Hanitsch was born at Grossenstein in Thuringia, Germany. He studied at the University of Jena, where he obtained his PhD. From 1887 to 1895 he was employed as a demonstrator of zoology at University College, Liverpool. He married Ethel Vernon in 1892, with whom he had two sons and three daughters. From 1895 to 1907 he was Curator and Librarian of the Raffles Library and Museum, becoming in 1908 the first Director of the museum, a position he held until 1919. He was especially successful at building up the library collection there. He also served as the Honorary Treasurer of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Although Hanitsch’s principal research interest lay in entomology, he also worked on sponges, birds, amphibians and mammals. He retired on 7 July 1919 and returned to England. His successor as Director was Major John Moulton.
- Arunasalam, Sitragandi. (26 January 2003). R. Hanitsch. (Published online by the National Library, Singapore).
- Obituary. Nature 146: 360. (14 September 1940).
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