Arthur E.V. Zeally received his training in geology at the Royal College of Science, London. Afterwards he was employed as a demonstrator in geology at the college. He investigated the metamorphosed limestones of Donegal, Northern Ireland, and published a short note on the work in the Geological Magazine (1909), though a more comprehensive account remained unpublished. In due course he was elected an associate of the Royal College of Science (ARCS) and a Fellow of the Geological Society of London (FGS).
In 1909 Zeally came to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to take up a position as curator of the Rhodesia Museum in Bulawayo, succeeding F.P. Mennell*. During the next two years he described some of the country's minerals (1909), gold-bearing rocks (1909), and mineral resources (1910) in the museum's Annual report, and published a short paper on "Amygdaloidal epidiorite, Bulawayo" in the Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa (1911). In May 1911 he left the museum (and was succeeded by G. Arnold) to join the Geological Survey of Southern Rhodesia, which had been started the previous year with Herbert B. Maufe as its director and first geologist. Zeally remained in that service until the time of his death. With Maufe and a third geologist, Ben Lightfoot, he started geological mapping in the Selukwe (now Shurugwi) gold belt, in the centre of the country. No topographical maps of the area were available and geological mapping was carried out with plane table and alidade. Despite numerous interuptions of the work by prospectors and miners who asked them to examine their properties, Maufe and Zeally had mapped about 1000 square kilometers by 1912. The results were eventually reported by Maufe, Lightfoot and Zeally in The geology of the Selukwe mineral belt, published as Bulletin No. 3 of the Geological Survey in 1919. Zeally had meanwhile reported on the geology of the country round Selukwe (1911), the claims pegged for aluminium near Selukwe (1911) and the geology of the chromite deposits at Selukwe (1914) in the Report of the Geological Survey. His most outstanding contribution, however, was a comprehensive paper on "The great dyke of norite of Southern Rhodesia: Petrology of the Selukwe portion", published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa (1915/6, Vol. 5, pp. 1-24).
Zeally and Lightfoot next mapped the Gatooma (now Kadoma) goldfield, reporting their results in Preliminary report on the geology of the district east of Gatooma (Bulletin No. 1, 1913) and The geology of the country around Gatooma (Bulletin No. 5, 1918). During 1914 and part of 1915 Zeally investigated the country's known diamond deposits. Following the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) the demand for strategic base minerals increased, with the result that staff of the Geological Survey had to spend more time on the investigation of mineral deposits. Geological mapping was therefore suspended during 1916 and 1917. Zeally was particularly interested in ore deposits and believed that their efficient exploitation required a thorough study of how they were formed, and the association of minerals in them. He therefore whole-heartedly took up the task of assisting prospectors and miners with advice on the nature of the deposits they found. At this time he also took part in the work of the Rhodesia Munitions and Resources Committee, which did much to make the country's mineral resources better known. His work on minerals and ore deposits led to several publications: "Note upon the occurrence of scorodite in Rhodesia" and "A mineral survey of the zinc and lead deposits of Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia" (Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1911); "Notes on newly recorded Rhodesian minerals" (Proceedings of the Rhodesia Scientific Association, 1917); "Report on the Tungsten deposits of Essexvale, Umzingwana District" (Short Report No. 1 of the Geological Survey, 1917); "The occurrence of platinum in Southern Rhodesia" (Ibid, No. 3, 1918); and "Minerals of Rhodesia", "Magnesite", "Triplite", and "Zirconium ore" (Report of the Rhodesia Munitions and Resources Committee, 1918).
Zeally became a member of the Geological Society of South Africa in 1910 and was a member also of theRoyal Society of South Africa and the Rhodesia Scientific Association. In January 1910 he presented his "Notes on some rock paintings near Bulawayo and on the Sinoia Cave", which was published in the latter society's Proceedings. Other papers by him followed in later years. His interest in some aspects of natural history is indicated by his presentation of ants from Hartley (now Cheautu) and Somabhula to the South African Museum in 1913 and 1914. His promising career was cut short by his death at the age of 32 from pneumonia following influenza, during the epidemic of October 1918. The South African geologist A.L. du Toit* (1945, p. x) described him as "debonair, dark and rather saturnine - an infrequent visitor to [South Africa]".