William Lutley Sclater

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William Lutley Sclater
Born (1863-09-23)23 September 1863
Died 4 July 1944(1944-07-04) (aged 80)
Education Keble College
Occupation zoologist; museum director
Spouse(s) Charlotte Mellen Stephenson
Parents Philip Lutley Sclater

William Lutley Sclater (23 September 1863 – 4 July 1944[1]) was a British zoologist and museum director. He was the son of Philip Lutley Sclater, and was named after his paternal grandfather, also William Lutley Sclater.[2]

William's mother Jane Anne Eliza was the daughter of Sir David Hunter-Blair and a sister-in-law of Sir Walter Elliot the Indian naturalist.[1] Sclater received his Master of Arts degree in Natural Science from Keble College at Oxford in 1885. He worked for two years as a Demonstrator at Cambridge under Professor Adam Sedgwick and went on a collecting trip to British Guiana in 1886 and published about birds in the Ibis in 1887. In the same year he received an appointment as a deputy superintendent of the Indian Museum in Calcutta from 1887 until 1891, when he joined the science faculty of Eton College.[3]

It was at Eton that he met his future wife, Charlotte Mellen Stephenson, an American divorcée whose two sons attended the school. The couple were married at St. George's Cathedral in London on 1 February 1896 at St. George, shortly after which they moved to Cape Town, South Africa. Here, Sclater took up the position of curator at the South African Museum, whose collections he reorganised and moved into a new facility. During his time in South Africa, he continued his scientific writings, including completion of the work Flora and Fauna of South Africa. He also completed the four-volume series The Birds of South Africa, begun by Dr Arthur Stark; the five-volume Birds of Africa, begun by Captain George Shelley; and The Birds of Kenya Colony and the Uganda Protectorate, begun by Sir Frederick John Jackson.

In 1906, following a dispute with the Museum's board of trustees, Sclater resigned as curator. He traveled with his wife through Mombasa, Lake Victoria, Khartoum and Cairo before returning to England. He then moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, which had been founded by Charlotte's brother-in-law, General William Jackson Palmer.[1] Palmer offered Sclater a small estate outside the city and a professorship at Colorado College. Here he helped in reorganizing the museum.[3] When the general died in 1909, the couple returned to England, where Sclater became curator of the Bird Room at the Natural History Museum. He worked there until his death in 1944.

In 1912, Sclater published A History of the Birds of Colorado in two volumes. During the Great War, he volunteered for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. Both his stepsons were killed in action during the war. Sclater was editor of Ibis from 1913 to 1930, editor of the Zoological Record from 1921 to 1937, president of the British Ornithologists' Union from 1928 to 1933, and secretary of the Royal Geographical Society from 1931 to 1943. In 1919 and 1920, he and his wife traveled around the globe. In 1930 he was awarded the Godman-Salvin Gold Medal.[1]

In 1942, Charlotte died of injuries sustained during the bombing of London. Two years later, William Sclater died at St. George's Hospital, two days after a V-1 flying bomb fell over his home at 10 Sloane Court in London on Sunday, 2 July, 1944.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Grant, C.H.B. (1945). "Obituary: William Lutley Sclater". Ibis 87 (1): 115–121. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1945.tb01364.x. 
  2. ^ George R. Clerk and D. A. Bannerman (1944). "Obituary: William Lutley Sclater". The Geographical Journal 104 (1/2): 68–69. 
  3. ^ a b K.H.B. (1948). "William Lutley Sclater". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 31 (5): xlvii–xlviii. doi:10.1080/00359194809518957. 

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Preceded by
Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild
President of the British Ornithologists' Union
Succeeded by
Harry Witherby