Mary E. White

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Mary Elizabeth White AM (5 January 1926 – 5 August 2018) was an Australian paleobotanist and author.[1]

She was born in South Africa, grew up in southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and received a master's degree in paleobotany from the University of Cape Town.[2] She married Bill White, a geologist; the couple came to Australia in 1955.[1] White worked as a consultant for the Bureau of Mineral Resources in Canberra until the 1980s; she also consulted on a part-time basis for mining companies. In 1975, she was hired as a research associate for the Australian Museum; she established a collection of 12,000 specimens of plant fossils for the museum.[2]

She was the author of:

  • The Greening of Gondwana (1986)
  • After the Greening: The browning of Australia (1994), received a Eureka Prize
  • Listen...Our Land is Crying (1997)
  • Running Down: Water in a Changing Land (2000), was shortlisted for a Eureka Prize[3]
  • Earth Alive! From Microbes to a Living Planet (2003)[4]

White received the Riversleigh medal in 1999 for "excellence in promoting understanding of Australian prehistory". In 2010, she received a Lifetime of Conservation award from the Australian Geographic Society.[2] She was awarded the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science's Mueller Medal in 2001. In 2009, she was made a Member the Order of Australia (AM) for "service to botany as a researcher and through the promotion of increased understanding and awareness of the natural world".[4][5]

In 2003, White moved to a large forested property at Johns River, New South Wales; she established a covenant to protect the land and preserve its biodiversity.[2] In 2013 she sold the property but with the covenant it can never be disturbed.

On 5 August 2018, White was found dead in her room at the Warrigal aged care complex in Bundanoon, New South Wales. Her daughter, Barbara Eckersley, has been charged with her murder.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b Dolsen, Brett (31 October 2013). "Eighty five years of researching life on Earth". Australian Broadcasting Company. 
  2. ^ a b c d "2010 AG Awards Lifetime of Conservation: Mary White". Australian Geographic Society. 6 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "Our Patron – Dr Mary E. White". Climate Change Australia. 
  4. ^ a b "The Queen's Birthday 2009 Honours List" (PDF). Governor-General of Australia. p. 108. 
  5. ^ "White, Mary Elizabeth". Retrieved 2018-08-09. 
  6. ^ "Renowned scientist Mary White allegedly murdered by her daughter". ABC News. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018. 
  7. ^ "Loss of a national treasure: Woman, 92, who was 'murdered by her daughter' revealed to be an award-winning scientist and author who was honoured with the Order of Australia". 9 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.