G. P. Whitley – legendary Australian ichthyologist

If you will forgive a deviation from rivers….

Gilbert Percy Whitley’s name is well known to anybody who has studied Australian fishes. He was a superb taxonomist, describing many new species over his long career at the Australian Museum.  I have been a great fan of his for many years, more so for his work on the history of Australian science.  He published some fantastic papers, one on the history of the study of Australian fishes (1964) and one on a history of the zoology in Australia (1970). These are particularly interesting and useful for the student of the history of Australian natural history.  But he also wrote many, many other papers and several books, as well as biographies of prominent Australian zoologists.  These last are a wonderful resource, and it is a shame that so many of them are buried away in old copies of relatively obscure journals. I will let Alison Leeson, a Masters in Art Curatorship, say more about Gilbert Whitley in her recent blog post.

You may also be interested in the Australian Society for Fish Biology’s take on the man here or his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

There are several awards dedicated to Gilbert Whitley, including the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales Whitley Awards and the Australian Society for Fish Biology Whitley Prize for best student talk at the annual conference.

References: Whitley GP (1964) A survey of Australian ichthyology. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 89: 11-127. Whitley GP (1970) Early history of Australian zoology. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney.

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5 Responses to G. P. Whitley – legendary Australian ichthyologist

  1. Alison Leeson says:

    Thanks so much for the mention. I’m glad you liked the article. if your interested in knowing more about what the museum hold in the Whitley collection. i have written a bit more on my own blog at the following entry http://culturalrepository.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/something-smells-fishy/.
    There are some beautiful and accurate illustrations of fish and many other marine wildlife from all over the east coast.

    • Thanks Alison, I am always keen to see these sorts of things, especially for Australian scientists. The illustrations you feature in your post are wonderful. They really are a treasure-trove, which, as you say, deserve wider apprecation. I am not sure if you know of John Keane’s work at the Museum of Victoria on Blandowski and Murray cod etc. He and you clearly share similar interests. There are some wonderful illustrations associated with the Blandowski material. Cheers, Paul

      • Alison Leeson says:

        Thanks and know I haven’t yet heard of John Keane’s work but am aware that Museums Victoria to hold some amazing illustrations. I will be sure to check out his work.

  2. Alison Leeson says:

    Reblogged this on The Cultural Repository and commented:
    I have been blogged about . what an Honour 😀

  3. blue-nose says:

    For all Whitley’s achievements, he was guilty of an outbreak of pretty bad unscientific bodginess and “opinion” when it came to the native freshwater cod species. It was Whitley who erroneously declared, on very ridiculous and spurious grounds (which I have read — a 1930s issue of the Memoirs of the QLD Museum, from memory), that Murray cod (now Maccullochella peelii) and trout cod* (now Maccullochella macquariensis) were the one and the same species.
    Basically, it was Whitley who sparked the almost 40 years of trouble, debate, confusion (and concommitant neglect) on whether trout cod and Murray cod were separate species or not … until Berra and Weatherley resolved the question (yes, they are separate species) in 1972.
    A poor effort by an otherwise accomplished ichthyologist …
    It’s also worth noting that almost every white person who regularly caught both species, and all Indigenous people who regularly caught both species, were in no doubt whatsoever they were separate species … and this knowledge was ignored by Whitley and others.
    * unfortunate choice for official common name, should have used the old common name blue-nose cod

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