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John Burton Cleland

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. He also studied the transmission of dengue virus by the mosquito Stegomyia fasciata (Aedes aegypti).

John Cleland
Sir John Burton Cleland (1878 - 1971).jpg
Sir John Burton Cleland (1878—1971)
Born22 June 1878 (1878-06-22)
Norwood, Adelaide, Australia
Died11 August 1971 (1971-08-12) (aged 93)
Walkerville, Adelaide, Australia
Alma materUniversity of Adelaide
University of Sydney
Known forProof of transmission of dengue by mosquitoes
AwardsAustralian Natural History Medallion
Scientific career
FieldsPathologist, naturalist, microbiologist, mycologist and ornithologist
InstitutionsRoyal Prince Alfred Hospital
University of Sydney
London Hospital
Bureau of Microbiology, Sydney
University of Adelaide
Academic advisorsRalph Tate
Edward Rennie
William Henry Bragg
Edward Stirling
Archibald Watson
Robert Muir
Author abbrev. (botany)Cleland
Jbcleland sig.jpg
He was the father of ornithologist Joan Paton.

Early life and educationEdit

John Burton Cleland was born in Norwood, South Australia a grandson of John Fullerton Cleland and son of Dr William Lennox Cleland[1] (1847–1918) and Matilda Lauder Cleland née Burton (1848–1928) a daughter of John Hill Burton FRSE. He attended Prince Alfred College and the universities of Adelaide and Sydney, graduating in medicine in 1900.

Marriage and familyEdit

Cleland married Dora Isabel Paton (1880–1955) a daughter of Rev David Paton DD (1841–1907), minister of Chalmers Presbyterian Church, North Terrace, Adelaide,[2] and Isabella Ann McGhie née Robson (1847–1933) and they had four daughters and a son. He encouraged them in the sciences:

  • Dr Margaret Burton Cleland MRCS FRACP (1909–2004) who married Dr John Patrick Horan (1907–1993) MD FRCP FRACP;
  • Dr William Paton 'Bill' Cleland MB FRCP FRCS (1912–2005), who married Norah Goodhart (1919–1994), became a cardio-thoracic surgeon;[3][4]
  • Joan Burton Cleland (c. 1915–2000) who married Erskine Norman Paton (1922–1985) became an ornithologist;
  • Elizabeth Robson Cleland (16 October 1910 – 31 January 2005) married (Alfred) Moxon Simpson (1910–2001) on 3 August 1938. Moxon was a son of Alfred Allen Simpson. Elizabeth Simpson was author of The Hahndorf Walkers and The Clelands of Beaumont
  • Barbara Burton Cleland (1913–?), a mathematics graduate who married Prof Andrew John La Nauze (1911–1990)

Sir Donald MacKinnon Cleland CBE (1901–1975), administrator of Papua New Guinea, was his cousin, the son of Elphinstone Davenport Cleveland (1843–1928) and his second wife Anne Emily MacKinnon (1870–1944).[5]


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.[3]

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.

Along with Charles Duguid and Constance Cooke, he was a board member of South Australia's Aborigines Protection Board after its creation in 1940, established by the Aborigines Act Amendment Act (1939) and "charged with the duty of controlling and promoting the welfare" of Aboriginal people.[6]

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 theorised 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.[7]

Legacy and honoursEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Chief Medical Officer, Lunacy Department, South Australia : see John's Notable Australians 1906
  2. ^ "The Late Dr. Paton". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b Caroline Richmond, "Obituary of William Paton Cleland (1912–2005)", British Medical Journal, 2005, 330; 1212
  4. ^ Arthur, Hollman. "William Paton Cleland". Lives of the Fellows. Royal College of Physicians. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  5. ^ Nelson, N H. "Cleland, Sir Donald Mackinnon (Don) (1901–1975)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Aborigines Protection Board". SA History Hub. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  7. ^ 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. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  8. ^ South Australia. National Parks and Wildlife Service (1983), Cleland Conservation Park management plan : Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia (PDF), Department of Environment and Planning, South Australia, p. 32, ISBN 978-0-7243-4556-4
  9. ^ IPNI.  Cleland.
  • 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 linksEdit