstanding graduate in psychology from the University of Tasmania (B.A., 1918; M.A., 1921), Parker spent 1921 in Sydney and Melbourne where he pursued his work under the guidance of E. Morris Miller, making a special study of mental deficiency. Returning to Hobart in 1922 as supervisor for special classes and attached to the staff of the Philip Smith Training College, he was responsible for establishing the Tasmanian Education Department's first psychological clinic and opportunity classes. In 1924 he opened the Girls' Welfare and in 1928 the Boys' Welfare schools for slow learners.

In 1933 Parker visited the United States of America and western Europe on a Carnegie grant to study special education. Next year, while still on the Training College staff, he was appointed departmental psychologist and supervisor of research. In addition to his clinical work he now lectured in psychology; he also opened a class for the intellectually gifted, modelled on schools in the U.S.A., at the Elizabeth Street School. In 1942 he left the Training College to establish a separate Psychologist's Office within the Education Department; from 1944 until he retired in April 1955 he was education officer and chief psychologist. After spending several months in Africa in 1953 he addressed a United Nations forum on the Mau Mau.

Parker was one of the founding fathers of Australian psychology and a leader in the development of educational psychology. He was a fellow of the British Psychological Society (1950) and first chairman of the Australian branch. An original member of the Australian Council for Educational Research, he also belonged to the State Library Board and at his death was president of the Tasmanian Free Library Movement. As a member of the federal advisory committee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he did considerable work on developing school broadcasting, while his many publications examined intelligence and attainment, physical handicap, speech defects, the development of intelligence testing and curricula for the mentally handicapped. In his J. A. Johnson memorial lecture in 1955 Parker emphasized the need for diversity of curriculum in 'education for citizenship'.

Parker died suddenly in Hobart on 22 May 1957 and was cremated. His wife and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society, 7, no 5, Nov 1985
  • G. Rodwell, The Influence of Progressiveness on Tasmanian State Primary Education, 1904-20 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Tasmania, 1987)
  • private information.

Citation details

Allan G. Anderson, 'Parker, Henry Thomas (1890–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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