Chapman, Tom G

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Tom Chapman


Thomas Grandin Chapman, 28 April 1927 (Shanghai) – December 4, 2012 (Sydney)


Tom Chapman was born in Shanghai but spent most of his childhood on the Channel Island of Jersey where he was a schoolboy during the German occupation. At the end of World War II he studied Civil Engineering at Leeds University. Unimpressed by the English climate (‘I had an attic room in Leeds with a skylight, through which no actual light penetrated for six weeks because it remained covered in snow’) he headed for Australia, working for five years on a variety of civil engineering projects, mainly for Government departments. He ventured back to England to take a PhD in groundwater hydraulics at Southampton University, and then returned to Australia to work for 13 years with the CSIRO Division of Land Research in Canberra.

In 1970 he was approached by Crawford Munro, who had been on a one year secondment to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Faculty of Military Studies in Duntroon, and encouraged to apply – successfully – for the Chair of Engineering at Duntroon. He taught there for ten years. In 1980 the Chair of Water Engineering at the School of Civil Engineering at UNSW was advertised, and he sought the opportunity to join ‘this large group of academic water engineers, with whom I had enjoyed professional contacts for many years’.

He took up the position as Head of the Department of Water Engineering in April 1981, serving as the Head of School from 1984-1987, and retiring soon after. After retirement, Tom continued to serve the school and the discipline as an Emeritus Professor, mentoring junior staff, and publishing many of his acclaimed papers covering all aspects of the discipline. Indeed, as Russell Mein once mentioned to the author, ‘Tom was probably the best all-rounder Australian hydrology has had over the years’.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

One of Tom’s many scholarly contributions was in the national review of predictive methods for Australian hydrology – with the landmark publication in 1975 of Prediction in catchment hydrology / a National Symposium on Hydrology which was edited by Tom and F X Dunin. Additional books published include ‘Methods for water balance computations : an international guide for research and practice’ in 1985; ‘The use of water balances for water resources estimation, with special reference to small islands’ in 1985; ‘Identification of a common unitgraph and rainfall loss patterns for a set of runoff events’ in 1992; and ‘Comparitive hydrology : an ecological approach to land and water resources’ in 1989. An example of Tom’s versatility in research can be gauged by a browse through some of his journal publications. One of his highest cited papers (1999, Hydrological Processes) is on a comprehensive comparison of methods for baseflow separation. Another highly cited paper (1986, Journal of Hydrology) is on the use of Entropy theory for quantifying hydrologic data uncertainty. A third example (1984, Water Resources Research) is on the modelling of unsteady shallow groundwater flow. A fourth example (1998, Environmental Modelling and Software) is on the stochastic modelling of daily rainfall, with a focus on the impact of solitary wet days. These four papers, all relating to rather different aspects of hydrology, summed up the diversity in Tom’s research interests and activities. Tom’s last major publication (2006, Water Resources Research), on a new equation for shallow groundwater flow over curved impermeable boundaries, published nearly 20 years after he retired from UNSW, represents the longevity of his research and his continued interest in solving hydrological problems. While this may have been his last formal publication, the author remembers Tom submitting detailed and insightful reviews for articles under consideration, well till 2010. Along with several other awards and recognitions, Tom was invited to give a Munro Oration at the Australian Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium in 1986 in Brisbane. This prestigious oration, organised by the Institution of Engineers, Australia, honours a lifetime of achievement for a senior hydrologist in the country, representing the magnitude of contributions Tom had made over his career.


Reference Material[edit]

The History of the University of New South Wales: School of Civil and Environmental Engineering : 1949-2010, by Mary. O'Connell; University of New South Wales, ISBN9780733429507, 2010.

Major Publications[edit]

Chapman, T. (1998), Stochastic modelling of daily rainfall: The impact of adjoining wet days on the distribution of rainfall amounts, Environmental Modelling and Software, 13(3-4), 317-324, doi:10.1016/S1364-8152(98)00036-X.

Chapman, T. G., and G. Ong (2006), A new equation for shallow groundwater flow over a curved impermeable boundary: Numerical solutions and laboratory tests, Water Resources Research, 42(3), doi:10.1029/2005WR004437.

Chapman, T. G. (2005), Recharge-induced groundwater flow over a plane sloping bed: Solutions for steady and transient flow using physical and numerical models, Water Resources Research, 41(7), 1-11, doi:10.1029/2004WR003606.

Chapman, T. (1999), A comparison of algorithms for stream flow recession and baseflow separation, Hydrological Processes, 13(5), 701-714, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1085(19990415)13:5<701::AID-HYP774>3.0.CO;2-2.

Chapman, T.G., 1997. Stochastic models for daily rainfall in the Western Pacific. Mathematics and computers in simulation, 43(3-6), pp.351-358.

Chapman, T.G. and Maxwell, A.I., 1996. Baseflow separation-comparison of numerical methods with tracer experiments. In Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium 1996: Water and the Environment; Preprints of Papers (p. 539). Institution of Engineers, Australia.

Pilgrim, D. H., T. G. Chapman, and D. G. Doran (1988), Problems of rainfall-runoff modelling in arid and semiarid regions, Hydrological Sciences Journal, 33(4), 379-400, doi:10.1080/02626668809491261.

Chapman, T.G., 1986. Entropy as a measure of hydrologic data uncertainty and model performance. Journal of Hydrology, 85(1-2), pp.111-126.

Wooding, R.A. and Chapman, T.G., 1966. Groundwater flow over a sloping impermeable layer: 1. Application of the Dupuit‐Forchheimer assumption. Journal of Geophysical Research, 71(12), pp.2895-2902.