Thomas Draper Campbell was born in Millicent in the South-East of South Australia on 24th March 1893. His father, Walter, was a local store-keeper, and his mother was Lucy (nee Walters). The family moved to Adelaide in 1907 and Thomas was educated at Prince Alfred College and then studied dentistry at the University of Adelaide. He was awarded a Bachelor of Dental Science degree in 1921 and a D.D.Sc. two years later. After graduating in 1921 he was appointed to the Dental Department of the Royal Adelaide Hospital as a surgeon. He was appointed Superintendent of that department in 1926. He was appointed a Lecturer in the School of Dentistry at the University of Adelaide in 1925 and was elected Dean of the faculty in 1938, a position he retained until his retirement. He was awarded the D.Sc degree in 1939. In 1949 he was appointed the Director of Dental Studies at the university and when the Chair of Dentistry was established in 1954 he became the first Professor. Upon his retirement in 1958 he was made Professor Emeritus.
Campbell was made a Fellow of the Dental Society of the Royal College of Surgeons (London) in 1948 and a FDSRCS (Edinburgh) in 1950. He was elected as an Honorary Member of the Odontological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine (London) in 1952 and in 1966 a Fellow of the Australian College of Dental Surgeons.
Campbell developed an interest in Aboriginal anthropology through his association in the early 1920s with Frederick Wood Jones, the Professor of Anatomy at the University of Adelaide and the Curator of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum. Campbell accompanied Wood Jones on field trips to Coopers Creek (1920), Millers Creek (1921) and Stuart Range (1923), collecting ethnographic data and specimens, as well as natural history specimens. He also accompanied Wood Jones on trips to Pearson Islands (1923) and Flinders Island (1924). Campbell was appointed an Honorary Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum in 1923 and commenced a detailed study of Aboriginal skeletal material in the Museum’s collections for his doctorate degree. His thesis, Dentition and palate of the Australian Aboriginal, was submitted in 1923 and was published in 1925 by the University of Adelaide.
Although his primary interest was physical anthropology, particularly Aboriginal dentition, Campbell developed a strong interest in Aboriginal stone tool technology. During the 1920s he commenced investigations of Aboriginal campsites in the Adelaide area, and collected many artefacts from those sites. He also commenced a detailed study of other artefacts in the Museum collections. Campbell was the first to describe in detail the ‘reniform’ slate-scrapers commonly found in the Adelaide area, artefacts he suggested were used for ceremonial purposes, but which are now believed to have been used to prepare animal skins for use as cloaks. He corresponded with Stan Mitchell, Dermot Casey, John Mulvaney and other interstate archaeologists and artefact collectors and over subsequent decades Campbell played an important role in developing a standardized system of nomenclature for Australian Aboriginal stone artefacts.
Campbell was a foundation member of the Anthropological Society of South Australia, established in June 1926, and the Board for Anthropological Research (University of Adelaide), established later that same year. He was responsible for organising most of the BAR expeditions that were mounted during the 1920s and 1930s to northern South Australia and the Northern Territory. He led the BAR’s first four official expeditions, to Wilgena (1925), Ooldea (1926), Macumba (1926-7) and Koonibba (1928), and was a member of other subsequent expeditions to MacDonald Downs (1930), Cockatoo Creek (1931), Mt Liebig (1932) and Diamantina (1934). He made cine-films of Aboriginal life on his 1926 trip to Ooldea, and soon became an accomplished film-maker, producing many hours of films of Aboriginal subsistence techniques, artefact preparation and ceremonial activities on later BAR expeditions.
As well as participating in several BAR expeditions, Campbell travelled widely in South Australia and central Australia. He was a member of the team that investigated supposed relics of the Leichhardt Expedition found in the Simpson Desert in 1938. In the 1950s he made a number of trips to the Arcoona area in northern South Australia and collected many stone artefacts from sites in that area. Between 1956 and 1966 he visited Yuendumu in the Northern Territory on six occasions to film subsistence techniques, ceremonial activities and other aspects of the lifestyle of the local Warlpiri people, and while he was there he also carried out studies of Aboriginal diet and dentition. In 1960 he carried out a detailed survey of an Aboriginal stone arrangement at ‘Observatory Hill’ in what was then the Maralinga Prohibited Area, and this was followed in 1962 by a trip to Giles Meteorological Station in the Rawlinson Range of Western Australia and the Mann and Musgrave Ranges in northern South Australia. In 1964 he visited Tallaringa Well, about 150 km west of Coober Pedy.
Throughout his life Campbell maintained a strong interest in the South-East of South Australia, the place of his birth. In the 1940s he commenced a detailed study of the Aboriginal prehistory of that region which continued over subsequent decades. He collected artefacts from many campsites, including Hood’s Drift, ‘the Belt Site’, Woakwine Range, Kongorong and Beachport. During the 1960s he carried out systematic archaeological excavations at a rockshelter near Mt Burr and an open site at Bevilaqua Cliffs, assisted by Dr Paul Hossfeld, Mr Bob Edwards and other researchers. These excavations revealed that Aboriginal occupation of these sites extended back over 8,000 years. He published several papers on the archaeology and ethnology of the South-East region, but his detailed study of the Mt Burr and Bevilaqua Cliffs sites remained unpublished at the time of Campbell’s death.
Campbell was one of the pioneers of ethnographic film-making in Australia. He filmed Aboriginal subsistence techniques, lifestyle and ceremonial activities during his 1926 trip to Ooldea and also assisted in cine-filming during the BAR expeditions to Koonibba (1928) and MacDonald Downs (1930). During the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell scripted and directed nine colour cine-films produced at Yuendumu in the Northern Territory showing aspects of Warlpiri life and religion. These films include ‘So they did eat’ (1953), ‘The Woomera’ (1958) and ‘Ngoora’ (1965).
