Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Oliver, Walter Reginald Brook (Australia-New Zealand 1883-1957)
natural history, museology

Photograph by S P Andrew Ltd., ID: 1/1-018168-F.
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library,
Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before
any re-use of this image.

Oliver's interest in natural history was a part time pursuit all the way into his late thirties, but after that point he rapidly rose to prominence. He achieved nearly as much recognition for his systematic botany studies as for his ornithological ones, but it is his New Zealand Birds and monograph on the moas that have especially maintained his reputation over the years. In addition, he published work on the natural history of marine mammals and molluscs, and on littoral plant and animal community structure. As a museum director Oliver oversaw the move of the entire Dominion Museum to a new facility in the mid-1930s, remaining in charge during the difficult World War II years when it was shut down to the public.

Life Chronology

--born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 7 September 1883.
--1896: moves to New Zealand
--1900-1914: employed by the Customs Department at Wanganui, Christchurch, etc.
--1905: develops interest in collecting plant specimens
--1907-1908: takes part in an expedition to the Kermadec Islands
--1909: visits the Chatham Islands
--1910: visits Stewart Island
--1913: visits Lord Howe Island
--1917-1918: fights in France in World War I
--1919: collects plants in Tahiti on his way home from France; resumes employment in the Customs Department
--1920: made senior scientific assistant at the Dominion Museum, Wellington
--1927: B.S., Victoria University College; elected to the Royal Society of New Zealand
--1928: M.S., Victoria University College
--1928: appointed director of the Dominion Museum
--1930: publishes the first edition of his New Zealand Birds
--1934: D.Sc., University of New Zealand
--1943-1944: president, Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union
--1947: retires from the Dominion Museum
--1949: publishes his The Moas of New Zealand and Australia
--1952-1954: president, Royal Society of New Zealand
--1955: publishes the second edition of his New Zealand Birds
--1956: field work on Norfolk Island
--dies at Wellington, New Zealand, on 16 May 1957.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. [online]
--The Auk, Vol. 74(4) (1957): 535.
--Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Vol. 85 (1958): lx-lxiv.
--Trove (National Library of Australia). [online]
--Encyclopedia of Australian Science. [online]

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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