Geoffrey Matthews, OBE

Geoffrey Matthews, who died on 21st January 2013, was an ornithologist of international renown, eminent scientist and a pioneer of wetland and waterbird conservation. Educated in Cambridge, he was selected by his tutor for Operational Research in the RAF, serving during the war in south east Asia. The challenges of navigating planes during the war contributed to his interest in bird navigation, which remained with him throughout his career.

Geoffrey Matthews OBE

Geoffrey Matthews OBE

After his war service he returned to Cambridge and received his doctoral degree in 1950. He remained at Cambridge thereafter, pursuing his research into migratory bird navigation, including his classical studies of orientation in pigeons and shearwaters. His seminal monograph “Bird Navigation” was published by Cambridge University Press in 1955, with an expanded second edition in 1968. 

Geoffrey went on to become Director of Research at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), a post which he held for many years. During that time he also served as Honorary Director of the International Wildfowl Research Bureau (IWRB; now Wetlands International) from his base at Slimbridge. He was also a founding father of the Ramsar Convention. He was awarded the OBE in 1986 for services to conservation.