Skip to page content

Press release

The Natural History museum annouces new director

The Prime Minister has approved the appointment of Dr Michael Dixon as the new Director of The Natural History Museum, to succeed Sir Neil Chalmers.
Sir Neil has been elected Warden of Wadham College, Oxford.

Dr Dixon said, 'I am delighted to be joining The Natural History Museum.
The Museum has sustained a level of excellence in important areas of scientific research and established an enviable reputation for innovative and imaginative exhibit design as a leading visitor attraction. My role will be to encourage the further development of these competencies in the next phase of the Museum's evolution.'

Dr Dixon, 47, is currently Director General of The Zoological Society of London, with responsibility for London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, alongside the organisation's worldwide conservation activities and its scientific research. At ZSL he has spearheaded a £60 million project to develop a major conservation aquarium in the London Docklands area, and has unified the scientific and visitor-facing activities of the organisation. He will join The Natural History Museum later this year.

Before taking up his position at ZSL, Dr Dixon worked for twenty years in the scientific, technical and medical publishing industry with Pitman, John Wiley & Sons and most recently the Thomson Corporation. These positions followed a BSc in Zoology from Imperial College and a DPhil from the University of York.

Commenting on the appointment, Sir Keith O'Nions, Chairman of the Trustees of The Natural History Museum, said, 'I am delighted to welcome Michael Dixon as Director of the Natural History Museum. He has the perfect blend of experience to further enhance the Museum's status as a world-class scientific institution and leading visitor attraction.'

Arts Minister Estelle Morris added, 'Sir Neil Chalmers has done a fantastic job, helping The Natural History Museum to become an institution of international renown. I know that Michael Dixon will build on this. His experience and expertise make him an ideal person to steer the Museum through the opportunities and challenges ahead.'

Sir Neil Chalmers, the current Director of the Museum, said, 'I have enormously enjoyed the fifteen fascinating years I have spent at The Natural History Museum. With the launch of the Darwin Centre, the Museum is entering one of the most dynamic phases in its 122-year history. I wish Dr Dixon every success in taking the Museum to the next stage of its development.'

- Ends -

Notes for editors

  • Dr Dixon was selected by a recruitment panel consisting of members of the Museum's Board of Trustees and a representative of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Before taking up his position at ZSL, Dr Dixon's work in the scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishing industry included a short time with Pitman, before he joined John Wiley and Sons and spent thirteen years there, the last three as Publishing Director. Most recently he worked for the Thomson Corporation as Managing Director of European-based STM publishing companies and later of the UK-based legal publishing businesses. For his DPhil Dr Dixon studied larval parasite host location behaviour.
  • Sir Neil Chalmers, current Director of the Museum, announced his resignation in May 2003; later in 2004 he becomes Warden of Wadham College, Oxford University. Sir Neil was appointed in August 1988 and has since enhanced its standing as a world-class scientific research institution and strengthened its reputation as a vibrant, modern visitor attraction. In his fifteen years at the Museum Sir Neil led the transformation of the Museum, including the launch of the Earth Galleries (formerly the Geological Museum) in 1997 and the first phase of the Darwin Centre, opened by HM The Queen in October 2002.
  • Winner of the 2003 Visitor Attraction of the Year award, The Natural History Museum welcomes over 3 million visitors every year. The Museum is also a world-leading science research centre with over 300 scientists on staff. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with ground-breaking projects in 68 countries.
  • The Museum is committed to promoting public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project is open to the public now and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.
  • The Zoological Society of London is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity focusing on conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out international scientific research through the Institute of Zoology and is active in field-based conservation projects in the UK and overseas.


  • The Natural History Museum is open Monday - Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday-11.00-17.50
  • The Natural History Museum's public enquiries telephone number is 020 7942 5000
  • The Museum is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. For access details telephone 020 7942 5000
  • Entry to the Museum: FREE

If you would like to interview Dr Dixon or Sir Keith O'Nions, request images or further information, please contact:

Kristy Jones, Sarah Hoyle or Mairi Allan
The Natural History Museum Press Office
Tel: 020 7942 5654
Email: (not for publication)

Issued 9 January 2004