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Douglas James (Doug) Guppy (1922–2015)

Douglas James Guppy was a geologist, World War II veteran and a senior federal public servant. Born in Adelaide in 1922, he attended the University of Adelaide, where he completed an honours degree in geology in 1943 under the supervision of the famous Antarctic explorer, Professor Sir Douglas Mawson. It was during this period that he also met his first wife, Joan Claudia, with whom he had four children.

He went on to serve as an intelligence officer in the RAAF in the Pacific Theatre in defence of Australia. Although he had been encouraged by Professor Mawson to join the uranium program in support of the United States effort to develop the atomic bomb, he chose instead to join the 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit and 87 squadron of the RAAF intelligence service, which played a critical role in gathering intelligence for the Allies in the South-West Pacific and carried out missions over occupied Dutch East Indies, Celebes, Timor, Borneo and the Philippines using modified Mosquito and De Havilland FB40s. He rarely spoke of his wartime service, which was so secret that he and others were not permitted to discuss their exploits for many years. He was very proud to have been a guest of honour at celebrations to mark 50 years of the RAAF Intelligence service in 2013.

After the war, he resumed his civilian career as a geologist which took him to places such as Iran, then known as Persia, Indonesia and remote parts of Western Australia, on which he published many scientific works, including with respect to the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater.

He went on to hold senior positions in the Bureau of Mineral Resources where he had a significant influence on the development of Australia's natural resource laws and policies, including the negotiations that led to the conclusion of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It was during one of the Law of the Sea negotiating sessions in Geneva that he met his second wife Beatrice, with whom he remained married for over 30 years.

As a negotiator, he was formidable and his insistence on Australia not accepting an outcome that compromised Australia's long-term interests helped to shape the Convention and the legal regime of the continental shelf. As such, one of his enduring legacies has been to position Australia to access significant offshore resources and secure one of the largest continental shelf areas in the world.

He is survived by his wife, four children, four grandchildren and his great grandchild. He will be deeply missed.

Douglas James Guppy died peacefully at the age of 93 in Canberra, Australia.

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Citation details

'Guppy, Douglas James (Doug) (1922–2015)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


14 February, 1922
Torrensville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


27 June, 2015 (aged 93)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service