The fish collection of Francis Day

In 1883, one of the most impressive fish collections to be acquired by the Australian Museum was bought from Dr Francis Day of India for 200 pounds sterling.

Selection of fishes from Dr Francis Day collection

S Humphreys © Australian Museum

This collection was sold to Dr Edward Ramsay, the then director of the Australian Museum and not Dr Albert Gunther of the British Museum of Natural History, as would have been the normal practice of the time. The Australian Museum was offered the collection because Day strongly disliked Gunther. Gunther had strongly criticised Day's work a number of times, and Day had consequently refused to lodge his collection at the British Museum.

Even today, Dr Francis Day is considered to be the single most influential figure in the ichthyology of southern Asia. In 24 years of study he named 343 species of marine and freshwater fishes, based primarily on nearly 10,000 specimens from an area that today extends from Afghanistan to Burma.

Edward Ramsay was one of the most effective directors of the Australian Museum in its first 120 years, filling the position of curator (director) from 1874 until 1894. During these years Ramsay contributed (through collecting and purchasing) over 9525 fish specimens to the Australian Museum and wrote over 30 papers on fishes, 50 papers on birds and co-authored many other papers on reptiles and mammals.


Kerryn Parkinson
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