John Warham began his distinguished career in ornithology in his forties, having begun working life as an industrial chemist, followed by a period in the British army (rising to the rank of captain). He and his wife Pat then spent nine years in the Australian outback, where he eked out a living as a wildlife photographer and film-maker. They lived and travelled in an army truck they had shipped out from England. He spent a year on subantarctic Macquarie Island during this period.
After returning to England for a period of formal study, John Warham came to New Zealand in 1966 to lecture at the University of Canterbury. He took a leading role in organising the university’s expeditions to the Snares and other subantarctic islands where young ornithologists learned under his strict and rigorous tutelage. Albatrosses and petrels were his main research focus, but he also undertook a major study of crested penguins.
He retired in 1985 and subsequently wrote two authoritative books on the biology of the petrels. He has also published on seabirds in the Australasian region and on wildlife photography, and wrote articles for the popular press and scientific papers on various birds.
In 2001 he was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to ornithology. He died in 2010.
This photograph shows Warham holding a CSIRO Antarctic Research Expeditions medal from Australia.
More detailed reviews of John Warham's contribution to ornithology have appeared in Notornis (vols 46, pp. 414–416 and 48, p. 234).
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University of Canterbury
Photograph by Matt Walters
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