Cecil Thomas Madigan
Cecil Thomas Madigan was born on 15 October 1889 at Renmark, South Australia, son of Thomas Madigan, contractor and fruitgrower, and his wife Mary Dixie, née Finey. Cecil was the eldest of two sons and two daughters.
Cecil attended Adelaide High School and, on a scholarship, Prince Alfred College before studying mining engineering at the University of Adelaide (B.Sc., 1910, surrendered 1932 for B.Eng.), where he graduated as an exhibitioner, and the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. In 1911 Madigan went as a Rhodes scholar to England, but deferred the appointment when he was selected by Douglas Mawson as meteorologist for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
Madigan was to install and read the meteorological instruments during the two-year project. He made several exploratory sledge journeys from the base camp at Denison Station, Adelie Land; on one, his party reconnoitred the ice plateau in winter, experiencing record cold and wind. In the summer of 1912-13 Madigan led the eastern sledging party which traversed the sea-ice and coastline of King George V Land, a round journey of 500 miles (805 km), which took two months.
Overcoming many near-disasters, the party collected significant data on the ice, and discovered a coal-bearing rock formation. His account is in his chapter of Mawson's The Home of the Blizzard (London, 1915). Madigan's journey had coincided with Mawson's southern sledging party during which his two companions perished and Mawson struggled back alone to base camp only to miss the relief ship. Madigan led the group which had remained behind to wait for Mawson's return or to mount a search for him. Madigan received the King's Polar Medal in 1914 and published The Meteorology of Cape Denison, Adelie Land in the records of the expedition (1929).
After one term at Oxford in 1914 he joined the Royal Engineers, 76th Field Company, Guards Division, becoming captain in 1916.
On 20 August 1915 in London Madigan had married Wynnis Knight Wollaston of Adelaide; he returned to the front immediately, was wounded, and after recuperating went back to France in May 1916. Their first son was born in July.
After demobilization he returned to Magdalen College, Oxford (B.A., 1919; M.A., 1922; D.Sc., 1933), taking first-class honours in geology and winning blues in rowing and boxing. In 1920 he went as assistant government geologist to the Sudan where he first encountered deserts and the use of camels in geological field operations.
He returned in 1922 to the University of Adelaide as lecturer in geology, a post he held until his death.
A renewed friendship with Mawson, now professor of geology and mineralogy, coloured Madigan's academic career; both were heroic exploration geologists, of striking stature, vigour and personality; keen to succeed scientifically, they divided fields of interest—Madigan's arid central Australia, Mawson's the Antarctic and Precambrian South Australia. They influenced each other importantly. Their pupils regarded them with awe and affection. Madigan supported the students' union and the graduates' association and founded the Tate Society for students of the natural sciences whom he led in the field during vacations.
In 1940 Madigan became chief instructor in the School of Military Field Engineering at Liverpool, New South Wales, attaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Later he reported on water resources. He retired from the army in 1943 and returned to the University of Adelaide.
He died in Adelaide of coronary vascular disease on 14 January 1947 and was buried in Centennial Park cemetery.Biographical SourceAdapted from Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986