John Morton (zoologist)

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John Morton

John Edward Morton

(1923-07-18)18 July 1923
Morrinsville, New Zealand
Died6 March 2011(2011-03-06) (aged 87)
Auckland, New Zealand
Alma materAuckland University College
University of London
Scientific career
Fieldsbiology, conservation, marine biology, theology

John Edward Morton QSO (18 July 1923 – 6 March 2011) was a biologist, scholar, theologian, and conservationist from New Zealand. Trained at Auckland University College and the University of London, he became the author of numerous books, papers, and newspaper columns. Morton researched New Zealand's ecology and marine life, and was a marine zoologist. He was also the presenter of the imported nature and science television programme, Our World.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Morrinsville on 18 July 1923, Morton was the son of Ronald Bampton Morton.[2] He was educated at Morrinsville District High School, and went on to study zoology at Auckland University College, graduating with the degree of MSc with first-class honours in 1948.[2][3] In 1952 he completed his PhD, followed in 1959 by a DSc, at the University of London. During this time he was also a lecturer in the zoology department at the same university.[4]


On his return from London in the early 1960s,[5] he became the first person to be appointed to the chair of the School of Zoology and Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland,[4] a position he held from 1959 to 1988.[1] He was considered at this time one of New Zealand's most talented up-and-coming academics,[6] and was later regarded by many as one of New Zealand's greatest marine biologists.[7]

His teaching style and influence have been well-documented in A History of Biology at Auckland University 1883–1983.[8] He believed in "humanising" complex scientific issues, and presenting them in laymen's language.[1]

Morton was also regarded as one of New Zealand's leading Christian academics and believed in a unified view of science and religion.[9] He told The New Zealand Herald upon his retirement in 1988 that "I find that my scientific work has confirmed my Christian convictions. To me biology and theology complement each other."[1] In his 1984 book Redeeming Creation[10] he acknowledged the influence of the French palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin in forming the teleological view he expounded in his academic life.

Morton did much for conservation in New Zealand. In 1975, he was a leader in the establishment of New Zealand's first marine reserve, Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (which is near Cape Rodney and Leigh and includes Te Hāwere-a-Maki / Goat Island).[1] He led the conservation movement to a series of victories in the 1970s and 1980s, which saved the last of New Zealand's mainland native forests, Pureora, Whirinaki, Waitututu and South Westland from logging.[6]

He served on the Auckland Regional Authority from 1971 to 1974 for Takapuna, losing his re-election bid after switching his party affiliation to Labour.[11] In 1989 he became a founding member of the New Labour Party, which in 1991 formed a coalition with other parties called the Alliance.[6]

Morton died at his home in Auckland on 6 March 2011.[12]

Honours and awards[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Seashore ecology of New Zealand and the Pacific. John Edward Morton, Bruce William Hayward. Bateman, 2004. ISBN 1-86953-399-2, ISBN 978-1-86953-399-1.
  • The shore ecology of Upolu – Western Samoa. Issue 31 of Leigh Lab. bulletin. John Edward Morton, Andrew Jeffs, Leigh Marine Laboratory. University of Auckland, 1993.
  • Shore life between Fundy tides. John Edward Morton, J. C. Roff, Mary Beverley-Burton. Canadian Scholars Press, 1991.
  • The shore ecology of the tropical Pacific. John Edward Morton. Unesco Regional Office for Science and Technology for South-East Asia, 1990.
  • Christ, creation, and the environment. John Edward Morton. Anglican Communications, 1989. ISBN 0-473-00828-9, ISBN 978-0-473-00828-4.
  • Marine molluscs: Opisthobranchia, Part 2. Richard Carden Willan, John Edward Morton, John Walsby, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, 1984.
  • The sea shore ecology of Hong Kong. Brian Morton, John Edward Morton. The University of Hong Kong, 1983. ISBN 962-209-027-3.
  • Marine molluscs: Amphineura, archaeogastropoda & pulmonata, Part 1. Issue 4 of Leigh Lab. bulletin. John Walsby, John Edward Morton, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, 1982.
  • Molluscs. John Edward Morton. Hutchinson University Library, 1979.
  • Seacoast in the seventies: the future of the New Zealand shoreline. John Edward Morton, David A. Thom, Ronald Harry Locker. Hodder and Stoughton, 1973.
  • Man, science and God. John Edward Morton. Collins, 1972.
  • The New Zealand sea shore. John Edward Morton, Michael C. Miller. Collins, 1968.


  1. ^ a b c d e Pickmere, Arnold (12 March 2011). "Obituary: Professor John Edward Morton". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b Traue, J. E., ed. (1978). Who's Who in New Zealand (11th ed.). Wellington: Reed. p. 201. ISBN 0-589-01113-8.
  3. ^ "NZ university graduates 1870–1961: Me–Mo". Shadows of Time. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Professor John Morton dies". Anglican Taonga. 6 March 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  5. ^ Free online Passenger Listing for the April 1960 voyage of the New Zealand Shipping Company's Rangitiki on which the Morton family travelled from London to New Zealand.
  6. ^ a b c Lee, Mike (14 March 2011). "Tribute to a great New Zealander – farewell Prof John Morton". Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  7. ^ "John Morton". New Zealand Geographic. No. 69. September–October 2004. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  8. ^ Foster, Brian; Rattenbury, Jack; Marbrook, John (1983), A History of Biology at Auckland University 1883–1983 (Research Report), Department of Biology, University of Auckland
  9. ^ Watkin, Tim (21 April 2001). "Let's thank God for the wonder that is science". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  10. ^ Redeeming Creation. Auckland: Zealandia. 1984.
  11. ^ John Roughan (12 March 2011). "Auckland's eco warriors come in many guises". The New Zealand Herald.
  12. ^ "John Morton obituary". The New Zealand Herald. 8 March 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  13. ^ "List of all Fellows with surnames M–O". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  14. ^ "No. 50553". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 14 June 1986. p. 33.
  15. ^ Derby, Mark. "Page 2. Literary awards, 1950s onwards". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  16. ^ Ponder, W. F. (1965). "The Family Eatoniellidae in New Zealand". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 6: 47–99. ISSN 0067-0464. JSTOR 42906115. Wikidata Q58676802.