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Biographical entry Willis, James Hamlyn (1910 - 1995)


28 January 1910
Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia
10 November 1995
Brighton, Victoria, Australia


James Willis is one of Australia's most renowned and beloved botanists and authors. He was taxonomic botanist at the National Herbarium within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, from 1937 to the end of his career in 1972. Willis received many honours including those from the Australian Institute of Horticulture, the Society for Growing Australian Plants, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Trust of Australia, and the Royal Society of Victoria's Research Medal. He was educated at the Victorian School of Forestry in Creswick (Dip.For.) and at the University of Melbourne (BSc, DSc). He is commemorated in Eucalyptus willisii Ladiges, Humphries & Brooker (1938) as well as species in several other genera. In a extensive publishing career Willis issued over 400 books and articles, including the milestone Handbook to plants in Victoria which was based on his considerable knowledge of the Victorian flora. Willis's wife Mavis was an enthusiastic participant in his many field trips. The National Herbarium of Victoria holds nearly 19,000 specimens collected by Willis, and awards the J. H. Willis Studentship annually.



1930 - 1939
Career position - Forests Commission Field Officer in Victoria
1939 - 1947
Career position - Assistant, National Herbarium of Victoria
1947 - 1961
Career position - Botanist at the National Herbarium in Victoria
1948 - 1951
Career position - Editor, Victorian naturalist
Taxonomy event - Co-author of Eucalyptus aromaphloia L.D.Pryor & J. H. Willis
1955 - 1967
Career position - Editor, Muelleria
1958 - 1959
Career position - Australian Botanical Liaison Officer, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Award - Australian Natural History Medallion received
1961 - 1972
Career position - Assistant Government Botanist at the National Herbarium
1970 - 1971
Career position - Acting Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the National Herbarium
Life event - Retired
Taxonomy event - Honoured with Eucalyptus willisii Ladiges, Humphries & Brooker
Award - Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to botany particularly in the field of Australian flora

Related Awards

Related Corporate Bodies

Related Journals

Archival resources

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

  • Records of James Hamlyn Willis, 1804 - 1996; Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Willis, J. H., Botanical Pioneers in Victoria, vol. 66 ([Melbourne]: [Brown Pier Anderson], 1949), 19 pp. Details
  • Willis, J. H., Forbes, S. J. and Ross, J .H., Supplement to A handbook to plants in Victoria, volumes I and II (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1988), 76 pp. Details
  • Willis, James H., A handbook to plants in Victoria. Volume 1: Ferns, conifers and monocotyledons, vol. 1 of 2 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1962), 448 pp. Details
  • Willis, James H., A handbook to plants in Victoria. Volume 2: Dicotyledons, vol. 2 of 2 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972), 832 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Willis, J. H., 'Nicholls, William Henry (1885-1951), Orchidologist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Geoffrey Serle, ed., vol. 11 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1988), pp. 23-24. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Baron von Mueller's Travels in the Australian Alps, 1853-61' in The Scientific Significance of the Australian Alps: The Proceedings of the First Fenner Conference on the Environment, Roger Good, ed. (Canberra: Australian Alps Liaison Committee, 1989), pp. 381-382. Details
  • Willis, J. H. and Cohn, Helen M., 'Botanical exploration of Victoria' in Flora of Victoria, Foreman, D. B. and Walsh, N. G., eds, vol. 1 (Melbourne: Inkata Press, 1993), pp. 61-79. Details

