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John Henry Shaw (1927–1977)

by Robert Freestone and Robert Zehner

This article was published:

John Henry Shaw (1927-1977), town planner, was born on 3 April 1927 at Manly, Sydney, elder son of New South Wales-born parents John Alexander Lachlan Shaw, civil engineer, and his wife Nellie Violet, née Hicks. Young John attended Sydney Grammar School and studied civil engineering at the University of Sydney (B.E., 1950). In 1951-52 he designed reinforced concrete and steel structures for the Commonwealth Department of Works. Stimulated by the lectures of Professor Denis Winston at the university, Shaw gained a diploma in town and country planning (1952). He travelled to England and graduated master of civic design (1954) at the University of Liverpool. From July 1954 to October 1957 he was a planning officer with the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely County Council.

Back in Sydney, on 16 December 1957 Shaw took up an appointment as lecturer in town planning at the New South Wales University of Technology (University of New South Wales from 1959). He was to be promoted to associate professor in 1963. At St James's Church of England, King Street, on 17 January 1959 he married Jill Douglas McAdam, a librarian. In 1965 the university introduced postgraduate training in housing and neighbourhood design. Next year an undergraduate degree course was initiated to serve the growing need in State and local government for urban planners with interdisciplinary skills. After obtaining a Ph.D. from the U.N.S.W. in 1970 (his thesis was on residential land subdivision), Shaw became inaugural professor in the School of Town Planning, which was established in 1971.

Active in university life, Shaw was involved in the staff association and his beloved Kite Club. With F. E. A. Towndrow, he had founded the university's Civic Design Society in 1962. He delivered numerous addresses to councils, professional institutes, societies and community clubs. A fellow of the (Royal) Australian Planning Institute, he made diverse contributions as a vice-president (1958-63) of its Sydney division, as associate-editor (1962-68) of the Australian Planning Institute Journal, and as a member (1965-71) of the institute's board of education. Shaw wrote articles on the theory and practice of town planning. He helped Alfred Brown and H. M. Sherrard to revise their Town and Country Planning (Melbourne, 1951) as An Introduction to Town and Country Planning (Sydney, 1969).

Shaw made practical contributions as a senior adviser to governments. From 1964 to 1972 he was a member of the State Planning Authority which produced an outline plan for metropolitan Sydney in 1968. His expertise was recognized by his position as deputy-chairman of the Housing Commission of New South Wales in 1970-77, turbulent years in the development of both greenfields and high-rise estates. He also served two terms (1970-76) on the National Capital Planning Committee.

An unassuming man of slim build, Shaw was widely respected by his colleagues and students. He died of cancer on 16 September 1977 in Sydney and was cremated; his wife and two of their three sons survived him. The John Shaw memorial prize is awarded annually by the U.N.S.W. for the best undergraduate thesis in town planning.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Daniels, A History of the Faculty of Architecture (Syd, 1988)
  • Royal Australian Planning Institute Journal, Feb 1978, p 20
  • University of New South Wales Archives
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Robert Freestone and Robert Zehner, 'Shaw, John Henry (1927–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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