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Biographical entry White, Samuel Albert (1870 - 1954)

20 December 1870
Fulham, South Australia, Australia
19 January 1954
Fulham, South Australia, Australia
Ornithologist and Conservationist


Samuel White was a keen ornithologist and conservationist who undertook an ornithological survey of the whole of South Australia and much of the Northern Territory. He was a central figure in the declaration of national parks in South Australia.


Son of Samuel White (q.v.). Educated various private schools, in particular Christian Brothers' College. Noted racehorse owner of private means. Made ornithological trips to the Murray River 1887, Western Australia 1888, Eyre Peninsula 1891 and north Queensland; fought in the Boer War 1900-03, where he reached the rank of captain, a title he continued to use; big-game hunting expedition to Central and East Africa 1903; trips to Tasmania 1906, Tweed River district of New South Wales 1907; collaborated with G.M. Mathews on The Birds of Australia (London, 1910-27), mounting major collecting expeditions to Alice Springs 1913, the Musgrave and Everard ranges 1914, Cooper's Creek with the South Australian Museum expedition 1916, Nullarbor Plains 1917-18, the Finke River with Edgeworth David and Walter Howchin 1921 and Adelaide to Darwin and back 1922. Ornithological survey of the whole of South Australia and much of the Northern Territory. Central figure in the declaration of national parks in South Australia. Eminent public speaker. Wrote articles for the press and booklets about his journeys, in particular The Gawler Ranges (1913), Into the Dead Heart (1914) and The Life of Samuel White (1920). President, South Australian Ornithological Association 1904 and 1911, honorary member 1941; British Empire Member, British Ornithologists' Union 1912; president, Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union 1914-16; Corresponding Fellow, American Ornithologists' Union 1919. Chairman, Advisory Board of Agriculture; State Chief Commissioner, Boy Scouts' Association 1923-31. Awarded an annual medal for many years for best essay or notes and observations on birds by a South Australian school student. G.M. Mathews (q.v.) named a number of genera, species and sub-species of bird after him and also after his wife Rosina, and White used the name 'marianae' in honour of Mrs. Mathews.

His first wife, whom he married on 19 April 1906, was Ethel Rosina, née Toms. She was born 28 December 1876 and died 11 May 1926. She accompanied him on many of his collecting trips in Australia and is commemorated by the genera Ethelornis and Rosina and by a number of species and sub-species, named by G.M. Mathews between 1912 and 1923.


Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus bicolor var. xanthophylla Blakely. White collected the type

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Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Australian Botanists - Biographies, MS 064; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

South Australian Museum Archives

  • Samuel Albert White - Records, 1890 - 1954; South Australian Museum Archives. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • White, S. A., The Life of Samuel White (Adelaide: 1920). Details

Book Sections


See also

  • Hall, Norman, Botanists of the Eucalypts: short biographies of people who have named eucalypts, whose names have been given to species or who have collected type material (Melbourne: CSIRO, 1978), 101 pp. Details
  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 492 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J.