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Turner, John Stewart (1908 - 1991)

Prof., OBE MA PhD (Camb) MSc Hon DSc FAA
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Botanist and Plant physiologist
Born: 9 September 1908  England.  Died: 9 May 1991.

Turner was Professor of Botany and Plant Physiology, University of Melbourne 1938 - 1973 and quickly assumed leadership in the field of conservation. During World War II he was in charge of a team at the University of Melbourne working on tropic proofing optical instruments using a fungicide. Turner is commemorated by the John S Turner Postgraduate Scholarship, Department of Botany, University of Melbourne.

Career Highlights

In 1938 John Stewart Turner was appointed to the vacant Chair of Botany and Plant Physiology, following the death of Ewart in 1937. Fresh from Cambridge, Professor Turner specialised in Plant Physiology and was in advance of his time in the recognition of the needs of the environment. However, his immediate development of the department was under constraints during the war years as every available section was utilised for the war effort. Turner initiated in conjuction with the State Electricity Commission and Soil Conservation Authority a long term experimental project in the Victorian Alps. He established a 'Brown Coal Research Unit' funded jointly by the State Electricity Commission, CSIRO and the University of Melbourne, and responsible for pioneering work in the description of plant remains of the Latrobe Valley Brown Coals. In the late 1950s another unit in collaboration with the CSIRO was established under Turners direction, with the Division of Food Preservation and Transport to research the phsiology of fruit ripening.

During his term in Botany, Turner headed a productive and vigorous teaching and research institution, and Turner in particular took a public role in issues of community concern. He was very active in raising the quality of scientific education in secondary schools and especially concerned to see that biological education was appropriate to the contemporary needs of society. In addition, Turner also led for many years the soundly scientifically based but nevertheless aesthetically sensitive conservation movement, particularly in Victoria, but on occasions also for the Commonwealth government, in places as far afield as Norfolk Island, the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory. He also served as a Royal Commissioner onthe inquiry investigating the University of Tasmania. (School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, 'Background Material Prepared for the Committee of Review March 20-27, 1986, Volume 1: General Information')

9 September 1908


1920s - 1930s

Educated University of Cambridge (MA, PhD)

1934 - 1935

Demonstrator, Botany School, Cambridge

1936 - 1938

Senior Demonstrator, Botany School, Cambridge

1938 - 1973

Professor of Botany and Plant Physiology, University of Melbourne

1944 - 1946

Dean of Science, University of Melbourne

1951 - 1952

President, Royal Society of Victoria


Foundation member, Victorian National Parks Association


Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science


President, Wallaby Club

1963 - 1973

Chairman, Board of Management, Melbourne University Press


Foundation member, Australian Conservation Foundation

1967 - 1968

Acting Dean of Science, University of Melbourne


Early member, Victorian Land Conservation Council and Environmental Studies Association

1974 -

Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne


Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

9 May 1991


Related Entries for Turner, John Stewart


Professorial Chair

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Carolyn Rasmussen & Rachel Tropea
Created: 22 August 2001
Modified: 21 November 2001

Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre on AustehcWeb, October 2001
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: http://www.esrc.unimelb.edu.au/about/inquiries.html#comment
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 16 November 2009

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