John Merrishaw Hoyte was born in 1932 in Ping Yang Fu, China, of medical missionary parents. He attended a British-run boarding school at Chefoo, Shantung Province, along with his three brothers and two sisters. During World War ll, the school was interned by the invading Japanese at the Weihsien Prison Camp.

After the war the family settled in England where he completed his education at Forest School, Essex, and Saint John’s College, Cambridge.

After two years in the army as an instructor in electronics he worked in British industry for three years. In 1959, John led the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition over the Alps with Jumbo, an Indian elephant, from the Turin Zoo. The Expedition garnered international media coverage and a seven-page feature story in Life Magazine

Coming to the US at age 27, he worked as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard Corporation, Palo Alto, California for six years, and was awarded a patent.

He then founded his own company, Spectrex Corporation, in Silicon Valley, based on a direct reading spectroscope, invented by Fred Vreeland, his eighty-six-year-old uncle.

At age 36 he married Alma Polinsky, a nurse from Canada and they had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. They lived in Menlo Park, California.Alma died of ovarian cancer after twenty-one years of marriage.

After fifty years as president of Spectrex, he sold the company to the employees.

John now lives in Bellingham, Washington, with his wife, the poet Luci Shaw.

 His hobbies are sailing, tent camping, pen-and-ink sketching, acrylic painting and playing the classical guitar.

He has recently written a memoir, titled Persistence of Light: In a Japanese Prison Camp, with an Elephant Crossing the Alps, and then in Silicon Valley. Persistence of Light concerns John's boyhood in China, the Alpine elephant expedition, and his life as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. 


Public Speaking

  • 1948-49: Debating Club, High School
  • 1952: Lectured for nine months on electrical engineering at British Army base at Arborfield, England
  • 1956-57: Lectured on Hannibal, arranged by a major London lecture agency, at London, Birmingham, Manchester, Wolverhampton & Leeds. Attendance typically 800 to 2,000.
  • 1958: Goodwill lecture tour put on by the British Foreign Office in the following countries. Germany: Stuttgart, Bochum, Recklinghausen, Hamelin, Bielefeld, Braunschweig, Hannover, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Bonn; Denmark: Copenhagen; Sweden:Stockholm; Norway: Oslo; Italy: Rome (at the Salla Borromini, the major academic lecture hall).
  • Innumerable lectures on China, the elephant expedition and starting an engineering business in Silicon Valley: speaking  across the U.S. at universities, colleges, high schools, community cultural programs including Stanford University, Awahnee Lodge (Yosemite), Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, Menlo College, UC Berkeley, Castillea School, Whatcom County Museum, and the YMCA.