Philip Sclater

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Philip Lutley Sclater
PLSclater.jpg
Philip Lutley Sclater
Born (1829-11-04)4 November 1829
Wootton St Lawrence, Hampshire
Died 27 June 1913(1913-06-27) (aged 83)
Education Winchester College, Christ Church, Oxford
Occupation lawyer, zoologist
Children William Lutley Sclater Jnr.
Parents William Lutley Sclater

Philip Lutley Sclater FRS FRGS FZS FLS (4 November 1829 – 27 June 1913) was an English lawyer and zoologist.[1][2] In zoology, he was an expert ornithologist, and identified the main zoogeographic regions of the world. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London for 42 years, from 1860–1902.

Early life[edit]

Sclater was born at Tangier Park, in Wootton St Lawrence, Hampshire, where his father William Lutley Sclater had a country house. George Sclater-Booth, 1st Baron Basing was Philip's elder brother. Philip grew up at Hoddington House where he took an early interest in birds. He was educated in school at Twyford and at thirteen went to Winchester College and later Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied scientific ornithology under Hugh Edwin Strickland.

In 1851 he began to study law and was admitted a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. In 1856 he travelled to America and visited Lake Superior and the upper St. Croix, canoeing down it to the Mississippi. Sclater wrote about this in "Illustrated travels". In Philadelphia he met Baird, John Cassin and Joseph Leidy at the Academy of Natural Sciences. After returning to England, he practised law for several years and attended meetings of the Zoological Society.

Career[edit]

In 1858, Sclater published a paper in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, setting up six zoological regions which he called the Palaearctic, Aethiopian, Indian, Australasian, Nearctic and Neotropical. These zoogeographic regions are still in use. He also developed the theory of Lemuria during 1864 to explain zoological coincidences relating Madagascar to India.

In 1874 he became private secretary to his brother George Sclater-Booth, MP (later Lord Basing). He was offered a permanent position in civil service but he declined. In 1875, he became President of the Biological Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science,[3] which he joined in 1847 as a member.

Sclater was the founder and editor of The Ibis, the journal of the British Ornithologists' Union. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London from 1860 to 1902. He was briefly succeeded by his son, before the Council of the Society made a long-term appointment.

In 1901 he described the okapi to western scientists although he never saw one alive. His office at 11 Hanover Square became a meeting place for all naturalists in London. Travellers and residents shared notes with him and he corresponded with thousands.

His collection of birds grew to nine thousand and these he transferred to the British Museum in 1886. At around the same time the museum was augmented by the collections of Gould, Salvin and Godman, Hume, and others to become the largest in the world. Among Sclater's more important books were Exotic Ornithology (1866–69) and Nomenclator Avium (1873), both with Osbert Salvin; Argentine Ornithology (1888–89), with W.H. Hudson; and The Book of Antelopes (1894–1900) with Oldfield Thomas.

In June 1901 he received an honorary doctorate of Science (D.Sc.) from the University of Oxford.[4]

Family[edit]

On 16 October 1862 he married Jane Anne Eliza Hunter Blair; the couple had 1 daughter and 4 sons.[5] Their eldest son, William Lutley Sclater, was also an ornithologist. Their third son, Captain Guy Lutley Sclater, died in 1914 in the accidental explosion that sank HMS Bulwark.

Animals named after Sclater[edit]

Although eclipsed by his contemporaries (like Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace), Sclater may be considered as a precursor of biogeography and even pattern cladistics. For instance he writes in 1858 that "...little or no attention is given to the fact that two or more of these given geographical divisions may have much closer relations to each other than to any third ...".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "SCLATER, Philip Lutley". Who's Who, 59: p. 1568. 1907. 
  2. ^ "PHILIP LUTLEY SCLATER". Science,. New Series, Vol. IV (88): 293–298. 4 Sep 1896. 
  3. ^ Sclater, Philip (20 April 1876). "On the Present State of Our Knowledge of Geographical Zoology". Nature: 482–43. doi:10.1038/013482a0. 
  4. ^ "University intelligence" The Times (London). Friday, 21 June 1901. (36487), p. 11.
  5. ^ Jane Hunter Blair's father was Sir David Hunter Blair, 3rd Baronet Hunter Blair.
  6. ^ P.L. Sclater 1858. On the general geographical distribution of the mem- bers of the class Aves. J. Proc. Linnean Soc. Zool. 2 130–145.
  • Obituary. Ibis 1913:642-686
  • Elliot, D. G. In memoriam. Auk 1914:31(1)
Preceded by
David William Mitchell
Secretary of the Zoological Society of London
1860–1902
Succeeded by
Peter Chalmers Mitchell