Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Boulenger, George Albert (Belgium-England 1858-1937)
ichthyology, herpetology

Boulenger is probably history's pre-eminent taxonomist of the lower vertebrates. Although not a great innovator insofar as the method of systematics goes--some of his best known work was based on suggestions made by Cope and others--he had personal and intellectual qualities that made him ideally suited for taxonomic studies. Importantly, he spoke several languages and had a reading knowledge of several others. He also apparently had an astounding memory and knew just about the entire literature on his subject by heart (it was said that from memory and without referral he could on the spot identify--and provide natural history details on--specimens of any known fish, reptile or amphibian species brought to him). In all he described more than 2500 species of lower vertebrates in some nine hundred works by the time of his retirement (after which, for reasons unknown, he occupied himself with studies on roses). Boulenger, for all this craft, was also a contributing theorist, frequently using his taxonomic studies as the basis for posing particular evolutionary and/or zoogeographical hypotheses. He is especially remembered for his work on African forms.

Life Chronology

--born in Brussels, Belgium, on 19 October 1858.
--1876: graduates from the Free University in Brussels with a degree in natural sciences
--1881: asked to work at the British Museum
--1882: publishes his Catalogue of the Batrachia... in two volumes, with A. C. L. G. Günther
--1882-1920: works as first-class assistant in the zoology department at the British Museum
--1885-1887: publishes his Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History), in three volumes
--1894: elected to the Royal Society of London
--1895: publishes his Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum
--1897: selected by King Leopold II of Belgium to chair a committee helping to organize a Belgian Congo museum
--1905: publishes "The Distribution of African Fresh-water Fishes" in Nature
--1909-1916: publishes his Catalogue of the Fresh-water Fishes of Africa in the British Museum (Natural History)..., in four volumes
--1920: retires from the British Museum
--1920: publishes his Monograph of the Lacertidae, in two volumes
--1921: publishes paper in Nature on the first eyeless, unpigmented cave fish discovered in Africa
--1924-1932: publishes his Les Roses d'Europe de l'Herbier Crépin, in two volumes
--1937: honored with the Belgian Order of Leopold
--dies at Saint Malo, France, on 23 November 1937.

For Additional Information, See:

--Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 3 (for 1939-1941): 13-17.
--Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 73(6) (1939): 132-133.
--Copeia (1) (1938): pp. 1-3.
--Bulletin du Jardin Botanique de l'État, Bruxelles, Vol. 15(1) (1938): 1-24. [in French]

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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