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12 July 2018

Commemorative Symposium – Maxwell Knight, the original “nature detective” and Second World War MI5 agent.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Maxwell Knight’s death and this unique Symposium will be a one-off opportunity for veterinary surgeons and others who are interested in environmental issues such as species conservation, captive-breeding of endangered species and public education to learn more about the spy who loved nature. To listeners of his BBC radio broadcasts, he was the avuncular Maxwell Knight – the Original Nature Detective – who was an avid keeper of animals including a bear, a bulldog and a baboon plus parrot and not forgetting ‘Goo’ his pet cuckoo. To those within MI5, he was ‘M’ – Britain’s greatest spymaster.”

The Symposium will be held at Birkbeck College (Gordon Square annex) 43 Gordon Square London WC1H 0PD on Saturday 24th November 2018 between 1.00 pm (13.00) until 6.00 pm (18.00). It is organised by the British Herpetological Society (BHS), with support from the British Chelonia Group (BCG), the Amateur Entomologists Society (AES), the Institute of Animal Technology (IAT), the Frightened Face of Nature (FFON) and others.

The programme will include lectures and interactive sessions. Professor John E Cooper will discuss “Maxwell Knight the naturalist” and Mr Simon King “Maxwell Knight the spy-master”. Other representations will include: “The frightened face of nature: challenges facing the planet” (Mr Paul Pearce-Kelly), “Conservation and captive-breeding projects involving chelonians” ( Ms Anne Rowberry, British Chelonia Group), “Advances in the health and welfare of captive animals” (Mr Alan Graham, Institute of Animal Technology) and “Educating the next generation: culture, care and conservation” (Ms Victoria Burton/Mr Dafydd Lewis, Amateur Entomologists’ Society). In addition, there will be short accounts by people who either knew Maxwell Knight or who were influenced by him – tributes from herpetologists, field naturalists, conservationists, biologists, animal care staff and others. Literature and specimens from Maxwell Knight’s collection, including long-lost manuscripts from his original filing cabinet, will be on display. During breaks and at the end of the symposium there will be a showing of Maxwell Knight’s original television/lecture films.

Those interested in attending should register their interest on the Maxwell Knight/FFON (The Frightened Face of Nature) website:

Members of the Press should contact: Professor John E Cooper, FRCPath, FRCVS/Mrs Margaret E Cooper, LLB, FLS, Co-ordinators, Maxwell Knight Commemorative Symposium, Wildlife Health Services (UK):


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