Born 28 March 1957, died 3 June 2003.
A frequent visitor to the State Herbarium of South Australia over the past 15 years, Michael Kenneth Hyde, also known as "Burbank" to his mates in other pursuits, contributed over 8,500 herbarium collections. Struck down with a rare form of leukaemia in his latter years while still relatively young, Michael continued his pursuits the extent of which was not evident to his environmental and botanical colleagues until Michael Cornish spoke his eulogy.
Many of Michael's collections arose from his activities with native grasses and grasslands. He was heavily involved with the establishment of a Native Grasses of SA group and an ambitious project, dependent on large non-Government funding, which was trimmed to a new flora account of the State's grasses in the State Herbarium, continued by John Jessop in retirement and artists Gilbert Dashorst and Fiona James. He was heavily involved in a number of surveys of the State's highly vulnerable remnant grasslands, culminating in co-authorship in many associated publications. Even in his recent long period in hospital he completed a vegetation survey of the Gluepot Reserve in the Riverland, his substantial involvement in this community project and its interpretation centre leading to the centre being named after him. One notable botanical discovery was the population of an unusual broomrape that he brought to the Herbarium in 1994 from his property at Bow Hill near the Murray River. This led to immediate headlines and has culminated in the quarantining of a large area of the Murray Mallee in a multi-million dollar Branched Broomrape (Orobanche ramosa) eradication programme.
Michael Cornish's eulogy graphically demonstrated that behind this quietly passionate personality was a man who had a truly remarkable propensity for achievement in friendship, community, employment, education, hobbies and research. From a family of aviators he moved from flying and gliding at Waikerie through various qualifications to become at 25 Australia's youngest person to achieve a senior commercial pilot's licence. He never flew the Jumbo Jet he was qualified to pilot. Following his first job as a geologist's assistant with a mining team that took him up north to Kapunda and Yudanamutana, he had many jobs throughout his life:
Baker, builder's labourer, milkie, assembly line worker at Chryslers; small business operat or, bat bander, bird bander, ice cream vendor, amateur taxidermist, furniture maker (doors, bookshelves, kitchen sideboards, a specialty), farmer, sauce and jam manufacturer, air traffic controller, helicopter salesman, opal miner, chimney sweep; a multitude of flying jobs which included, aerial surveys of WA, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Coastal Surveillance, Northern Territory Police and cattle mustering in North Queensland; and more lately, as a botanist, archaeology adviser and book publisher.
In more recent years his life centred on an academic study of the Japanese and Australian aircraft operations in the South West Pacific during World War 2 at the same time as he was enrolled for a Bachelor of Archaeology. His Honours thesis was almost completed and steps are underway to have it published in the near future. Michael was accepted, with scholarship, in November 2002, for the study of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Flinders University.
We have lost a valuable contributor to environmental science and systematic botany,. Given his propensity for productivity and achievement, who knows what else he might have achieved given longer.
Parts of this obituary has been adapted from Michael Cornish's eulogy, published in the Australian Archaeology mailing list
Source: ASBS Newsletter, June 2003, No.115