Edgar Albert Smith

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Edgar Albert Smith
Edgar Albert Smith.jpg
Portrait of Edgar Albert Smith and his signature.
Born(1847-11-29)29 November 1847
Died22 July 1916(1916-07-22) (aged 68)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Scientific career
Fieldszoology, malacology
InstitutionsBritish Museum, now named Natural History Museum
Author abbrev. (zoology)E. A. Smith
The grave of Edgar Albert Smith, with a shell of the giant clam on top of the headstone

Edgar Albert Smith (29 November 1847 in London – 22 July 1916 in Acton)[1][2] was a British zoologist, a malacologist.

His father was Frederick Smith, a well-known entomologist, and Assistant Keeper of Zoology in the British Museum, Bloomsbury.[1] Edgar Albert Smith was educated both at the North London Collegiate School and privately, being well grounded in Latin amongst other subjects, as his excellent diagnoses bear witness.[2]

Smith married in July 1876.[2] Subsequently, he and his wife had four sons and two daughters.[2]

He gave more prominent attention to the fauna of the African Great Lakes and the marine molluscs of South Africa,[2] and also the non-marine mollusk fauna of Borneo and New Guinea.[2]

In the British Museum

Smith was employed at the British Museum (now Natural History Museum) as an Assistant Keeper of the Zoological Department for more than forty years, from 1867 to 1913.[1][2] Edgar Smith's first work was in connection with the celebrated collection of shells made by Hugh Cuming and acquired by the Museum in 1846, at which he worked under Dr. John Edward Gray.[2] From 1871 he was in immediate charge of the collection of molluscs, whilst till 1878 he was also responsible for the rest of the marine invertebrates with the exception of the Crustacea.[2] On the removal of the natural history collections from Bloomsbury to South Kensington, the arrangement of the Molluscan Collection in the then new Natural History Museum was, of course, his peculiar care and was planned by him with a special eye to the convenience of the numerous students and amateur collectors who have not been slow to avail themselves of it.[2] In 1895 Edgar Smith obtained his well-deserved promotion to the post of Assistant Keeper in the Zoological Department.[2]


Smith studied molluscs brought back by various expeditions like those to Antarctic of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (1839–1843), which had lain by untouched, were dealt with by him in 1875.[2] The Arctic specimens, collected on the polar voyage of HMS Alert and HMS Discovery (1875–1876), were described in 1878.[2] The results of the Transit of Venus Expedition (1874–1875) to Kerguelen Islands and Rodrigues were set forth in the special volume (vol. clxviii) of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1879.[2] The accounts of shells procured during the voyages of Alert to the Straits of Magellan and the Indo-Pacific (1878–1882) were published in 1881[3] and 1884.[2]

The reports on the bivalves and Heteropoda brought home by the Challenger Expedition (1873–1876) were the most noteworthy of this series, and appeared in 1885 and 1888 respectively.[2]

Mention must also be made of his reports on the collections of molluscs of SS Southern Cross during Southern Cross Expedition published 1902, from Sokotra 1903, from the Maldives and Laccadives 1902 and 1903, from the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901–1904 in 1907, and finally the Terra Nova Expedition in the Antarctic of 1910 in published in 1915.[2]

Awards and memberships

Smith became a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London in 1872.[2] He became a member of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1886[2] and he became president of the Conchological Society in 1890.[1][2] He was also a corresponding member of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales, and of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia,[1][2] whilst he was also made an Honorary Member of the Midland Malacological Society, as well as of the Malacological Section of the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society.[2] He was a founding member of the Malacological Society of London, and was the president of the Malacological Society of London in 1901–1903.[1][4] He was an editor of Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London in 1904–1916,and also at the time of his death.[1][2] He served as a member of the British Association Committee which was appointed in 1890 to "Report on the present state of our knowledge of the Zoology of the Sandwich Islands", and which reported regularly from 1891 till 1912.[2]

He received the Imperial Service Order in 1903[2] during the reign of Edward VII of the United Kingdom for his long and meritorious services to science.[1]


Smith wrote ten papers on the Echinodermata, published between 1876 and 1879.[2] However most of his efforts went into the systematic study of molluscs.[2] His researches resulted in the publication of 300 separate memoirs on the Mollusca, and a few dealing with the Echinodermata.[1] Among his valuable works is the account of the bivalves collected by the Challenger Expedition.[1]

He was the author of A Guide to the Shell and Starfish Galleries (London, 1901), with Francis Jeffrey Bell (1855–1924) and Randolph Kirkpatrick, foreword by Sir Edwin Ray Lankester.[5]

From Africa

The molluscan faunas of the great African lakes also claimed his attention and formed the subject of a presidential address before the Malacological Society of London, in which no support was given to the views of Mr. John Edmund Sharrock Moore, who regarded the gastropods of Lake Tanganyika as representing forms which had their origin in marine Jurassic times.[1] Smith have described 18 new taxa based on shells collected by explorer Joseph Thomson.[6] His works about freshwater snails of Africa include number of papers; new taxa described by Smith follows:




  • Smith E. A. (1881). "On a collection of shells from lakes Tanganyika and Nyassa and other localities in East Africa". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1881: 276-300. Plates 32-34.
  • Smith E. A. (1881). "Descriptions of two new species of shells from Lake Tanganyika". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1881: 558-561.







From Madagascar

From Borneo

From New Zealand

Mr. Smith had some slight connexion with geological work, as he was appealed to on more than one occasion to determine molluscan remains found in the post-Pliocene deposits of South Africa, when the majority of the species could be referred to recent forms.[1] He was also joint author with Richard Bullen Newton of a paper:[1]

From South America



Marine gastropods




This article incorporates public domain text from references[1][2]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Anonymous (1916). "Edgar Albert Smith, I.S.O., late conchologist of the British Museum". Geological Magazine (n.s.) (decade 6)3(9): 431–432. doi:10.1017/S0016756800206754.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Woodward B. B. (1917). "Edgar Albert Smith, 1847–1916". Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London 12(3): 215-217.
  3. ^ Smith E. A. (1881). "Account of the zoological collection made during the survey of H.M.S. Alert, in the Straits of Magellan and on the coast of Patagonia, IV: Mollusca and Molluscoida". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1881(1): 22-44. Plate 3.
  4. ^ Smith E. A. (ed.) Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London. XI(1914–1915): frontispiece
  5. ^ A guide to the shell and starfish galleries (Mollusca, Polyzoa, Brachiopoda, Tunicata, Echinoderma, and worms). (1908). London, the fifth edition. iv.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Verdcourt B. (1983). "Collectors in East Africa – 6. Joseph Thomson 1858–1895". The Conchologists' Newsletter 84: 67–70.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Brown D. S. (1994). Freshwater Snails of Africa and their Medical Importance. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-7484-0026-5.
  8. ^ WoRMS (2010). Donax lubricus. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=216492 on 2011-08-27
  9. ^ Graf D. L. (2008). Coelatura horei. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 28 August 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Wronski T. & Hausdorf B. (2010). "Diversity and body-size patterns of land snails in rain forests in Uganda". Journal of Molluscan Studies 76(1): 87–100. doi:10.1093/mollus/eyp048.
  11. ^ a b Bruggen A. C. van (2010). "A new record of ‘Achatina’ vassei Germain, 1918 (Gastropoda, Pulmonata, Achatinidae) from Mozambique – an unsolved problem". Zoologische Mededelingen 84. HTM.

Further reading

(in chronology order)

External links