Montgomery was born in 1934 in a farmworkers' clinic in
Kearsney, Natal, South Africa. His teenage years were spent
living on a farm and he went to country boarding schools from the
age of eight until university matriculation.
His mother's family were colonial pioneers. His great-grandfather
arrived in Africa with five pounds in his pocket in 1857 and
eventually founded a leading tea and sugar producing company.
Montgomery's grandfather was the manager of the tea estate where
he was born.
His father emigrated from Ireland to Australia in 1901 and
survived as a ranch-hand in the Outback until finding an
opportunity in dairying. After serving at Gallipoli in WWI with
the ANZACs and working in London at the Ministry of Food, for
which he was awarded the MBE, his father emigrated to Natal and
carved a career in the food industry. Thus, Montgomery grew up in
a general ambience of country folk and African wilderness.
His early love
of the oceans drew him into service for three years in the Navy.
He entered as an Ordinary Seaman and was selected for regular
officers' training, promoted to Midshipman, before deciding on a
more broadly based career. He attended the University of Natal to
study History and English before emigrating to Britain to learn
His commercial career took him back and forth from England to
Africa. With The United Africa Company in Nigeria he spent six
years as an area Petroleum Sales Manager and Manager of the
rubber purchasing and processing department. Transferring to
Unilever in South Africa he was the stock distribution and
production planning controller for southern Africa. Later he was
a management consultant specialising in computerised planning
systems in South Africa, Commercial Director of a complex
eco-tourism project in Mozambique and in engineering and textiles
manufacturing companies in Brazil and England.
Throughout his commercial career he found opportunities to travel
widely in Africa, occasionally taking time off to follow his
principal desire: to learn more about the magical continent that
had given him birth. In 1975 he was commissioned to research an
illustrated history of southern Africa and learned the absolute
value of visiting and understanding the places where events
happened. History and the evolution of mankind - which resulted
in the history - increasingly became a serious objective. He
learned that history and all aspects of geography are
inextricably entwined. He wrote about his experiences and
He published the stories of his more important travels, seeking
knowledge of the pre-history of Africa so clearly integrated with
geography and climatic changes. It increasingly seemed to him
that academic theories of evolution were missing an important
ingredient and were too close to the detail of individual
palaentological discoveries. Those scientists whose names became
famous in connection with each successive fossil find were not
seeing a broader canvas.
retired he commenced an intensive study of human evolution
through the path of the so-called Aquatic Hypothesis in 1995. His
extensive field knowledge of the geography of Africa, acquired
over forty years, satisfied him that it could only be because of
the influence of the Indian Ocean shores that the several jumps
in evolution could have happened. In 1999 this much-revised work
was made available on his website in the public domain with
periodic revisions. Unhappy with the term 'Aquatic Theory' which
has been much derided, he coined the name Seashore
Hypothesis. In 2007 this principal work was
conventionally published in the United States.
Denis Montgomery was elected a Fellow of The Royal Geographical
Society in 1989. He lives in rural Suffolk, England, and still
travels in Africa whenever possible. He and his wife, Sue, have
two children and three grandchildren.
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