Superb large Australian botanical from, The Forest of South Australia by John Ednie Brown (1848-1899)
was a silviculturist, born in Scotland, son of James Brown, LL.D.,
deputy-surveyor of woods and forests. He was educated in Edinburgh but
left school at 15 to work with his father's and after three years, he
was sent to the Invercauld estate in Aberdeenshire where he learnt the
profession of assistant agent and forester. He then moved to England
where he laid out plantations and managed estates in Yorkshire and
In 1871-72 Brown visited the United States and
Canada, gathering more useful information on trees and forests. As a
result he wrote 'Report upon Trees found in California' and 'Forests of the Eastern States of America'
for which he received the gold medal of the Highland and Agricultural
Society of Scotland. In 1878 he was offered the position of conservator
of forests of South Australia.
He returned briefly to England and
arrived in Adelaide on 15 September. His first report showed the
thoroughness with which he had made himself acquainted with the
situation and possibilities of the South Australian forests, but he was
bitterly disappointed when its adoption was opposed on technical grounds
by the chairman of the Forest Board, Goyder who was himself qualified
Brown wrote A Practical Treatise on Tree Culture in South Australia,
and presented the manuscript to the Forest Board in 1880. It was
printed by the government and the board distributed 2000 copies free and
sold another 1000 to cover printing costs. In 1883 the Forest Board was
disbanded and Brown was placed directly under the commissioner of crown
In 1890 Brown accepted the position of director-general of
forests in New South Wales and when his position was made vacant he took
up a position with the Bureau of Agriculture in Western Australia in
1895. Brown produced a report on WAS forests in 1896 and the Department
of Woods and Forests was created, with Brown as its first conservator.
In his brief régime much planting of softwoods was initiated, some
sandalwood was sown, seedlings were distributed to encourage annual
arbor days, and the value of hardwood exports rose by five times to
reach more than £550,000. The commissioner of crown lands declared that
'it would be a calamity to dispense with the services of so useful an
officer as the Conservator of Forests', and Charles John Moran, M.L.A.,
proclaimed him 'the first authority on timber in Australia'.
After an attack of influenza Brown died at his home in Cottesloe on 26 October 1899, aged 50.