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Muir, William Douglas (Bill) (1905–1980)

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

Bill Muir has singular claims to a special place in Australian Forestry.

Within the Institute he was one of the two men most actively involved in the formation of the Institute. With Max Jacobs he put his forestry career on the line against the very strong advice of his department and took a major part in the discussions which led to the formation of one Institute only of professional foresters. He was a signatory of the Articles of Association and one of our founder members.

In later years Bill Muir continued his active support of the Institute and was a N.S.W. Division Chairman from 1952 to 1956 and participated in every major conference of the Institute. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute in recognition of his continuing service to the Institute.

However, Bill Buir is almost unique by being dux of the Victorian School of Forestry, Creswick, (in 1924) and of the Australian Forestry School (in 1929). Few men have crossed the Murray for their forestry education and no others have been so successfully involved in both of Australia's schools of forestry.

Bill Muir's forest service started in Gippsland in 1925 where his first duties were concluded dramatically by the devastation of the forests by fire on 'Black Sunday' of February 1926.

In N.S.W. Bill's first job was to bring the sadly neglected plantations of the Tumut district under proper management. The evidence of his good work was contained in the approval expressed in the report of the enquiry into plantation forestry which ran through the years 1935 and 1936.

In 1939 he was awarded a Russell Grimwade Scholarship and when his studies at Oxford were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II he was directed into special projects to gather information on the use of producer gas for motor vehicles and to carry out in the United States a study of forest fire control. In both of these matters he contributed greatly to the limited knowledge within Australia of these specialised subjects.

In 1937 Bill Muir commenced on a series of head office tasks which took him through to a very successful time as Chief Commissioner of the N.S.W. Forestry Commission. In 1937 he started with a preparation of basic management plans for forests throughout the State. On return from his European and American studies he was placed in charge of all technical activities of the Forestry Commission, which activity was later re-titled Deputy Forest Management Officer. This led him into twelve years as Forest Management Officer, a brief period as Assistant Commissioner and then eight years as Senior Assistant Commissioner. Bill capped his career with a very successful period of four years as Commissioner of Forests, and retired in October 1970 from whence he could look back over a period of extraordinary growth in the management of N.S.W. forests. In that time the plantation area grew from modest experimental beginnings to the largest plantation estate in Australia, while the hardwood forests were brought under effective management and contributed greatly to the development of his State.

In all of these matters Bill Muir was a singular credit to the profession. His warm open nature encouraged personal approaches from his staff and he succeeded in generating and sustaining an active and effective organisation. Bill Muir was one of Australia's great forestry pioneers and it is appropriate that he should be recognised by the Institute by the award of its Jolly Medal.

Original Publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 43, no 3, 1980, p 164

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Citation details

'Muir, William Douglas (Bill) (1905–1980)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 5 August 2020.

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