John Bannister obtained a Zoology degree at Oxford University and was introduced to whales as a whaling inspector on South Georgia, South Atlantic, in 1960–61. After three years as a Research Scientist in the UK, he came to Australia to work with CSIRO on sperm whales caught off Albany, WA. From 1967 he was Curator of Mammals at the WA Museum, and Director from 1975. Since retirement in 1992 he has continued long-term studies on right and humpback whales and more recently on blue whales. A long association with the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee has included two terms as Committee Chair.