Roland Trimen

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In 1897

Roland Trimen FRS (29 October 1840 in London – 25 July 1916 in London) was a British-South African naturalist, best known for South African Butterflies (1887–89), a collaborative work with Colonel James Henry Bowker. He was among the first entomologists to investigate mimicry and polymorphism in butterflies and their restriction to females. He also collaborated with Charles Darwin to study the pollination of Disa orchids.

Plate accompanying On some new species of South African Lycaenidae Trans. ent. Soc. Lond. 1874

Roland was born in London in 1840, the son of Richard and Mary Ann Esther Trimen and the older brother of the botanist Henry Trimen (1843-1896) who went to Ceylon. He went to study at Rottingdean and then at King's College School in Wimbledon. Roland was interested in entomology but a chronic laryngeal condition forced him to move to the Cape of Good Hope as a treatment. Reaching there he volunteered under Edgar Leopold Layard at the South African Museum to arrange the Lepidoptera. He joined the Cape Public Service as a clerk in 1860 and later became private secretary to Richard Southey. Still later he served as secretary to Sir Henry Barkly, who was himself a keen botanist. In 1872 he became curator of the South African Museum in Cape Town, succeeding Edgar Leopold Layard. Trimen received butterfly specimens from a network of friends including James Henry Bowker and his sister Mary Elizabeth Barber.[1] He attended the international congress on Phylloxera in Bordeaux in 1880. Failing health caused him to resign his position at the South African Museum in 1893.

Trimen also described a new species of bird, the Racket-tailed roller, based on skins provided to the South African Museum.[2] Trimen also studied pollination in orchids and these were of interest to Charles Darwin and led to a correspondence between them.[3]

Trimen won the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 1910.


  1. ^ Cohen, A. (2002-05-22). "Roland Trimen and the Merope harem". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 56 (2): 205–218. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2002.0179. ISSN 0035-9149. 
  2. ^ Trimen, Roland; London. "On a new species of roller (Coracias) from the Zambesi". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1880pages=30-33. 
  3. ^ Trimen, Roland (1863). "On the Fertilization of Disa grandiflora, Linn". Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. Botany. 7 (27): 144. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1863.tb01066g.x. 

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