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Benjamin Herschel Babbage (1815–1878), an English engineer who superintended construction of the first Port Adelaide railway line, was employed by the South Australian Government in 1851 to search for gold. He led two official expeditions (1856 and 1858) that found no gold but surveyed the Flinders Ranges and Far North and established the extent of Lakes Eyre and Torrens. Alleged incompetence motivated his replacement by PE Warburton and, despite a parliamentary inquiry that helped bring down the Dutton government, Babbage was not reinstated. He turned to scientific research, was a founder member of and prolific contributor to the Philosophical Society (later Royal Society of South Australia), helped to survey the overland telegraph route, and cultivated an experimental vineyard at St Mary’s, south of Adelaide.  

By Carol Fort

This entry was first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian History, edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Edited lightly. Uploaded 8 September 2015.

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