James Maxwell McConnell Fisher
Fisher on the 1955 Rockall expedition
Born(1912-09-03)3 September 1912
Clifton, Bristol, England
Died25 September 1970(1970-09-25) (aged 58)
Hendon, England
Notable worksWild America
SpouseMargery Lilian Edith Turner
Children6, including Edmund Fisher
RelativesArnold Boyd (maternal uncle)

James Maxwell McConnell Fisher (3 September 1912 – 25 September 1970) was a British author, editor, broadcaster, naturalist and ornithologist. He was also a leading authority on Gilbert White and made over 1,000 radio and television broadcasts on natural history subjects.

Early life

Fisher was the son of Kenneth Fisher (also a keen ornithologist and headmaster of Oundle School from 1922 to 1945); his maternal uncle was the Cheshire naturalist Arnold Boyd. He was educated at Eton, and began studying medicine at Magdalen College, Oxford, but later switched to zoology. He took part in the Oxford Arctic expedition in 1933 as ornithologist.


After university he joined London Zoo as an assistant curator, and during the war studied rooks for the Ministry of Agriculture. He later became a leading member of the RSPB and IUCN, a member of the National Parks Commission and vice-chairman of the Countryside Commission.

He presented the BBC Radio series Birds In Britain from its inception in March 1951 until its end, twelve years later.

Fisher was one of the members of the small party that on 18 September 1955 raised the Union Flag and took official possession for the UK of the tiny, uninhabited, rocky islet of Rockall, in the North Atlantic.[1]

As well as writing his own books, he was an editor of Collins' New Naturalist series.[2] He was the resident ornithologist in the regular "Nature Parliament" series broadcast in the 1950s on BBC radio as part of Children's Hour. It is likely that his writing and broadcasting played a significant role in the growth of interest in birdwatching in the United Kingdom in the post-Second World War period.

He was awarded the British Trust for Ornithology's Bernard Tucker Medal in 1966.[3]

Personal life

He was married to Margery Lilian Edith Turner, and they had six children, including the publisher Edmund Fisher.[4] He died in a car crash in September 1970.


After Fisher's death he was commemorated in two ways. A public appeal allowed the seabird island of Copinsay, Orkney, to be purchased as a permanent nature reserve dedicated to his name.[5] Also, his papers were subsequently purchased by Bruce Coleman and John Burton and presented to The National Archives.[6]


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2008)



  1. ^ Fisher, James (1957) [1956]. Rockall. London: Country Book Club.
  2. ^ Marren, Peter (1995). The New Naturalists: half a century of British natural history. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-719715-2.
  3. ^ "Medallists". BTO. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
  4. ^ Rosenthal, Tom (4 March 1995). "OBITUARY : Edmund Fisher". The Independent. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  5. ^ Fisher, James Maxwell McConnell (1912–1970), ornithologist by Gwynne Vevers, rev. Clemency Thorne Fisher in Dictionary of National Biography online (accessed 21 July 2008)
  6. ^ "The Fisher Collection (1913–1993)". Access to Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 2 May 2009.