Norman Francis Edwards

 (1946 Ė 2017)


Norm Edwards was one of the first cadet surveyors recruited by National Mapping from the then Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). His appointment was gazetted on Thursday 24 August 1967 (Commonwealth of Australia, 1967). Starting RMITís Associateship Diploma in Surveying course in 1966, Norm graduated in 1968.

His parents were Frederick Francis and Ester Jane Edwards who came from Ballarat and were a picture theatre operator and clerk respectively. Norm was born in 1946 and in the 1950s, on moving to Hampton in Melbourne, his father became an engineer while his mother was occupied with home duties. By the time Norm was 21, he was a student at RMIT and living with his mother in Hampton. After his father died, Normís mother later returned to live in Ballarat as Norm had by then married Marjorie Katherine and was living in Dingley.

After graduation from RMIT, Norm was promoted to a Surveyor Class 1 position in the Airborne Horizontal Control Section (Aerodist) of the Control Survey Branch of the Topographic Office. The office was then located in the Rialto Building in Collins Street, Melbourne. His first Natmap field season in 1969 was with Aerodist. As a member of a field party he worked in New South Wales and Queensland undertaking station establishment and associated survey activities.

In 1970, Natmap created the Laser Terrain Profiling Section. This new section was to operate the recently developed airborne laser terrain profiling system to obtain vertical control for mapping, and process the acquired data. The laser profiling system was installed on its airborne platform in May 1970 with formal acceptance testing in July 1970. Actual airborne profiling operations commenced in late 1970 outside Broken Hill. During this period, Normís 15 seconds of fame came about when he posed with the laser system in a series of Departmental publicity photographs.

Departmental publicity photograph of Norm with laser terrain profiler in contract aircraft.

Over the summer of 1970-71, Norm was a member of a party who undertook survey work in the Prince Charles Mountains in the Australian sector of Antarctica. The survey party left Melbourne aboard MV Nella Dan on 12 December 1970, returning to Melbourne on 16 March 1971. Edwards Pillar, a large rock pillar on the western face of Mount Stinear, Prince Charles Mountains, was named after Norm.

After finalising his post-Antarctica duties and return to Natmap, Norm became field party leader for the latter part of the 1971 laser profiler flying operations in the Northern Territory. These operations covered the area between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs and up to the Northern Territory border with Queensland and across to Yuendumu.

In March 1972, Norm was sent to Adelaide to undertake the installation, in the aircraft, of the laser profiling system in preparation for the 1972 profiler flying operations. Soon after, Norm resigned from National Mapping and joined RMIT as a lecturer in surveying and geodesy, in the former Department of Surveying. In his first few years at RMIT Norm gained his Diploma of Education. National Mappingís Aerodist party whilst operating out of Swan Hill in July 1973 received a visit from Norm and his RMIT colleagues, to see Natmapís Aerodist system in operation.††

In 1978-79, Norm undertook formal studies at Oxford University in the UK. In 1979, he presented his thesis A satellite Doppler field campaign for translocation studies and was awarded a Master of Science degree. During his time at RMIT, Norm held the position of Head of the Department of Geospatial Science (now part of the School of Science) and the position of Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science.

Norm passed away in May 2017 after an 8 month battle with liver cancer and was farewelled at a private service. He will be sadly missed by those who knew and worked with him at RMIT, as a student and lecturer, and at Natmap by the field and office personnel. Natmappers remember Norm as a good person to work with and whose company was enjoyed especially when Norm was playing his guitar.

Norm is survived by his wife Maggie, daughter Kate and son Scott.


Thank you to Bill Cartwright RMIT, Kaye Faulks Parkdale Tennis Club, and the various Natmappers, including Laurie McLean, who helped provide the above detail.



Commonwealth of Australia (1967), Norman Francis Edwards, Appointment as Cadet Surveyor, promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 73, Thursday 24 August 1967, page 4569; AJ Arthur, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra; accessed from the Australian Government, Federal Register of Legislation at :