Holmes, John W

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Photograph[edit]

John W Holmes


Dates[edit]

John W Holmes born 2.2.1921 - died 13.5.2008

Biography[edit]

John Holmes joined CSIRO Australia in 1950. The laboratory he initiated flourished and became well known for studies using tritium and other environmental tracers. Holmes became foundation Professor of Earth Sciences at the newly established Flinders University in 1969 and until 1971 held the position jointly with his senior research position in CSIRO. In 1971 he left CSIRO to become full time at Flinders University and pour all of his considerable energies and talent into establishing what was to become a dynamic hydrology discipline at the University. At the same time he maintained strong research link with the groups he established at CSIRO.

As recognition of his contribution to science, the JW Holmes Building stands in his honour at the Waite campus. A steady stream of postgraduate students were attracted by Professor Holmes to study at Flinders University. A year before his retirement in 1985 he received the Distinguished Service Award of the University in recognition of his outstanding service. On his retirement he was appointed Emeritus Professor by the University.

He was recipient of numerous awards including the Prescott Medal for outstanding contributions to soil science in Australia in 2002 and the Verco medal in 1979 by the Royal Society of South Australia where he had served as President. He was a life member of the Hydrological Society of South Australia. The South Australian Government appointed him a member of the Water Resources Appeals Tribunal from the period 1982-1995. John Holmes is remembered for his leadership, clarity of thought, encouragement and wry sense of humour. He was a truly great leader and scientist.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

At CSIRO, after some initial research on soil mechanics he focused on the development of the neutron moisture meter, which was to become a key tool in studies of both agricultural water use and catchment hydrology. In a long term study he then applied this technique, together with lysimetry and energy budgets, to assess the water balance of a very significant area of southern Australia. At this time he also became interested in the impact of plantation forestry and pasture on groundwater recharge relative to native vegetation.

In the late 1960s he saw the potential of environmental tritium to assist in the understanding of groundwater flow and recharge.

While at Flinders University studies were initiated in a wide range of fields including:

• Micro meteorology to help assess the hydrologic impacts of forests and pasture;

• The water balance of lakes;

• Tritium dispersal in ocean waters;

• The hydrogeology of several important aquifer systems in Australia; and

• The further development of a number of techniques in isotope hydrology.

In 1979, with former colleague T J Marshall, he wrote what was to become a seminal text entitled Soil Physics. In the words of a reviewer of the third edition of the book (published in 1996) “Among its attractions are the clarity of the writing and the many examples of soils physics in action … there is no better text on soil physics in any language”. This text is still widely used internationally as a reference and university text book.

During his career he authored over 90 research papers and the text book “Soil Physics”. Holmes was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Hydrology for 12 years between 1975 and 1987.

Reference Material[edit]

This material is based on an obituary written by Graham Allison in the July 2008 Edition of Aqua Australis, page 2, The Newsletter of The Hydrological Society of South Australia.

Major Publications[edit]

books[edit]

Marshall, T. J.; Holmes, J. W. "Soil Physics ",Cambridge University Press ,1st edition, 1978.

Marshall, T. J.; Holmes, J. W. "Soil Physics ",Cambridge University Press ,2nd edition, 1988.

T. J. Marshall, J. W. Holmes, C. W. Rose, "Soil Physics ", Cambridge University Press, 31 May 1996, 3rd edition,453 pages


articles[edit]

Holmes, J. W. "Water balance and the water-table in deep sandy soils of the upper south-east, South Australia." Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 11.6 (1960): 970-988.

Allison, G. B., and J. W. Holmes. "The environmental tritium concentration of underground water and its hydrological interpretation." Journal of Hydrology19.2 (1973): 131-143.

Holmes, J. W. "Measuring evapotranspiration by hydrological methods." Agricultural Water Management 8.1-3 (1984): 29-40.

Holmes, J. W., and E. B. Wronski. "The influence of plant communities upon the hydrology of catchments." Agricultural Water Management 4.1-3 (1981): 19-34.

Holmes, J. W., and C. L. Watson. "The water budget of irrigated pasture land near Murray Bridge, South Australia." Agricultural Meteorology 4.3 (1967): 177-188.

Holmes, J. W. "Salinity and the hydrologic cycle." Salinity and water use(1971): 25-40.

Holmes, J. W. "On the absolute fall of sea-level during the Quaternary." Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 6 (1969): 237-239.

Turner, J. V., G. B. Allison, and J. W. Holmes. "The water balance of a small lake using stable isotopes and tritium." Journal of Hydrology 70.1-4 (1984): 199-220.

Holmes, J. W., E. L. Greacen, and C. G. Gurr. "The evaporation of water from bare soils with different tilths." Transactions 7th int. Congr. Soil Sci. 1 (1960): 188-194.

Holmes, J. W. "Influence of bulk density of the soil on neutron moisture meter calibration." Soil Science 102.6 (1966): 355-360.

Holmes, J. W., and J. S. Colville. "Forest hydrology in a karstic region of southern Australia." Journal of Hydrology 10.1 (1970): 59-74.

Childs, E. C., N. Collis‐George, and J. W. Holmes. "Permeability measurements in the field as an assessment of anisotropy and structure development." European Journal of Soil Science 8.1 (1957): 27-41.

Holmes, J. W., and J. S. Colville. "Grassland hydrology in a karstic region of southern Australia." Journal of Hydrology 10.1 (1970): 38-58.

Turner, J. V., G. B. Allison, and J. W. Holmes. "The water balance of a small lake using stable isotopes and tritium." Journal of Hydrology 70.1-4 (1984): 199-220.

JW Holmes - Water sorption and swelling of clay blocks, European Journal of Soil Science, 1955 - Wiley Online Library


Links[edit]