Andrew Leith Adams

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Andrew Leith Adams FRSE, FRS (21 March 1827 – 29 July 1882) was a Scottish physician, naturalist and geologist. He was the father of the writer Francis Adams.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Adams was the son of Francis Adams (1796–1861), a surgeon and Espeth Shaw. He studied medicine and joined as an army physician in 1848, serving in the 22nd Infantry Regiment in India. Between 1849–1854 he was posted in Dagshai, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. He also served in Kashmir, Egypt, Malta (1861–1868), Gibraltar and Canada. He married Bertha Jane Grundy on 26 October 1859, who later became famous as a novelist.[1]

He spent his spare time studying the natural history of these countries. He was among the first to study the interior of Ladakh and wrote about it in "The Birds of Cashmere and Ladakh". The orange bullfinch (Pyrrhula aurantiaca) was discovered by him as also the first breeding site of brown-headed gulls (Larus brunnicephalus) in the lakes of the Tibetan plateau.[1][2]

After his retirement from the army in 1873, Adams was professor of natural history at Trinity College, Dublin and Queen's College, Cork. He was elected a fellow of the Geographical Society in 1870 a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1872, and Fellow of the Royal Society in 1873.[3] He died of a pulmonary haemorrhage on 29 July 1883 at Rushbrook Villa (Cork).[1]

He published Wanderings of a Naturalist in India, the Western Himalayas and Cashmere (1867), Notes of a Naturalist in the Nile Valley and Malta (1871) and Field and Forest Rambles (1873).

He is commemorated in the black-winged snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi and in the genus of the Pleistocene giant dormouse of Malta and Sicily Leithia melitensis and Leithia cartei.[4][5] In 1868 Leith Adams described the very large form of giant dormouse from the Maqhlaq cave as Myoxus melitensis and the smaller form as Myoxus cartei.[6] Later, Richard Lydekker assigned the two species to a new genus, named Leithia in honour of Leith Adams in 1895.[7]


  • Adams, A.L. (1859). "Notes on the habits, haunts, etc. of some of the birds of India". Proc. Zool. Soc. London. 26: 466–512. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1858.tb06404.x.
  • Adams, A.L. (1859). "The birds of Cashmere and Ladakh". Proc. Zool. Soc. London. 27: 169–190.
  • Adams, A.L. (1863). "Observations on the Fossiliferous caves of Malta". Journal of the Royal Society. 4 (2): 11–19. 2 plates, July 1862-Jan. 1863.
  • Adams, A.L. (1864). "Notes on the Geology of a portion of the Nile Valley north of the Second Cataract in Nubia, taken chiefly with the view of inducing further search for fluviatile shells at high levels". The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. 20 (1–2): 6–19. doi:10.1144/GSL.JGS.1864.020.01-02.08. S2CID 128836595. 4 figures, 1864.
  • Adams, A.L. (1868). "On a species of dormouse (Myoxus) occurring in the fossil state in Malta". Transactions of the Zoological Society of London. 6 (5): 307–308. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1868.tb00579.x.
  • Adams, A.L. (1870). Notes of a naturalist in the Nile Valley and Malta. 195pp. Edinburgh (Edmonton and Douglas).
  • Adams, A.L. (1874). "On the dentition and osteology of the Maltese fossil elephant, being a description of the remains discovered by the author in Malta between the years 1860 and 1866". Transactions of the Zoological Society of London. 9 (1): 1–124. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1874.tb00235.x. plates I–XXII.
  • Adams, A.L. (1874). Concluding Report on the Maltese Fossil Elephants. Report of the British Association for 1873, 185–187.
  • Adams, A. L. (1875). "On a fossil saurian vertebra, Arctosaurus osborni from the Arctic region". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 2: 177–179.


  1. ^ a b c d Gaston, A. J. in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Volume 1. pp. 222–223
  2. ^ Gaston, AJ (1989). "Andrew Leith Adams: a pioneer of Himalayan ornithology" (PDF). Forktail. 4: 3–8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2011.
  3. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ Sondaar, P.Y., Van der Geer, A.A.E. 2005. Evolution and Extinction of Plio-Pleistocene Island Ungulates. In: Cregut, E. (Ed.): Les ongulés holarctiques du Pliocène et du Pléistocène. Actes Colloque international Avignon, 19–22 septembre. Quaternair, 2005 hors-série 2: 241–256. Paris.
  5. ^ Van der Geer, A.A.E., De Vos, J., Dermitzakis, M., Lyras, G., 2008. Hoe dieren op eilanden evolueren. Majorca, Ibiza, Kreta, Sardiniie, Sicilie, Japan, Madagaskar, Malta. Utrecht: Veen Magazines, ISBN 978-90-8571-169-8.
  6. ^ Adams, A.L., 1868. On a species of dormouse (Myoxus) occurring in the fossil state in Malta. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London, 6 (5), pp. 307–308. Plate 54.
  7. ^ Lydekker, R., 1895. On the affinities of the so-called extinct giant dormouse of Malta. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London for the year 1895: 860–863, 3 figs (published 1896).

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Adams, Andrew Leith" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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