Edward Max Nicholson

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Edward Max Nicholson ("Max" to everyone who knew him; July 12, 1904 - April 26, 2003) was a pioneering environmentalist, ornithologist and internationalist; and a founder of the World Wildlife Fund.

Nicholson was born in Kilternan, to the south of Dublin (then part of the United Kingdom), the son of English parents. He and his family moved to England in 1910, settling in Staines. He became interested in birdwatching, beginning his list of birds in 1913.

He was educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria and then Hertford College, Oxford from 1926, winning scholarships to both. At Oxford he read history, and visited Greenland and British Guiana as a founder member of the University's Exploration Club.

He already had published work on birds by the age of 21, with Birds in England (1926) and had three similar books published in the 1920s.

In The Art of Bird-Watching (1931), he discussed the potential of co-operative birdwatching to inform the conservation debate. This led, in 1932, to the foundation of the British Trust for Ornithology, of which he was the first treasurer and later chairman (1947-1949).

Nicholson's 1931 essay A National Plan for Britain led to the formation of the influential policy think tank Political and Economic Planning (PEP), now the Policy Studies Institute.

He joined the civil service in 1940, during World War II working for the Ministry of Shipping, then the Ministry of War Transport, attending conferences at Quebec and Cairo, and was with Winston Churchill at the post-war peace conferences at Yalta and Potsdam.

From 1945 until 1952 he was private secretary to Herbert Stanley Morrison.

In 1947-1948, with the then director general of the United Nations' scientific and education organisation UNESCO, Julian Huxley, he was involved in forming the Scientific International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (now the World Conservation Union).

He also chaired the committee for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

In 1949 he oversaw the setting up of The Nature Conservancy and the national parks and access to the countryside Act. This allowed for the legal protection of nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest (SSSI). He was director general of The Nature Conservancy from 1952-1966.

In 1952, while in Baluchistan, he contracted polio, which left him with a limp.

In 1961, he was part of the organising group that created the World Wildlife Fund and he was also a founder of the International Institute for Environment and Development. In 1966 he set up and headed Land Use Consultants, remaining with them until 1989. He was also chief editor of The Birds of the Western Palearctic ("BWP", 1977-1994, OUP) from 1965-1992. He was President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds from 1980-1985, helped set up the New Renaissance Group and was a trustee of Earthwatch Europe.

He married Mary Crawford in 1932 and they had two children, Piers and Tom. Crawford died in 1995 and he married Marie Mauerhofer (known as Toni) in 1965, they had one child (David), and she died in 2002.


(incomplete list)

  • Birds In England (1926)
  • How Birds Live (1927)
  • The Art of Bird-Watching (1931)
  • The Humanist Frame (1961) (contribution)

External links

  • Tribute site (http://www.maxnicholson.com/index.html)
  • Guardian Obituary (http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,944664,00.html)
  • Telegraph Obituary (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&targetRule=10&xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F04%2F29%2Fdb2902.xml)

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