Vale Barry Wilson

Article | Updated 11 months ago

It was with great sadness that we received news of the recent death of Dr Barry Wilson on 12 June.

I wish to pay tribute to him and his immense contribution to science, conservation and museums: I am particularly grateful to Diana Jones, who knew him well, for providing much of the information presented here.

Barry is widely recognised for his enormous contribution to museums and the natural sciences, notably in the discipline of Malacology.

He studied at UWA and was awarded a PhD in 1965, based on his research on marine molluscs.  This was followed by post-doctoral studies in molluscan systematics at Harvard University. He then returned to Australia and was appointed Curator of Molluscs at the WA Museum, later becoming Head of Science in 1967. 

Barry arrived at a period of great expansion of the WAM. Under the leadership of Dr David Ride.

Barry began to develop the nascent mollusc collection and was responsible for organising important WAM expeditions around the coasts of WA such as the Crown of Thorns Survey in the Dampier Archipelago in the 1970’s. 

He was accompanied by WAM colleagues such as Shirley Slack-Smith, Loisette Marsh, Barry Hutchings, Ray George, Ron Johnstone, Ann Brearley and Fred Wells.

Mollusc specimens were not only collected on these expeditions but Barry also made sure that the specimens were properly curated. In order to do this, Barry also attracted enthusiastic volunteers to work on the shell collection, including Glad Hanson, who still works in the Mollusc collection 52 years later! 

After working at the WA Museum, Barry held positions as Director of the Museum of Victoria (now Museums Victoria)  (1979-1984) and Director of Nature Conservation in the Department of Conservation and Land Management in WA (1985-1999). He was a Research Associate of the WAM and an Honorary Life Fellow of Museums Victoria, an honorary life member of the Australian Malacological Society, an Honorary Research Fellow at UWA, a Trustee of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and a member of the IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas.

Barry produced a series of widely acclaimed books on shells and, in a wider sense, applied his knowledge to marine conservation and nature conservation. 

Barry was well respected by all who worked with him. His contribution and support to the disciplines of malacology and nature conservation, both nationally and internationally are truly impressive. 

Barry will be sorely missed. Our sympathies go to his friends and family.