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Biographical entry Symon, David Eric (1920 - 2011)

13 October 1920
London, United Kingdom
18 December 2011
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


David Symon was a botanist who for nearly 30 years was Curator of the Arboretum and Herbarium at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute. During this period he greatly increased the size of its collection of living trees while at the same time introducing management practices that significantly reduced the amount of water and watering required. His research focused on the taxonomy and chemical analysis of plants, often those of agricultural importance. Symon published landmark studies of South Australian Acacia and the Solanaceae of Australia and New Guinea. Other major studies were in the families Rosaceae, Frankeniaceae, Goodeniaceae and Leguminosae. Symon was interested in conservation issues, conducting extensive surveys in areas of floral significance and serving two terms as President of the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia. On his retirement Symon arranged for the transfer of the Waite Herbarium to the State Herbarium of South Australia, which now holds over 24,000 of his specimens.



? - 1985
Career position - Reader in Agronomy, Waite Agricultural Research Institute
Life event - Migrated to Australia with his family
Education - BAgSc, University of Adelaide
1951 - 1956
Career position - Agrostologist, Waite Agricultural Research Institute
1952 - 1956
Career position - Lecturer in Agronomy, University of Adelaide
1956 - 1962
Career position - Systematic Botanist, Waite Agricultural Research Institute
1956 - 1985
Career position - Curator, Waite Arboretum and Herbarium
1962 -
Career position - Senior Lecturer in Botany, Waite Agricultural Research Institute
1962 - 1986
Career position - Member, Nature Conservation Society of South Australia
1962 - 2011
Award - Fellow, Royal Society of South Australia
1972 - 1994
Career position - Member of Committee, Handbooks of the Flora and Fauna of South Australia
1973 - 2000
Career position - Inaugural Member Australian Systematic Botany
1978 - 2002
Career position - Member, Editorial Committee, Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens
1980 - 1984
Career position - Member, Editorial Committee, Flora of Australia
Life event - Retired
1985 - 2011
Career position - Honorary Research Associate, State Herbarium of South Australia
Career position - Chair of the Organising Committee, 4th International Solanaceae Conference, Adelaide
Education - DSc, University of Adelaide
2000 - 2011
Award - Life Member, Australian Systematic Botany Society
Career position - Corresponding Member, Botanical Society of America

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Symon, David, Sturt Pea; a Most Splendid Plant (Adelaide: Board of the Botanic Garden and State Herbarium, 2007), 151 pp. Details

Conference Papers

  • Gardner, Jennifer A., 'History of the Waite Arboretum and Waite Herbarium', 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. 29-36.. Details

Journal Articles

  • Anon, 'David Eric Symon', Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 105 (2000), 1-22. Details
  • Barker, R. and Barker, W. R., 'David Symon (1920-2011)', Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 151 (2012), 11-9. Details
  • Barker, R. M., 'Dr David Symon and the Australian Systematic Botany Society', Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 90 (1997), 32-4. Details
  • Barker, R. M., 'David Eric Symon (1920-2011)', Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, 26 (2013), 71-96. Details
  • Barker, Robyn, 'Life membership awarded to Dr D. E. Symon', Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 104 (2000), 11-2. Details
  • Symon, David, 'Wildflowers of South Australia (1861) by Fanny de Mole', Archives of Natural History, 30 (1) (2003), 139-48. Details
  • Taplin, R. T. and Symon, D. E., 'Remnant horticultural plants at the site of the former Newmans Nursery 1854 - 1932', Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, 22 (2008), 73-96. Details



  • Santos MEB Museum of Economic Botany: the Museum of Economic Botany at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, a Souvenir
    Symon, David, 'Museum of Economic Botany', Australian Systematic Botany Society Bulletin, (2010), 17-8. Details

Helen Cohn