William (Bill) D. Birch

Research Associate, Geosciences

Bill analyses and identifies minerals, rocks and meteorites; writes articles that describe his discoveries, and builds and publicises the museum’s geological collections.

portrait of man
William (Bill) D. Birch.
Source: Museum Victoria

Background

Bill was born and educated in Melbourne and after graduating from the University of Melbourne with a PhD in geology was appointed Curator of Minerals at the then National Museum of Victoria in 1974.

His geological work has taken him to many far-flung places in Australia and the rest of the world, such as Siberia, Greenland, Pakistan, Japan and Canada, where he has collected rocks and minerals for the Museum. During his tenure, the Museum’s mineral and rock collections have more than doubled in size, and their scope and value have considerably increased. He has described nearly 40 new minerals, published about 210 papers and articles, and delivered talks at many international conferences, as well as to local societies and community groups.

Bill has been involved with mineralogical organisations, in particular the International Mineralogical Association, for nearly 30 years. His contributions to geological knowledge and to scientific organisations have been recognised by the award of the Selwyn Medal by the Geological Society of Australia in 1999 and an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in 2006. He is President-elect of the Royal Society of Victoria in 2013.

Current activities

Most of Bill’s research interests concern new or unusual minerals from Australian localities and he collaborates with other mineralogists around the world to identify, describe and name them. Victorian minerals and gemstones, and their geological origins, are a special interest of his. Recent research projects include investigation of how and when uranium-bearing minerals formed in weathered granite in northern Victoria, and the origin and crystallisation history of Devonian volcanic rocks. He is currently finalising the publication of an updated version of a book, Gemstones of Victoria, which reveals the great variety of gem minerals that have been found throughout the State. Other mineralogical projects include investigation of unusual phosphate minerals and rare manganese sulfates from several localities in northern Victoria.

Bill also enjoys tracking the history of the Museum’s mineral and rock collections, which have been sourced from worldwide localities for over 150 years, and this is one of his ongoing projects. Bill retired at the end of 2013 and has been appointed as a Research Associate in Geosciences.

Last updated 23 June 2014