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Alva Challis

Geologist (1930-2010)

Gwyneth Alva Challis emigrated in to New Zealand from England in 1952, and worked as a radiographer before going on to study at Victoria University. In 1959, she was awarded the Sir Robert Stout scholarship for being best student at the university that year. Two years later she received a scholarship to study for a PhD at Cambridge University, and during that time discovered a new cobalt-iron mineral1, named Wairauite for the Marlborough Valley in which she found it. Challis married a fellow geologist, but continued to work for the New Zealand Geological Survey from 1958 to 1995, working alongside men on remote field projects. Together with her husband, she searched for minerals deposits in areas such as Southland’s Longwood Range and within Nelson Lakes National Park. After he died she continued minerals studies then retired to Motueka, near the geologically-famous Dun Mountain.2


1. ‘33-266-942.TIF - 33-266-942.Pdf’, accessed 2 August 2017, http://www.minersoc.org/pages/Archive-MM/Volume_33/33-266-942.pdf.

2. ‘Geologist with a Rock-Hard Intellect’, Stuff, accessed 2 August 2017, https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/obituaries/4566794/geologist-with-a-rock-hard-intellect.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.