Conference Papers

  • Willis, J. H., 'Melbourne: a Focal Point for Early Botanical Activity', in History of Systematic Botany in Australasia: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at the University of Melbourne, 25-27 May 1988 edited by Short, P.S. (Melbourne: Australian Systematic Botany Society, 1990), pp. 1-4.. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'James Hamlyn Willis: a biographical sketch [includes list of publications]', Muelleria, 3 (2) (1975), 69-88. Details
  • Aston, H. I., 'Obituary: Dr James Hamlyn Willis A.M. 28 January 1910-10 November 1995', Muelleria, 10 (1996), 21-5. Details
  • Jack, Christopher, 'James Hamlyn Willis: a True Conservationist', Australasian Science, 19 (9) (1998), 48. Details
  • Salkin, A. I., 'Short History of the Discovery and Naming of Banksias in Eastern Australia: Part 7, James Hamlyn Willis and Alexander George', Victorian Naturalist, 99 (4) (1982), 136-139. Details
  • Tropea, Rachel, 'Jim Willis: a Lifelong Passion for Botany', Australasian Science, 22 (3) (2001), 46. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Ferdinand von Mueller: Nestor of Australian Botany', Australian Journal of Science, 10 (1948), 136-140. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'A botanical retrospect (F.N.C.V., 1880-1950)', Victorian naturalist, 67 (1950), 65-70. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'First lady recipient of Natural History Medallion - Mrs Edith Coleman', Victorian Naturalist, 67 (5) (1950), 99-100. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'William Henry Nicholls', Wild life, 1951 (1951), 456-8. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Death of Dr. Charles Stanford Sutton', Victorian naturalist, 67 (1954), 121. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'P. N. S. Bibby (1907-55)', Victorian Naturalist, 72 (1955), 99-100. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Robert Brown's Collectings in Victoria', Muelleria, 1 (1956), 51-54. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The passing of a great orchidologist (Rev. H. M. R. Rupp, 1872 - 1956)', Victorian Naturalist, 73 (5) (1956), 105-10. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Thomas Stephen Hart (1871-1960)', Victorian Naturalist, 77 (1960), 111-14. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Botanical Science in Victoria 100 Years Ago', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 73 (1961), 41-45. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The passing of a great plantsman: James Wales Audas', Victorian Naturalist, 77 (1961), 273-5. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The Botany of the Victoria Exploring Expedition (September 1860-June 1861) and of Relief Contingents from Victoria (July 1861-Noveber 1862)', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 75 (1962), 247-268. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Latest two recipients of the Australian Natural History Medallion', Victorian Naturalist, 81 (6) (1964), 192-3. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Late Raleigh Adelbert Black (1880-1963) and his Private Herbarium', Muelleria, 1 (3) (1967), 233-238. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'William Hunter (1893-1971): Doyen of East Gippsland Botanists', Victorian Naturalist, 88 (4) (1971), 88-91. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Vale, Norman Arthur Wakefield', Victorian Naturalist, 90 (4) (1973), 103-105. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The late Patrick Francis Morris (1896-1974)', Victorian naturalist, 91 (1974), 205-6. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Alexander Hugh Chisholm, OBE, CMZS., C.F.A.O.U. (1890-1977). An Appreciation', Victorian Naturalist, 94 (5) (1977), 188-190. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'Richard Wallace Bond (1914-1976) - an appreciation', Victorian Naturalist, 94 (2) (1977), 75. Details
  • Willis, J. H., 'The First Century of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria', Victorian Naturalist, 97 (3) (1980), 93-106. Details
  • Willis, J. H. and Skewes, C. I., 'Robert Brown's Bass Strait journal of April/May 1802 (a transcription)', Muelleria, 1 (1956), 46-50. Details


See also

  • Hall, Norman, Botanists of the Eucalypts: short biographies of people who have named eucalypts, whose names have been given to species or who have collected type material (Melbourne: CSIRO, 1978), 101 pp. Details
  • Kruta, V. et al., Dr. John Lhotsky : the turbulent Australian writer, naturalist and explorer Melbourne (Melbourne: Australia Felix Literary Club, 1977), 176 pp. Details
  • May, T. W., 'From fungs to Fungimap: fungi and the FNCV', Victorian Naturalist, 122 (6) (2005), 319-26. Details

McCarthy, G.J., Moje, C. & Walsh, N.