Dr. Murray A. Newman, founding director of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, has passed away at 92. Remembered for his visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to aquatic research, Dr. Newman was immensely dedicated to protecting and preserving our world’s oceans.
Born and raised in Chicago, Dr. Newman completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of Chicago and master’s degree in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley. His thesis work focused on the social behaviour of rainbow and brook trout, observed in California’s High Sierra Mountains and San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium. Following his master’s degree he worked as a museum zoologist at UCLA where he met his wife Katherine Newman, then a biology student.
Dr. Newman served his nation during WWll as a U.S. Navy corpsman with the Marines at the Battle of Peleliu in 1944. He was also made the ship’s doctor aboard the USS Forster, which took him to Sagami Bay and Truk Lagoon. He was always reliving the war, returning to the South Pacific frequently. He recently completed writing his autobiographical trilogy “Invasive Spirit”, which was a 12 year project.
The couple moved to Vancouver in 1953, when Murray Newman became the first recipient of the H.R. MacMillan Fellowship in fisheries at UBC. Dr. Newman greatly admired H.R., and spent winters aboard his yacht working as his naturalist. He earned his PhD under Dr. William Hoar, one of the founding directors of the Vancouver Aquarium, and was offered the job of director in 1955, before the facility had been completed.
During Dr. Newman’s tenure, what began as the Vancouver Public Aquarium grew and prospered. He served as the Director for 37 years until his retirement in 1993. His distinguished career was focused on advancing marine science and building an education centre for students. His vision for Canada’s public aquarium was to create one of the most prestigious marine facilities in the world, without the assistance of public subsidies – and he succeeded. Vancouver Aquarium has long been considered the most successful marine science centre in Canada and a global leader in ocean conservation.
A scientist first and foremost, Dr. Newman was inspired by the world around him, on land and in water. His interest in Canada’s Arctic initiated a decades-long Arctic research program. He would also build a cetacean research program that is one of the longest-running and most comprehensive studies of marine mammals in the world, providing important insight into threatened and endangered killer whales. From the early days, he envisioned a world-class centre that would heavily focus on conservation research, a model that would be emulated by aquariums worldwide.
Dr. Newman is considered one of the pioneers that have led to today’s modern aquariums with a clear focus on the importance of original scientific research. His vision for a mission-based conservation organization has been ingrained in the fabric of the institution and is the reason Vancouver Aquarium has connected with nearly 45 million visitors since he opened its doors in 1956. After his retirement in 1993, the Murray Newman Awards for Excellence in Conservation and Research were established in his honour. He will always be recognized as the Director Emeritus of the Vancouver Aquarium where his leadership has supported its reputation as one of the world’s best. He received the Order of Canada in 1979, the Order of BC in 2006, and the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967.
Dr. Newman is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Sue Rose, grandchildren Simone, Michi, Brandon, Darren Hayashi, great-grandchildren Rylie, Bonham, Masao Edwards, Tahia, Sienna Hayashi, along with his niece Betsy Newman (wife of Steve Patnaude), nephew Bill Newman( husband of Marleen) and their children Emily and Ben.
Dr. Newman will be missed immensely by his family, friends and colleagues. He had an unprecedented sense of humour, charm and wit combined with his profound intellect and great sense of adventure. Murray was a practical dreamer, whose love for natural history was personified in the Vancouver Aquarium. Sixty years of marriage to his wife Katherine (also a biologist) made every day interesting. They enjoyed their cabin at Sheridan Lake and the coastal waters of B.C. on their boat.
Dr. Newman and his wife Katherine recently established the Murray and Katherine Newman Science Fund for Single Mothers to provide gifts of membership to the Vancouver Aquarium for single mothers as a way to foster greater connections to our natural world.