The Walter Westman Lecture on Science, Humanity and the Environment

International House holds this lecture series every year to honour the memory of Walter E Westman, an alumnus of the House from 1967 and the winner of the International House Alumni Award for Achievement in 1988.

Walter Westman Bio

Walter Westman

Walter Westman

Walter Westman was, in 1967, one of the founding residents of International House as a Fulbright Scholar undertaking post-graduate research in Botany.

With an MSc in botany from Macquarie University, and a PhD in ecology from Cornell Walter worked in Washington DC, advising Senator Muskie and the Senate Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution, and helped draft the US Water Pollution Control Act of 1972.

He lectured in ecology at the University of Queensland in 1972, and was later a professor at UCLA. In a 1973 article in the journal Science he and co-author Roger Gifford developed a complex and detailed plan for rationing, on an equitable basis, the benefits provided by nature to human beings. Later he brought together wide-ranging and advanced approaches to ecology in his 1985 book Ecology, Impact Assessment, and Environmental Planning. From 1984 he worked at San Francisco’s NASA/Ames Research Centre; and from 1987 at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

Walter died in 1991 at the age of 45. His obituary writers, in the Journal of Vegetation Science described him as “a prolific contributor over 20 years to the fields of ecology, geography and environmental policy” adding that “He fused training in plant ecology with an interest in human modification of the landscape to become an outstanding ecologist and geographer whose work ultimately reshaped modern biogeographic research”. They also said he was “an exciting and inspiring teacher, a dedicated and concerned advisor, a stimulating and caring colleague, and a friend to many”.

In 1967 Walter had been an ideal International House resident, bringing to his fellow residents an incisive mind and generous nature. He performed creditably on the violin; he had a lively and well-informed interest in astronomy; he wrote poetry and at least one play; and he thought profoundly about science, humanity and the environment. Walter’s contribution to science, humanity and the environment was recognised here in 1988 when he received the International House Alumni Award for Achievement.

Lecture Series - Past Speakers

  • 2012: Dr Ross Gittins AM, economics editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and an economic columnist for The Age.
  • 2011: Dr Frank Jotzo, senior lecturer at the Crawford School, Director of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Deputy Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute.
  • 2010: Professor Ian Hickie AM, Executive Director of the Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney.
  • 2009: John Conor, CEO of the Climate Institute of Australia.
  • 2008: Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, CSIRO.