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Royal Commonwealth Society : E.J.H. Corner photographs

Corner, Edred John Henry, 1906-1996, Botanist

Royal Commonwealth Society

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Photographs and glass and film negatives showing scenes in the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The majority are highly specialised forestry images, and many are uncaptioned, making identification difficult. Captions are taken from, in most cases, the envelopes that originally held the images or the reverse of the prints in conjunction with information from an accompanying annotated draft catalogue. There are also four watercolours (three of Pinang) by local artists.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Edred John Henry Corner was born on 12 January 1906 and died on 14 September 1996. He studied biology at Rugby School and Sidney Sussex College, and in 1929 was appointed Assistant Director of the Gardens Department of the Straits Settlements, which 'had as a duty the botanical exploration of the whole Malay Peninsula.' His photographs indicate the extent of his travels, and he later wrote of 'the experience I had gained through the whole country from Perlis and Gunong Tahan to the islets south of Singapore.' Though initially a mycologist (the scientific study of fungi), he soon found his main interest in trees, as the main subjects of his photographs indicate. As he commented in 1981 'I found life in Singapore distasteful until I discovered the sprinkling of persons throughout the peninsula who had grown to love the country. Had it not been for the wonder of the forests, which I have since learnt were the richest botanically in the world - and the tense is past for these forests are now decimated - I would not have stayed.' ('The Marquis', pp. 21-22). His first book, later revised, and the forerunner of many botanical works, was 'Wayside Trees of Malaya' (1940).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> In his collecting of specimens he utilised the climbing powers of Berok monkeys (see his 'Botanical monkeys', 1992). With the approach of the Japanese he was conscripted into the Singapore Volunteer Force, but a serious bite from one of his monkeys led to his being invalided. His civilian status enabled him (with the approval of the former British Governor, Sir Shenton Thomas) to cooperate with the Japanese in saving specimens and records from the libraries and museums. He was particularly fortunate in the friendly attitude of Professor Hidezo Tanakadate and, from 1942 to 1944, of Marquis Yoshichika Tokugawa, Supreme Consulting Adviser to the Japanese Military Administration, and President of the Museum and Botanical Gardens. After his death, Professor Corner told of his own wartime experiences and the life of Yoshichika Tokguwa in 'The Marquis: a Tale of Syonan-to' in 1981. Syonan-to was the Japanese term for Singapore.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Professor Corner left Singapore in November 1945. He became Principal Field Scientific Officer for Latin America for Unesco, 1947-48, and returning to Cambridge, he was Lecturer in Botany 1949-59, Reader in Plant Taxonomy 1959-65, Fellow of Sidney Sussex 1959-73, and Professor of Tropical Botany 1965-73. During this period he led Royal Society Expeditions to Borneo (1961, 1964) and the Solomon Islands (1965), and visited Japan in 1966. His many honours include CBE and FRS. He retired as Emeritus Professor in 1973. Corner married twice, and is succeeded by a son and daughter. He was a very tall man with spectacles.</p>

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