Campbell maintained strong connections with the South Australian Museum throughout his career. He was an Honorary Curator of Anthropology at the Museum from 1927 to 1939, and Honorary Associate in Physical Anthropology from 1940 until his death. He was appointed to the Board of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery in 1932 and became a foundation member of the Museum Board when it was established in 1939. He remained a member of the Board until his death. Campbell also maintained his association with the Anthropological Society of South Australia. He was a Life Member of the society and served as a Committee member for over 30 years, and was elected Vice-President in 1927, 1965 and 1966 and President in 1928, 1929 and 1944.
Campbell was a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia, and served as a Councillor from 1928-32, 1935 and 1942-45, Vice-President from 1932-34 and President from 1934-35. He was a Fellow of the Australian National Research Council and, after 1965, the SA Museum representative on the SA Aboriginal and Historic Relics Advisory Board. He was a foundation member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (now the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) and a member of the AIAS Advisory Committee on Film Production.
One of Campbell’s life-long interests was music. He was one of the founding members of the Adelaide University Theatre Guild and a Council Member from 1938-1950. He was also a member of the Adelaide Repertory Theatre and the Adelaide Music Salon. He wrote the score for a musical comedy, The Moon Dream, which was performed by the South Australian Operatic Society at the Theatre Royal in Adelaide in 1932.
During his long career, Campbell wrote or co-authored numerous papers about Australian Aboriginal archaeology and anthropology and others relating to Aboriginal dentition and diet. He contributed numerous letters and articles about anthropology, archaeology, natural history, geology, history and other topics to newspapers and magazines (sometimes under the pseudonyms of ‘Anthrop’ or ‘Bingi’, the latter his nickname to his close friends). Between the 1930s and the 1950s he presented a number of talks on ABC radio on various aspects of Aboriginal archaeology and anthropology, as well as natural history, dentistry and other topics.
Campbell died on 8th December 1967. His wife, Elizabeth Jane (nee Young), an actress, whom he had married in Adelaide in December 1927, survived him but there were no children.
Campbell's published papers include:
TD Campbell, 'An account of a hitherto unrecorded type of aboriginal stone object', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1924, 48, pp. 74-8.
F Wood Jones & TD Campbell, 'Anthropometric and descriptive observations on some South Australian aboriginals, with a summary of previously recorded anthropometric data', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1924, 48, pp. 303-12.
F Wood Jones & TD Campbell, 'A contribution to the study of eoliths: some observations on the natural forces at work in the production of flaked stones on the central Australian tablelands', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London , 1925, 55, pp. 115-22.
TD Campbell, 'A dental anomaly in the skull of an Australian aboriginal', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1925, 49, pp. 99-100.
TD Campbell, Dentition and palate of the Australian Aboriginal, 1925, Adelaide, Hassell Press.
TD Campbell, 'Detailed notes on the Aboriginal intaglios near Burra', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1925, 49, pp. 123-7.
TD Campbell & AJ Lewis, 'The Aborigines of South Australia: anthropometric, descriptive, and other observations recorded at Ooldea', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1926, 50, pp. 183-191.
TD Campbell 'Notes on the Aborigines of the South East of South Australia (Part 1)', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1934, 58, pp. 22-32.
TD Campbell, 'Anthropology and the Royal Society', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 1936, 60, pp. 12-51.
TD Campbell, 'Observations on the teeth of Australian Aborigines. Hermannsburg, Central Australia', Australian Journal of Dentistry, 1937, 41(1), pp. 1-6.
TD Campbell, 'Observations on the teeth of Australian Aborigines. Cockatoo Creek, central Australia', Australian Journal of Dentistry, 1938, 42(2), pp. 41-7.
TD Campbell, 'Observations on the teeth of Australian Aborigines, Mt Liebig, central Australia', Australian Journal of Dentistry, 1938, 42(3), pp. 85-9.
TD Campbell, 'Observations on the teeth of Australian Aborigines. River Diamantina, South Australia', Australian Journal of Dentistry, 1938, 42(4), pp. 121-4.
TD Campbell, 'Notes on the Aborigines of the South East of South Australia Part 2', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1939, 63, pp. 27-35.
TD Campbell & CP Mountford, 'Aboriginal arrangements of stones in central Australia', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 1939, 63(1), pp. 17-21.
TD Campbell & HVV Noone, 'South Australian microlithic stone implements', Records of the South Australian Museum, 1943, 7(3), pp. 281-307.
TD Campbell & HVV Noone, 'Some Aboriginal campsites in the Woakwine Range region of the South East of South Australia', Records of the South Australian Museum, 1943, 7(4), pp. 371-95.
TD Campbell, JB Cleland & PS Hossfeld, ‘Aborigines of the Lower South East of South Australia’, Records of the South Australian Museum, 1946, 8, pp. 445-502.
TD Campbell. & GD Walsh, 'Notes on Aboriginal camp sites on Yorke Peninsula, S. Aust.', Mankind, 1947, 3 (11), pp. 334-40.
T.D Campbell & GD Walsh, 'Aboriginal implements from camp sites in the south of South Australia and Victoria', Mankind, 1952, 4 (8), pp. 339- 42.
TD Campbell, 'The pirri - an interesting Australian aboriginal implement', Records of the South Australian Museum, 1960, 13(4), pp. 509-24.
TD Campbell & PS Hossfeld, 'Aboriginal stone circles', Mankind, 1964, 6(4), pp. 181-83.
TD Campbell & R Edwards, 'Stone Implements' in Aboriginal man in South and Central Australia, BC Cotton (ed), 1966, Government Printer, Adelaide.
TD Campbell & PS Hossfeld, 'Australian Aboriginal stone arrangements in north-west South Australia', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 1966, 90, pp. 171-176.