Vale Ken (Kenton SW) Campbell

Wednesday 28 June 2017
Professor Ken Campbell inspecting a Dipnorhynchus sussmilchi specimen collected at Wee Jasper. Photograph is by Jeffrey Chan.

It is with great sadness the School remembers Professor Kenton S W Campbell (Ken) who died on 17 June 2017 following a stroke.

Professor Campbell died in the early hours of Saturday June 17. Ken retired from the ANU some 25 years ago and remained an ANU Emeritus Professor first in the Geology Department and then the Research School of Earth Sciences. He continued to be active in research on Palaeozoic fishes and was working on a manuscript up until his death.

Ken was a student of Professor Dorothy Hill at the University of Queensland. He commenced his academic career at the University of New England before being appointed at the ANU by Professor David Brown, the Foundation Professor of Geology. Ken was one of the first members of staff along with the late Professor Bruce Chappell. Ken rose through the ranks in the Geology Department to be Head of Department and was also Dean of the Faculty of Science for a period. Ken was also a foundation member of the Australasian Palaeontological Association and a founding member of the journal Alcheringa, the Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

Ken was elected to the Academy of Science in 1983 for his distinguished research in the fields of vertebrate palaeontology, early evolution and Palaeozoic stratigraphy. While his research interests were broad his particular passion was for Palaeozoic fossil fishes, several of which were named in his honour including Kenichthys campbelli from China.  He received many prestigious awards and prizes for his work including the Academy’s Mawson Medal and Lecture (1986), the Geological Society of Australia WR Browne Medal (2006) and the Royal Society of NSW Clarke Medal in 2010. In 2013 he was the first Australian working in Australia to receive the prestigious RC Moore medal for Excellence in Palaeontology from the US Society for Sedimentary Geology.

Ken gained a reputation for being a dedicated teacher and many Geology Department alumni have acknowledged Ken’s influence on their careers in geology, particularly through geological mapping which he insisted was fundamental to becoming a ‘well rounded’ geologist. 

Ken had a long-term productive collaboration with zoologist Dr Dick Barwick who joined Ken at the Geology Department after retirement. They formed a perfect match when studying fossil lungfish and produced numerous papers on material from the Gogo Formation in Western Australia, and closer to home from near Burrinjuck. This work placed both two locations on the international stage for fish evolution and morphology. Their more recent association with Professor Tim Sendon from RSPhySE has provided new insights into cranial morphologies of lung fish through the use of 3D X-ray imaging produced in Tim’s laboratory.

Throughout his career Ken insisted on the vital importance of knowing the biology of organisms in order to understand the form and function of fossils, and the use of sediments in which the fossils were found to provide clues as to the palaeoecology of the organisms. More recently, Ken became interested in the role of gene regulation and the evolution of organisms in response to Palaeozoic environmental changes.  He was never short of ideas.

Ken will be remembered for being a dedicated teacher and outstanding researcher. Each year the Research School of Earth Sciences, adopting the tradition commenced in the Geology Department, awards the ‘Ken Campbell Teaching Award’ to the person who has made the outstanding contribution to teaching.

Our deepest condolences go to Professor Campbell’s family and friends.

Updated:  19 February 2019/Responsible Officer:  RSES Webmaster/Page Contact:  RSES Webmaster