James Johnstone (1870 – 1932) Beith-born biologist and oceanographer who made significant contributions to fishery research.
On the 17th of January 1870 James Johnstone, biologist and oceanographer, was born in Beith.
He initially became an apprentice woodcarver in Lochwinnoch but had a passion for science and study. At the age of 25, he left his beloved village and moved to London where from 1895 to 1897 he studied Biology and Physiology at the Royal College of Science. In 1898, he attended University College, Liverpool as a fishery assistant to Sir William Herdman, who was Professor of Zoology and Honorary Scientific Director to the Lancashire Sea Fisheries Committee.
In this role he became fascinated by marine ecosystems and began to publish fishery reports in the annual reports of the Committee. James would continue to contribute his reports for 30 years.
In his work, he pioneered the idea of transplanting mussels from their original beds to neighbouring shore areas that were free from pollution. He also set himself the practical task of discriminating between edible fish that should not be condemned unnecessarily and those that might be dangerous to health if sold for human food.
In 1920 Johnstone was appointed Professor of Oceanography, Also at this time he became Honorary Director of the Port Erin Biological Station, Honorary Director of scientific work to the Lancashire and Western Sea Fisheries Committee, Editor of the Annual Report of this Committee, and of the series of L. M. B. C. Memoirs that were issued from his Department on Typical British Marine Plants and Animals.
R.J Daniel, in the Journal of Marine Science, wrote of him: “In order to appreciate fully his contributions to fishery research it is necessary to remember that he was twenty-eight years of age before an opportunity came to carry out any investigations, and that during the greater part of his working life as a scientist there were certain routine duties to be carried out in the subordinate position he occupied as fishery assistant to a local Sea Fisheries Committee.”
James died in 1932, in Liverpool. To honour his memory, a flatworm Rhipidocotyle johnstonei was named after him.