Dixey, Frank

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Sir Frank Dixey


Sir Frank Dixey 1892(Wales) -1982


Born in Wales on April 7, 1892, Dixey was educated at Barry and the University of Wales. Throughout his subsequent geological career he developed a life-long interest in rural water supplies, particularly in the many African territories in which he worked.

After serving in the Royal Garrison Artillery in the First World War, his professional career began with his appointment in 1918 as the Government Geologist to Sierra Leone, charged with the single-handed task of undertaking a country-wide mineral survey, which led to the completion of the first geological map of the territory. That appointment was followed in 1921 by the Directorship of the Geological Survey of Nyasaland (now Malawi) where he remained until 1939.

During this time he was extensively involved in the practical aspects of water supply, as well as in initiating investigations into coal and bauxite deposits around Lake Nyasa and on the Mlanje plateau respectively. In 1931 he published his Practical Handbook of Water Supply which codified the practices of the time and was essential reading for those working in the field: a second edition was issued in 1950.

There followed a five-year period, from 1939, as Director of Water Development in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) before he was appointed in 1944 as Director of the Geological Survey of Nigeria. In the three succeeding years he began a ten-year countrywide rural water-supply borehole programme which was continued after he left the territory.

In 1947, however, he was appointed to London as the Director of the (then) Colonial Geological Surveys -- a post he held with distinction for twelve years. During this period he was responsible not only for a four-fold increase in the geological staffs working in the British overseas territories, but also for the widespread introduction as exploratory tools of the then developing techniques of geophysics, geochemistry and air photography. The geological, mineralogical and hydrogeological surveys resulting from these extensive programmes led to the publication of innumerable maps and reports and to the development of many resources.

Dixey's personal research interests during his numerous appointments in Africa led to significant scientific advances in the understanding of the African rift-valley systems and of the widespread erosion surfaces. His scientific and administrative achievements, coupled with his work on water supply, led to numerous awards from the British and overseas geological communities, including the Draper Medal of the Geological Survey of South Africa in 1945, the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1953, his election in 1958 to the Royal Society and to an Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Ever active, he undertook various hydrogeological studies and consultancies for the U.N. and the British authorities following his retirement in 1959. His last field investigation was a study of the hydrogeology of the Kyrenia Mountains in northern Cyprus. On completion on that work he was awarded a Knighthood in 1972 by the British Government in recognition of his long and distinguished career.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

A pioneer in hydrogeology, geophysics, and water resource development, particularly in developing countries. Frank Dixey was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Hydrology. He served as Editor between 1965 and 1977 and then accepted an Honorary Editorship, as recorded in Volume 32, No. 1/2, for 1977

Reference Material[edit]

Source: D. A. Gray, 1983, Obituary: SIR FRANK DIXEY, K.C.M.G., O.B.E., F.R.S. -- AN APPRECIATION, Journal of Hydrology, 63:199-200

Major Publications[edit]


Dixey, F., 1931. A Practical Handbook of Water Supply. A Practical Handbook of Water Supply. Allen and Unwin: London


Dixey, F., 1966. Water supply, use and management.


Dixey, F., 1924. Lake level in relation to rainfall and sunspots. Nature, 114, pp.659-661.