Edgar Leopold Layard

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Edgar Leopold Layard
Edgar Leopold Layard 1824-1900.jpg
Born (1824-07-23)23 July 1824
Florence, Italy
Died 1 January 1900(1900-01-01) (aged 75)
Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England
Nationality British
Occupation Diplomat
Known for
Notable work The Birds of South Africa
Spouse(s) Barbara Anne Calthrop,
Jane Catherine Blackett
Parent(s) Henry Peter John Layard
Relatives Sir Austen Henry Layard (brother)
Title page of "Birds of South Africa"

Edgar Leopold Layard CMG FZS MBOU, (23 July 1824 – 1 January 1900) was a British diplomat and a naturalist mainly interested in ornithology.


Born in Florence, Italy, to a family of Huguenot descent, Layard was the youngest of seven sons (two of whom died in infancy[1]) of Henry Peter John Layard.[2] of the Ceylon Civil Service (the son of Charles Peter Layard, dean of Bristol, and grandson of Daniel Peter Layard the physician) with his wife Marianne, a daughter of Nathaniel Austen, banker, of Ramsgate. Through her, he was partly of Spanish descent. His uncle was Benjamin Austen, a London solicitor and close friend of Benjamin Disraeli in the 1820s and 1830s. His oldest brother was the archaeologist and politician Sir Austen Henry Layard.

Layard spent ten years in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where he studied the local fauna with Robert Templeton (1802–1892). In 1854, he went to the Cape Colony as a civil servant working in the service of the governor George Edward Grey (1812–1898). In 1855, during his spare time, Layard was a curator in the South African Museum, and was succeeded by Roland Trimen. After this, he had posts in Brazil, where he collected birds for Arthur Hay (1824–1878).

Edgar Layard administered the government of Fiji from 1874 to 1875 and was honorary British Consul at Noumea, New Caledonia from 1876.[2] Layard was appointed as an arbitrator to the British and Portuguese Commission at the Cape of Good Hope in 1862.[3] Edgar Layard and his son, Edgar Leopold Calthrop Layard (referred to in the literature as either E.L.C. Layard or Leopold Layard to differentiate him from his father), were active collectors in this region, mainly of bird specimens. Between 1870 and 1881, they visited Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, New Britain and Norfolk Island. Aside from the South African material, the bird collections they made from their 'home base' of New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands are the most scientifically important. The Layards sent material to William Sharp MacLeay in Sydney, but also to many other ornithologists. Their specimens have become very scattered. Many went to the British Museum in London. Others went to Henry Baker Tristram, and are now in the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside in Liverpool, England.

In 1887, Layard published The Birds of South Africa, where he described 702 species. This work was later updated by Richard Bowdler Sharpe (1847–1909).

Layard's first wife, Barbara Anne Calthrop (died 1886), whom he married in 1845,[2] is commemorated in the specific epithet of Layard's Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae) and he named the Brown-breasted Flycatcher (Muscicapa muttui) after his Tamil cook, Muttu.

Layard died in Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England.

Engraved oyster shells once belonging to Layard were exhibited on the Antiques Roadshow on 29 May 2011.


  1. ^ Layard, E.L. Unpublished autobiography. MS at Blacker-Wood library, McGill University, Canada.
  2. ^ a b c Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Layard, Edgar Leopold". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  3. ^ Anon. (26 July 1862) Illustrated London News 41(1156):114
  • Bo Beolens and Michael Watkins (2003). Whose Bird? Common Bird Names and the People They Commemorate. Yale University Press (New Haven and London).
  • Maurice Boubier (1925) Evolution of ornithology. Bookshop Felix Alcan (Paris), New scientific collection: II + 308 p.
  • Barbara Mearns & Richard Mearns (1998). The Bird Collectors. Academic Press (London): xvii + 472 p.

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