John Waterhouse, Senior Lecturer in Botany and Director of the Herbarium (UNSW) at the University of New South Wales, and a foundation member of ASBS, died suddenly at his home on the night of 1 April, 1983, aged 58 years.
John obtained a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Botany from the University of Sydney in 1946, and, apart from two short periods on the staff of the Botany Department, University of Sydney, spent the next decade and a half on the land in the north west of the state. Throughout this period he maintained and developed his knowledge of the native flora, and on leaving the land in 1962 he joined the staff of the Botany School at the University of New South Wales for studies on the Xanthorrhoeaceae, and in 1972 a Master of Science in Pure and Applied Taxonomy from the University of Reading.
John had particular interests in the Myrtaceae and the woody monocotyledons, and was nearing the completion of a collaborative project with Mary Hindmarsh to produce a key on vegetative characters for the identification of rainforest species south of the Macleay River. The last of these projects should be brought to a publishable stage shortly, and it is also hoped to publish his presidential address to the Linnean Society of New South Wales entitled, "The phylogenetic significance of Dracaena-type growth in monocotyledons".
In 1980 John embarked upon an intensive floristic survey of the Magela Creek catchment and the surrounding areas between the East and West Alligator Rivers, Northern Territory. He collected throughout the full cycle of the wet and dry seasons, amassing a substantial set of specimens and observations on the phenology of these little studied communities.
John has had a great impact on the teaching of botany in general, and taxonomy in particular, at the University of N.S.W. He raised undergraduate taxonomy above the level of plant identification, introducing a special third year unit on the principles and methods of plant taxonomy. Over the years he devoted a great deal of effort to expanding the collection held by the herbarium, and to improving the level of its curation. In 1980 he registered the herbarium, and recently obtained a special development grant to enlarge the accommodation both for the collection and for the associated staff and students. This work was already in hand at the time of his death, and should be completed early in June. The enlarged herbarium will be officially opened and dedicated to John's memory during a social get-together of his friends and colleagues on Tuesday, 28 June.
Only the week before he died John saw 'Waterhousea', the myrtaceous genus named in his honour (Hyland, in press), in print in the 'Rainforest Walk' pamphlet just published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. He was looking forward to an early retirement at the end of next year, which would free him of the routine pressures of a teaching position and enable him to devote more time to research. The Australian botanical community is much the poorer for his passing.
Christopher Quinn, 1983
Extracted from: ASBS Newsletter No.36, 1983