State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 38 Spring 1986


This photograph, taken at an AOU camp in either 1905 or 1909, shows Captain White in the centre with a hat upon his knee.

This photograph is from an album presented to J. W. Mellor “as a record of the appreciation of the members of the Ornithologists Union who camped at Middle River Kangaroo Island from 14th Oct. to 24th Oct. for his able management eventuating in the success of the camp 1905”.


Captain Samuel Albert White (1870–1954)

Samuel Albert White was born in Adelaide on 20 December 1870. His father and an uncle were both interested in natural history and, following in their footsteps, he made his first ornithological trip when he was seventeen years old. Several more expeditions followed before he saw service in the South African War, at the turn of the century. In 1903 he returned to South Africa for a big-game hunting expedition and collecting expedition. In 1906 he married Ethel Rosina Toms who accompanied him on many of his journeys.
An excellent preparator of bird-skins, White amassed an excellent personal collection in addition to assisting Gregory M. Mathews with skins, and notes, for his Birds of Australia. Mathews, in appreciation of this help by both White and his wife, named many birds in their honour.
Despite his duties as a pastoralist, White was constantly on the move, collecting and observing, particularly between 1909 and 1916. A prolific writer, often illustrating his articles with his own photographs, he has left a wealth of information on the bird life of the times, principally in South Australia. His numerous publications are listed in H. M. Whittell's The Literature of Australian Birds and throughout his obituaries in South Australian Ornithologist and The Emu.
As so often happened in those times White was both an enthusiastic collector and a conservationist, and saw no anomaly in the situation. He gave many lectures on the value of birds and even awarded a medal annually to South Australian schools for the best essay on birds.
His association with the RAOU commenced in 1900. He was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in 1913 and held the position of President during 1914–1916.
He made his home at “Weetunga”, Fulham, a property that had originally been taken up by his grandfather in 1836 after his arrival in South Australia, and he died there on 26 January 1954.


  • R.A.O.U. Archives

  • Cleland, J. B. Obituary South Australian Ornithologist, vol. 21, no. 2–3 (1954), p. 34. Condon, H. T. Obituary The Emu, vol. 54, no. 1 (1954), p. 77–79.


Taken on the Henley Beach Road near Fulham, 3 October 1909.