A.W. Jessep, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Government Botanist of Victoria from 27th October 1941 until his retirement on 27th March 1957, died on 20th March, a few days short of his 99th birthday.
Born in Maffra, Victoria, on 27th March 1892, he was educated at Sale Grammar School, Marshall College, Aberdeen, Scotland, and the University of Melbourne. His tertiary studies were interrupted by the First World War, for a period of five years. He joined the 53rd Battery as a gunner and went overseas with the 5th Division, where he saw active service. He ended the war with the rank of Lieutenant. After the war he resumed his studies, and graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Science, Master of Agricultural Science and Diploma of Education from the University of Melbourne.
Prior to taking up his appointment at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Mr Jessep was the Principal of the School of Agriculture and Horticulture at Burnley, Victoria. Interested in plants and horticulture from his youth, he was widely known for his interest and research into camellias and roses. One of his first duties on assuming the directorship of the Royal Botanic Gardens was to devote a section of the gardens to the growing of camellias.
Over the years he served as President of the Rose Society of Victoria (then the National Rose Society of Victoria) for three terms, and was active in the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, the Australian Camellia Research Society and other societies. He authored several horticultural and botanical works, and won a number of awards for his horticultural achievements, among them the E.G. Waterhouse gold medal in 1967 for his contribution to the development of camellas in Australia, and a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria in 1975 for outstanding service to horticulture.
Mr Jessep retained a strong interest in the Gardens and Herbarium, and until recently still attended some major functions. He never failed to write and acknowledge receipt of his copy of Muelleria each year and to congratulate the editor. He is survived by Dorothy, his wife of almost 65 years.
National Herbarium of Victoria, (1991)
Extracted from: ASBS Newsletter No.67, 1991