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Dr Elizabeth Nesta Marks AO (1918–2002), “Patricia”, was an eminent Queensland entomologist whose breakthrough work with mosquitoes and malaria in the 1940s and 1950s was world recognised.
She was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1918 and is the only daughter of Dr Edward Oswald and Nesta Marks (nee Dury). Her father was both a geologist and an entomologist and they moved to Brisbane in 1920.
After her schooling in Brisbane and Toowoomba, Dr Marks studied zoology at the University of Queensland in 1935. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1938 and with Honours in 1939. Her Honours project was of such high quality that it was automatically converted to a Masters Degree which was conferred in 1940.
In 1943 the University of Queensland in recognising the deficiency of information on the identity and breeding biology of Queensland mosquitoes (deemed as critical information for the development of control measures) established The Mosquito Control Committee (MCC) and Dr Marks was appointed as a Graduate Research Assistant. During the War, Dr Marks explored the breeding behaviour of many mosquitoes, including the Aedes culicformis using specimens from Cape York.
In 1949, Dr Marks continued her research and studies in Europe and completed her PhD in insect physiology at Cambridge University. She returned to Queensland in 1951 and undertook wide-ranging fieldwork in Mildura and Townsville where outbreaks of Murray Valley encephalitis had occurred.
From 1951 to 1973 she managed a number of projects which included the study of insects used by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Wildlife Survey Section for the introduction of myxomatosis in rabbits. This included collecting specimens throughout rural Australia and the Torres Strait Islands while also training many of Queensland’s health inspectors.
After the MCC closed, Dr Marks was appointed as Principal Entomologist at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. She officially retired in 1983 but remained on at the institute to continue her work.
Dr Marks wrote more than 100 papers describing 38 species of new mosquito species as well as new species of other insects including fruit flies, bugs, cockroaches and ticks. Her major publications include the Atlas of Common Queensland Mosquitoes (1966) and the 12 volume set The Culicidae of Australasia (1980–1989).
In 1990 she was appointed a Commander Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her services to science.
Dr Marks also had a long and active association with the Samford community. Her interests in local Queensland history led her to become a notable figure at Brisbane History Group seminars and functions and an active member of the Samford District Historical Museum Society.
Prior to her death in 2002, she wrote an autobiography of her life with the help of Kathleen Cummins titled Mosquitoes and Memories: Recollections of ‘Patricia’ Marks. The book contains images and stories of her life, her family, her early years as a student at University of Queensland and her lifetime research into discovering new species of mosquitoes.
Bright Sparcs biographical entry - Marks, Elizabeth Nesta
G B Monteith, ‘Pat Marks’ in J McKay, comp., Brilliant Careers. Women collectors and illustrators in Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland Museum, 1997; interview with Dr MarksImages courtesy of the Estate of EN Marks.