Portrait of Professor Wood-Mason by Bourne & Shepherd (1876)
|Died||6 May 1893 (aged 47)
|Institutions||Indian Museum, Calcutta|
|Alma mater||Queen's College, Oxford|
|Doctoral advisor||J.O. Westwood|
|Known for||Phasmids and Mantids|
James Wood-Mason (December 1846 – 6 May 1893) was an English zoologist. He was the director of the Indian Museum at Calcutta, after John Anderson. He collected marine animals and lepidoptera, but is best known for his work on two other groups of insects, phasmids (stick insects) and mantids (praying mantises).
Life and career
Wood-Mason was born in Gloucestershire, England, where his father was a doctor. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Queen's College, Oxford. He went out to India in 1869 to work in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, which in 2008 still housed his collection of insects.
Wood-Mason described 24 new species of phasmids, mostly from South Asia but also some from Australia, New Britain, Madagascar, the Malay peninsula and Fiji. His naming of Cotylosoma dipneusticum (Wood-Mason, 1878) is particularly curious as he never formally described the species; it was wrongly imagined to be semi-aquatic; it was "described with what is probably the least precise measurement ever used for a phasmid", namely ""between three and four inches in length”; and he gave its locality as Borneo, when in fact it came from Fiji.
In 1887 he became Superintendent of the Indian Museum. Also in 1887, he became vice-president of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
Flower mantis drawing
A beautiful drawing of this rare insect, Hymenopus bicornis (in the nymph or active pupa state), was kindly sent me by Mr. Wood-Mason, Curator of the Indian Museum at Calcutta. A species, very similar to it, inhabits Java, where it is said to resemble a pink orchid. Other Mantidae, of the genus Gongylus, have the anterior part of the thorax dilated and coloured either white, pink, or purple; and they so closely resemble flowers that, according to Mr. Wood-Mason, one of them, having a bright violet-blue prothoracic shield, was found in Pegu by a botanist, and was for a moment mistaken by him for a flower. See Proc. Ent. Soc. Lond., 1878, p. liii.—Alfred Russel Wallace
Wood-Mason was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. In 1888 he became a Fellow of the University of Calcutta. Over 10 marine animals have the specific name woodmasoni in his honour, including several described by Arthur Alcock of the Investigator: Heterocarpus woodmasoni, Coryphaenoides woodmasoni, Thalamita woodmasoni, Rectopalicus woodmasoni.
- List of the lepidopterous insects collected in Cachar by Mr. Wood-Mason, by J. Wood-Mason and Lionel de Nicéville. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1887. (53 p., 4 leaves of plates: ill. (one col.)) Reprinted from the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal; 55 pt.2 no.4 (1886).
- Bragg, 2008.
- Despite the generic name, these are insects, not bacteria.
- Alcock, Arthur (1902). A Naturalist in Indian Seas, or, Four years with the Royal Indian marine survey ship 'Investigator'. London: John Murray.
- Wallace, 1889. Note 80.
- Poulton, 1890. pp 74-75.
- Alcock, AW (1893). "Obituary of James Wood-Mason.". Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal: 110–113.
- Anon (1893). "[Obituary of Professor Wood-Mason]". Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London: lvi.
- Bragg, PE (2008). Biographies of Phasmatologists – 7. James Wood-Mason 17 (1). Phasmid Study Group. pp. 1–7.
- Poulton, Edward Bagnall (1890). The Colours of Animals: Their Meaning and Use, Especially Considered in the Case of Insects. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner. pp. 74–75.
- Wallace, Alfred Russel (1889). Darwinism: An Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection, with Some of Its Applications (Wikisource ). Macmillan.