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Chinner, John Harding (1915–2001)

The Institute of Foresters of Australia has awarded the N. W. Jolly Medal, its highest award for merit in forestry, to John Harding Chinner. The citation leading to this award is as follows:

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, on January 9th, 1915, John Harding Chinner undertook his training in forestry as a cadet of the Forests Commission of Victoria at the Victorian School of Forestry, Creswick, from which he graduated with the Associate Diploma in 1932, being Dux of the School and recipient of the A. V. Galbraith Medal. Admission to the Victorian Diploma of Forestry, by thesis, followed.

John Chinner served four years as Assistant Forester in district work for the Victorian Forests Commission when he was involved primarily in utilisation and silvicultural operations. For a time he also served as Secretary of the first Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade in Victoria and he later was Assistant Silvicultural Research Officer.

In 1937 he took up a scholarship at the University of Melbourne and graduated B.Sc. in 1938 with Exhibitions in geology and botany. In that year he was selected as the 1939 Victorian Rhodes Scholar. On the outbreak of war in September 1939 John elected to defer his scholarship and enlisted in the A.I.F. He served in the Middle East and New Guinea, was 'Mentioned in Despatches' for conspicuous service and reached the rank of substantive Lieutenant-Colonel.

After six years service with the A.I.F. John took up his Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford and gained the post-graduate degree of B.Sc. in Forestry, by research in silviculture and forest ecology.

After his return from Oxford, John Chinner was appointed Senior Lecturer in Charge of Forestry at the University of Melbourne and remained in this area of forestry education for the remainder of his career. He was promoted to Reader in 1956. For a year, 1963/64, he was appointed Harvard University's Bullard Research Fellow in Forestry and Special Auditor in its Forest School. In 1979 he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. He retired at the end of 1980.

Early in his career at the University John Chinner saw the Creswick Diploma accepted as the first two years of a Melbourne B.Sc. For. degree course, and later he founded the first four-year forestry degree course within the University of Melbourne in 1967. He was almost solely responsible for establishing the fine record in post-graduate training in forestry which the Melbourne School of Forestry enjoys and which early attracted endowed Scholarships from the wood-using industry, and indeed, in the earlier years he carried out the major part of the associated supervision himself. In the process he initiated and gained support for much of the early post-graduate research work into the silviculture of both the native forests and the exotic plantation forests of Victoria and Tasmania.

During this period also, John Chinner represented the University of Melbourne on the Australian Board of Higher Forestry Education and saw the first moves towards the affiliation of the Victorian School of Forestry, Creswick, administered by the Forests Commission of Victoria, with the University of Melbourne. This affiliation became operative from January 1st, 1980, and although he retired while preparations for a foundation Professorship were still in progress. John Chinner leaves that achievement as a worthy memorial to an enduring effort. Equally rewarding, however, must be the prominence of many of his graduates and postgraduates in senior positions, public and private, throughout the forestry profession in Australia.

Always a strong supporter of the profession, John Chinner has been an active member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia since its early days. He was Chairman of the Victorian Division 1953-1955, and was elected a Fellow of the Institute in 1974. He was also a Foundation Fellow of the Institute of Wood Science in Australia, was President of the Royal Society of Victoria in 1966 and 1967, and a member of the Victorian Council of the Water Research Foundation for many years.

The award of the N. W. Jolly Medal is a well deserved recognition of John Chinner's outstanding services to forestry in Australia.

Original Publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 46, no 1, 1983, pp 2-3

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Citation details

'Chinner, John Harding (1915–2001)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 August 2020.

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