Anthropological linguist Geoffrey N. O'Grady was born on January 1, 1928 in southern Australia. He first became interested in languages in high school when he took classes in Latin, German, Russian, and Hungarian. O'Grady became immersed in Australian aboriginal languages during his six years as a jackaroo on a sheep station at Wallal Downs in the Australian Outback. There he spent time with aboriginal peoples and was adopted into the Nyangumarta tribe where he learned to speak their language.
O'Grady was offered a research assistantship at the University of Sydney in 1956. This allowed him to take field research trips into the Outback where he recorded various indigenous languages. During this time he undertook a project to alphabetize the Nyangumarta language. As a result, a literacy program and a Nyangumarta newspaper, which is still published, were established.
In 1960, after completing his BA at the University of Sydney, O'Grady received a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Indiana University. During three summers at Indiana, he travelled to Arizona to conduct field research in Hopi Tewa. After he completed his PhD he accepted a position at the University of Alberta, Edmonton in 1963. While at the University of Alberta he began to study northern Canadian First Nations languages. In 1965 he moved on to the Linguistics Department at the University of Victoria, where he began to study indigenous languages on Vancouver Island and taught courses on phonetics and historical sound change. When O'Grady retired from the University of Victoria in 1993, the Australian National University honored him with a Festschrift entitled "Boundary Rider."
Geoffrey O' Grady passed away on December 28, 2008 after a long struggle with Parkinson's.
2009. Geoffrey O'Grady Obituary. Victoria Times Colonist. January 3. http://web.uvic.ca/ling/information/index.htm, accessed April 4, 2012.
John Esling. 2009. In Memoriam: Dr. Geoffrey N. O'Grady. http://ring.uvic.ca/people/memoriam-dr-geoffrey-n-o%E2%80%99grady, accessed April 4, 2012.
Accepted research assistantship at the University of Sydney and began undergraduate studies
Received BA from the University of Sydney
Fulbright scholarship at Indiana University where he finished his PhD
Summer field studies of Hopi Tewa in Arizona
Completed dissertation on grammar of Nyangumarta under the supervision of C.F. and F.M. Voegelin
Began work at University of Alberta, Edmonton
Joined the Linguistics Department at University of Victoria in BC Canada
Project to outline the relationships among all of the Aboriginal languages of Australia
Retired from University of Victoria