Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Clee Francis Jenkins (1908–1997)

by Alex S. George

This article was published online in 2022

Clee Jenkins, by Bardwell Clarke, 1940

Clee Jenkins, by Bardwell Clarke, 1940

National Library of Australia, 41046501

Clee Francis Howard Jenkins (1908–1997), entomologist, was born on 17 March 1908 at Salisbury, South Australia, younger son of South Australian-born Leslie William Francis Jenkins, gardener, and his English-born wife Elinor Mary, née Durnell. Clee was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide. Starting his own insect collection at just five years of age, he showed an interest in entomology that was subsequently encouraged by Norman Tindale and Arthur Lea of the South Australian Museum.

Around the end of 1925 Jenkins moved with his family to a farm in the Avon valley, Western Australia. While working on the farm for several years, he maintained his interest in entomology, visiting Perth to meet Ludwig Glauert of the Western Australian Museum, with whom he maintained correspondence. During this time he also undertook a correspondence course on taxidermy from a college in the United States of America. Encouraged by Glauert to apply, he obtained a position as a cadet at the museum in 1929. His cadetship involved varied duties that included taxidermy and making a cast of the massive Golden Eagle gold nugget, while he undertook part-time studies in the School of Science, majoring in Zoology, at the University of Western Australia (BA, 1935; MA, 1939). In October 1933 he joined the State Department of Agriculture as assistant entomologist, becoming government entomologist in 1939. On 25 October that year he married Eileen Alice Bowley, a lecturer in entomology, at St Mary’s Church of England, South Perth.

Insect control was Jenkins’s particular area of research, and he was instrumental in the control of such pests as grasshoppers, codling moths, oriental fruit moths, Argentine ants, and sirex wasps, making a significant contribution to farming communities across the State. Controlling plagues of grasshoppers in the 1930s and Argentine ants in the 1940s required chemical intervention. Though he preferred biological solutions, these were not feasible until later decades when there were sufficient resources and scientific knowledge. Appointed chief of the department’s biological services division in October 1964, his responsibilities included the Western Australian Herbarium, and the entomology, plant pathology, seed certification and weed control branches. His expansion of the division included developing a significant insect collection and constructing a new herbarium.

Jenkins was a visiting lecturer in entomology at the University of Western Australia (1945–65). He was elected to the Royal Society of Western Australia in 1929 and later served as its president (1945, 1963, 1978). His personal interest in ornithology led to him becoming a founding member (1939), later president (1945–46, 1963–64, 1978–79), and honorary life member of the State branch of the Gould League. Over the course of his career, he became increasingly involved in conservation of the natural estate, especially as a member and later president (1970–76) of the National Parks Board of Western Australia, and then president (1976–80) of the National Parks Authority of Western Australia. He also served on the Bushfires Board of Western Australia (1978–80).

Understanding the need to promote public awareness of the natural environment, from 1930 Jenkins wrote a weekly column on all manner of natural history topics, starting in the Sunday Times, and from 1937 in the West Australian. He also broadcast on radio and television. A prodigious writer, he authored numerous scholarly articles in the Journal of the Department of Agriculture and in Emu: Austral Ornithology. In 1963 he chaired an editorial committee that oversaw publication of National Parks and Nature Reserves in Western Australia, the report of the Western Australian sub-committee of the Australian Academy of Science, for the wider public. After retiring in 1973 he wrote four books: The Noah’s Ark Syndrome (1977), on acclimatisation and zoo development in Australia; The National Parks of Western Australia (1980); John Gould and the Birds of Australia (1983); and the autobiographical The Wanderings of an Entomologist (1988). Widely recognised for his work, Jenkins was a recipient (1966) of the medal of the Royal Society of Western Australia and was appointed MBE in 1976. The University of Western Australia conferred on him an honorary doctorate of science in agriculture in 1995.

A man of imposing build, Jenkins was authoritative in bearing. Described as being ‘one of the old school, correct in manner, meticulous in dress’ (McIlwraith 1997, 14), he was a confident public speaker, reserving his sense of humour for more informal occasions. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died on 13 July 1997 in Perth and was cremated. After his death, his wife donated funds to the University of Western Australia to establish the C.F.H. and E.A. Jenkins Postgraduate Research Scholarships for research in environmental science.

Research edited by Kiera Donnelly

Select Bibliography

  • Daily News (Perth). ‘Know Your Neighbour.’ 25 May 1946, 14
  • Fitzpatrick, E. N. In Response to Need: A History of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture from 1894 to 2008. Perth: Department of Agriculture and Food, 2011
  • Jones, M. G. K. ‘Clee F H Jenkins.’ Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 80, no. 4 (December 1997): 290
  • McIlwraith, John. ‘Naturalist with a Pest Peeve.’ Australian, 1 August 1997, 14

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Alex S. George, 'Jenkins, Clee Francis (1908–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2022, accessed online 22 June 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Clee Jenkins, by Bardwell Clarke, 1940

Clee Jenkins, by Bardwell Clarke, 1940

National Library of Australia, 41046501

Life Summary [details]


17 March, 1908
Salisbury, South Australia, Australia


13 July, 1997 (aged 89)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


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