Book Review - Ranger Journal of the Defence Surveyor's association Vol2 No.20

Trevor Lloyd Wadley, Genius of the Tellurometer
By Mary Wadley von Hirschberg
Published by Mary Wadley von Hirschberg

Available from Mary von Hirschberg, PO Box 1919, H100, Swaziland or by
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Mary von Hirschberg tells the story of TL Wadley from a very personal perspective as one of
his younger sisters in a family of ten. A gifted individual herself, Mary shows great pride in the
achievements of her brother in this short biography. She sets the scene by recounting the family
background and the environment in which Wadley grew up. Through her description of Wadley’s
parents it is easy to see where he acquired his own personality. His mother is described as

formidable and his father as doing the work of four men, even in retirement. The author does not

shy away from some very personal feelings such as her mother’s aggressive attitude to Wadley,
often accompanied with very hurtful words. The author goes on to describe how her mother had a
profound effect on Wadley’s life that included a lack of self-esteem that left him vulnerable both
physically and psychologically in later life.
Referred to as a genius in the title, Wadley did however struggle at school and only just managed to
pass his matriculation exams but it is clear that he thrived on those subjects he found exciting and
where his imagination could be used. Later, when at University, he was considered to be ‘one of the
most brilliant students of the day’. He rarely took notes during lectures because, as his Professor
observed, he had no need for them for he had a remarkable mind and could recall every item of
every lecture.

Although by choice a lone worker, it is evident that Wadley was prepared to share and test his
ideas with colleagues. When he did engage with people he absolutely loved to talk endlessly and
provocatively but he also came across as kind and caring.
Following chapters on the Tellurometer, the Earth Measuring Instrument, and examples of the
impact of the Tellurometer around the World, the book concludes by examining how the stresses

of developing and working, combined with extensive periods of travel drained Wadley’s energies
and impacted on his family life leading to divorce. In recounting his divorce and second marriage,
the author returns to a familiar theme of ‘liking to have his own way’ and ‘propensity to buck the
system’ even when related to his own health. She suggests that his own mother’s attitude trained
him to become a rebel and how his whole life seemed oriented to ‘beating the system’.
Mary Wadley von Hirschberg provides an interesting insight into many aspects of Trevor Wadley’s
life. Through her discussion of the times in which he lived, his education, military service and
time with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the author brings together all those
influences on his life that made the Genius of the Tellurometer. Although Wadley may have suffered
from a lack of self-esteem, he achieved great things in his career and was much admired by those
he worked with. Throughout his career Wadley was totally loyal to the organisations he worked
for, and as a salaried man, never made a fortune from the measuring device that revolutionised
surveying around the World.

In places some curious unrelated snippets are included, such as a reference to the first meeting of the
International Atomic Energy Authority in 1957, but this reviewer found the book to be a fascinating
insight into Trevor Wadley that compliments the insight provided in ‘The Tellurometer - from Dr
Wadley to the MRA7’. The text is accompanied by many photographs of the Wadley family and of
Trevor Wadley demonstrating the Tellurometer, together with transcripts of his personal letters.
John Knight