John Burton Cleland

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John Cleland
Sir John Burton Cleland (1878 - 1971).jpg
Sir John Burton Cleland (1878—1971)
Born 22 June 1878
Norwood, Adelaide, Australia
Died 11 August 1971 (1971-08-12) (aged 93)
Walkerville, Adelaide, Australia
Residence Australia
Nationality Australian
Fields Pathologist, naturalist, microbiologist, mycologist and ornithologist
Institutions Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
University of Sydney
London Hospital
Bureau of Microbiology, Sydney
University of Adelaide
Alma mater University of Adelaide
University of Sydney
Academic advisors Ralph Tate
Edward Rennie
William Henry Bragg
Edward Stirling
Archibald Watson
Robert Muir
Known for Proof of transmission of dengue by mosquitoes
Notable awards Australian Natural History Medallion
Author abbrev. (botany) Cleland
He was the father of ornithologist Joan Paton.

Sir John Burton Cleland CBE (22 June 1878—11 August 1971) was a renowned Australian naturalist, microbiologist, mycologist and ornithologist. He was Professor of Pathology at the University of Adelaide and was consulted on high-level police inquiries, such as the famous Taman Shud Case in 1948 and later.

Early life and education[edit]

John Burton Cleland was born in Norwood, South Australia. He attended Prince Alfred College and the universities of Adelaide and Sydney, graduating in Medicine in 1900.

Marriage and family[edit]

Cleland married Dora Isabel Paton, and they had four daughters and a son. He encouraged them in the sciences: Joan Paton became an ornithologist, and William Paton Cleland became a cardio-thoracic surgeon.[1] His nephew was Donald Cleland.


He worked as a microbiologist in Western Australia and New South Wales for several years. He was appointed as a full Professor of Pathology at the University of Adelaide, and taught generations of students.[1]

Bust of Sir John Burton Cleland in Cleland Wildlife Park

Cleland was elected President of the Royal Society of South Australia 1927-1928, and again in 1941. He became a member of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union (RAOU) in 1902, and served as its President 1935-1936.

In 1934-35, he published a two-volume monograph on the fungi of South Australia, one of the most comprehensive reviews of Australian fungi to date.

Cleland was the pathologist on the infamous Taman Shud Case, in which an unidentified man was discovered dead on a beach 1 December 1948. While Cleland theorized that the man had been poisoned, he found no trace of it. The man was never identified.

Cleland became increasingly interested in wildlife conservation and served as commissioner of the Belair National Park in 1928 and as chairman in 1936-65. He chaired the Flora and Fauna Handbooks Committee of South Australia, and with them oversaw the production of a series of descriptive biological manuals, and other books related to flora, fauna and geology.[2]

Legacy and honours[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Caroline Richmond, "Obituary of William Paton Cleland (1912-2005)", British Medical Journal, 2005, 330; 1212
  2. ^ R. V. Southcott, 'Cleland, Sir John Burton (1878–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, [1], published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Author Query for 'Cleland'". International Plant Names Index. 
  • Condon, H.T. (1972). Obituary. John Burton Cleland. Emu 72: 117-118.
  • Robin, Libby. (2001). The Flight of the Emu: a hundred years of Australian ornithology 1901-2001. Carlton, Vic. Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84987-3

External links[edit]