Maurice Burton

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Maurice Burton (28 March 1898 – 9 September 1992) was a British zoologist and popular science author, who produced many natural history encyclopedias and books including a skeptical treatment of the Loch Ness Monster.

Burton was born in Hornsey, London on 28 March 1898, attended Holloway School and studied zoology at King’s College, London under Arthur Dendy, then became a schoolteacher, before joining the staff of the Natural History Museum, London in 1926 where he remained for the rest if his career until his retirement in 1958. He married Margaret Maclean (d. 1990) in 1929 and they had two sons and a daughter. He died in Albury, Surrey, on 9 September 1992. The Albury History Society has some details of Burton’s life in Albury along with several sound recordings.

He was Curator of Sponges at the British Museum of Natural History from 1927 to 1948, and Deputy Keeper of Zoology in the same institution from 1949 to 1958. His popular science writing included major work on Encyclopedias, and acting as Science Editor for the Illustrated London News and Nature Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. In 1961 he published a book called The Elusive Monster reviewing the evidence for the Loch Ness Monster in the light of his professional knowledge and concluding that it was unlikely that such creatures were living in Loch Ness. He also commented further on this topic in the New Scientist. Many of Burton’s books were aimed at a juvenile audience. Some of his later books or revised editions were published with his son, Robert Burton (born 1941) also trained as a zoologist and who published many natural history books himself. Robert also took over his father’s Nature Notes column in the Daily Telegraph. His daughter Jane Burton (1933–2007) illustrated many of the books and pursued a career as a wildlife photographer.

1938 (with A. Dendy): Outlines of Evolutionary Biology (Constable)
1953: Animal Courtship (Hutchinson)
1956: Infancy in Animals (Hutchinson)
1957: Animal Legends (Coward-McCann)
1959: Curiosities of Animal Life (Ward Lock)
1959: The Phoenix Reborn (Hutchinson)
1960: Under the Sea (Franklin Watts)
1961: The Elusive Monster – An analysis of the evidence from Loch Ness (Hart-Davies)
1962: Systematic Dictionary of Mammals of the World (Museum Press)
1965: Young Animals (Hamlyn)
1968: Animals, Vol. 3 of the Frank Watts Reference Library (Frank Watts)
1968: University Dictionary of Mammals of the World (Crowell)
1969: Animal World in Colour (12 volumes) (Children’s Press)
1971: Animal Oddities: The Strangest Living Creatures (Odhams), ISBN 0-600-78704-4
1972: Encyclopedia of Animals in Colour (Octopus), ISBN 0-7064-0169-7
1973: The Sea’s Inhabitants (Eric Thomas)
1973: The Sixth Sense of Animals (Taplinger), ISBN 0-8008-7232-0
1974: All-Colour Book of Baby Animals (Octopus)
1974: Prehistoric Animals (F. Muller), ISBN 0-584-62046-2
1974 (with R. Burton: The Life of Reptiles and Amphibians (Octopus), ISBN 0-356-04504-8
1975 (with R. Burton): Encyclopedia of Insects and Arachnids (Octopus), ISBN 0-7064-0432-7
1976 (with R. Van Assen & C. J. Barnard): Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe (Elsevier)
1976 (with R. Burton): Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom (Octopus), ISBN 0-7064-0456-4
1979 (with R. Burton): The Animal World: an encyclopaedia of animal behaviour (Macmillan)
1979: A Zoo at Home (J. M. Dent), ISBN 0-460-04383-8
1980 (with R. Burton): The New Funk & Wagnall’s Illustrated Wildlife Encyclopedia (Funk & Wagnall)
1980 (with R. Burton): The New International Wildlife Encyclopedia (Purnell)
1990: The Life of Fishes (Simon & Schuster), ISBN 0-7500-0052-X
1994 (with Robert Burton): The Marshall Cavendish International Wildlife Encyclopedia

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