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Biographical entry Calaby, John Henry (1922 - 1998)


19 October 1922
Creswick, Victoria, Australia
19 September 1998
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Naturalist and Ornithologist


John Calaby was a pioneer on research into Australia's endangered species and an acknowledged authority on the biology, ecology, distribution and taxonomy of Australian animals especially mammals. On being appointed to the CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section (later the Division of Wildlife and Ecology) he was involved in attempts to control rabbit populations in Western Australia, in particular by the introduction of the myxoma virus. From 1956 he concentrated on mammal research, making groundbreaking discoveries on macropod physiology and reproduction. He also made significant contributions to faunal surveys conducted by the Division often in remote and largely unsurveyed areas of northern Australia. Surveys of the Alligator Rivers Region ultimately led to the creation of the Kakadu National Park. A 1960 report by Calaby and Francis Ratcliffe (Chief of the Division) on Australia's endangered mammals became the baseline for future studies. Calaby was responsible for the collection of nearly 45,000 voucher specimens that resulted from the surveys conducted by the Division: in 1976 at his urging this collection was designated the Australian National Wildlife Collection. In 1998 he was commemorated by the naming of the John Calaby Resources Centre, CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology. Thirty species of animals are named after him.



Education - Diploma in Applied Chemistry, Ballarat School of Mines
1943 - 1945
Career position - Technical Assistant, Explosives and Ammunition Research, Munitions Supply Laboratories
1945 - 1950
Career position - Experimental Officer, CSIRO Division of Economic Entomology
1950 - 1972
Career position - Experimental Officer and Research Scientist, CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section
Career position - Foundation Member, Australian Mammal Society
1960 - 1972
Career position - Editor, Australian Mammal Society Bulletin
1968 - 1998?
Career position - Member, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies
1972 - 1987
Career position - Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section
Award - Honorary DSc, Australian National University
Award - Troughton Medal, Australian Mammal Society
1985 - 1987
Career position - Assistant Chief, CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology
1986 - 1998
Award - Fellow, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
Life event - Retired
1987 - 1998
Career position - Honorary Research Fellow, CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology
1987 - 1998
Award - Honorary Member, Australian Mammal Society
Award - Honorary Member, American Society of Mammalogists
Award - Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition of service to science, particularly in the fields of zoology and ecology and to Australian mammalogy

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Frith, H. J. and Calaby, J. H., Kangaroos (Melbourne: F.W.Cheshire, 1969), 209 pp. Details
  • Mulvaney, D.J. and Calaby, J.H., So much that is new: Baldwin Spencer, 1860-1929 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1985), 492 pp. Details

Book Sections

Edited Books

  • Calaby, J. ed., The Hunter sketchbook: birds and flowers of New South Wales drawn on the spot in 1788, 89 and 90 by Captain John Hunter (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1989), 251 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Calaby, J. H., 'Australian Mammals Since 1770', Australian Natural History, 16 (8) (1970), 241-288. Details
  • Calaby, J. H., 'Investigating the Interior', Australian Natural History, 19 (2) (1977), 42-45. Details
  • Taylor, J. Mary, 'Obituary: John H. Calaby 1922 - 1998', Journal of Mammalogy, 80 (3) (1999), 1038-47. Details
  • Tyndale-Biscoe, C. H., Calaby, J. H. and Davies, S. J. J. F., 'Harold James Frith 1921-1982', Historical Records of Australian Science, 10 (3) (1995), 247-263. Details


See also

  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 492 pp. Details
  • Upton, M. S., A Rich and Diverse Fauna: the history of the Australian National Insect Collection 1926 - 1991 (Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing, 1997), 386 pp. Details

Rosanne Walker and Helen Cohn