Francis Walker (entomologist)

Last updated

Francis Walker
Walker Francis 1809-1874.jpg
Born31 July 1809  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Southgate   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Died5 October 1874  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg (aged 65)

Francis Walker (31 July 1809 – 5 October 1874) was an English entomologist. He was born in Southgate, London, on 31 July 1809 and died at Wanstead, England on 5 October 1874. He was one of the most prolific authors in entomology, and stirred controversy during his later life as his publications resulted in a huge number of junior synonyms. However, his assiduous work on the collections of the British Museum had great significance.


Between June 1848 and late 1873 Walker was contracted by John Edward Gray Director of the British Museum to catalogue their insects (except Coleoptera) that is Orthoptera, Neuroptera, Hemiptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera. Walker largely accomplished this and (Edwards, 1870) wrote of the plan and by implication those who implemented it “It is to him [Gray] that the Public owe the admirable helps to the study of natural history which have been afforded by the series of inventories, guides, and nomenclatures, the publication of which began, at his instance, in the year 1844, and has been unceasingly pursued. A mere list of the various printed synopses which have grown out of Dr. Gray’s suggestion of 1844 would fill many such pages as that which the reader has now before him. The consequence is, that in no department of the Museum can the student, as yet, economise his time as he can economise it in the Natural-History Department. Printed, not Manuscript, Catalogues mean time saved; disappointment avoided; study fructified. No literary labour brings so little of credit as does the work of the Catalogue-maker. None better deserves the gratitude of scholars, as well as of the general mass of visitors". [1] As a result of the catalogues an immense amount of material was added to the collections.

Collaborating with Alexander Henry Haliday, a lifelong friend, he was one of the first students of the Chalcidoidea. He was also a close friend of John Curtis. Walker was a member of the Entomological Society. Walker's specimens are in the Natural History Museum, London; Hope Department of Entomology, University of Oxford; the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin; Zoologische Staatssammlung München and the School of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt.

Family and childhood

Francis Walker was the son of John Walker of Arnos Grove, who was a fellow of the Royal Society, the Linnean Society and the Royal Horticultural Society. Born into a wealthy and educated Quaker family, Francis spent the years 1816 (when he was seven years old) to 1820 (when he was eleven) in Switzerland at Geneva, Lucerne and Vevey where the family party was joined by Madame de Staël, the poet Lord Byron and some Swiss naturalists gathered around Nicolas Théodore de Saussure. With his brother Henry (1825–1892), Francis collected butterflies on an ascent of Mount Pilatus in 1818 and so was an entomologist at age nine. In 1840 Walker married Mary Elizabeth Ford. He lived at Arnos Grove and at 49 Bedford Square which housed the collections of the Entomological Club founded in 1826 by George Samouelle and Edward Newman among others. He relied on family money for his main income. [2]

In 1834, Walker, a life long friend of another Quaker Edward Newman, took up the editorship of the Entomological Magazine unpaid for one year. In 1837, he began working on a contract basis for the British Museum where he remained until 1863. [3]


Walker was a traveller with a liking for mountains. His known trips are:

Major works

Different views of Walker

Caricature of Francis Walker by A. G. Butler (1890) Francis walker.png
Caricature of Francis Walker by A. G. Butler (1890)

Walker is notable in the present time for the large number of synonymous taxa he described. A careless taxonomist by today's standards, he often gave more than one name to the same species. In this respect, however, he was no worse than many entomologists of his time; what makes for the more common occurrence of Walker's taxa in synonymy is the sheer volume of his work.

An unsigned obituary began "More than twenty years too late for his scientific reputation, and after having done an amount of injury almost inconceivable in its immensity, Francis Walker has passed from among us". [4] Edward Newman, in contrast described him as the "most voluminous and most industrious writer on Entomology this country has ever produced" and said of him "I never met anyone who possessed more correct, more diversified, or more general information, or who imparted that information to others with greater readiness and kindness." [5]

Kenneth G.V. Smith wrote: [6]

[Walker's] 'Catalogues of Insects in the British Museum Collections' will always stand as a tribute to his industry. Walker (1836) also described the Diptera from Captain P. P. King's collection made on the first surveying voyage of Adventure and Beagle . Fortunately, many of his descriptions of Darwin's insects will endure because they were of little known groups from little worked regions and most of his types are still in the British Museum (Natural History). For a recent balanced account of this remarkable man see Graham (1979). [7]

Publication list

partial (Walker wrote over 300 scientific papers and notes).

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexander Henry Haliday</span> Irish entomologist (1806–1870)

Alexander Henry Haliday was an Irish entomologist. He is primarily known for his work on Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Thysanoptera, but worked on all insect orders and on many aspects of entomology.

<i>Monographia Chalciditum</i> Book by Francis Walker

Monographia Chalciditum by Francis Walker, published in two volumes in 1839, was a founding work of entomology, introducing new genera of chalcidoid Hymenoptera later to be ranked as families. The work is a compilation of descriptions published in the Entomological Magazine. In its preparation Walker used descriptions provided by the Irish entomologist Alexander Henry Haliday.

Austrophorocera is a genus of flies in the family Tachinidae.

<i>Scaptia</i> Genus of flies

Scaptia is a genus of horse-fly in the tribe Scionini.

<i>Hermetia</i> Genus of flies

Hermetia is a genus of flies of the family Stratiomyidae.

Uramya pristis is a species of fly in the family Tachinidae.

<i>Cyphomyia</i> Genus of flies

Cyphomyia is a genus of flies in the subfamily Clitellariinae.

<i>Atylotus</i> Genus of flies

Atylotus is a genus of horse flies in the family Tabanidae.

Hybomitra frontalis is a species of horse flies in the family Tabanidae.

Ptilodexia rufipennis is a species of bristle fly in the family Tachinidae.

<i>Philoliche</i> Genus of flies

Philoliche is a genus of long-tongued Horse-flies found in the Old World. It appears to be the sole member of tribe Philolichini.

Orthoprosopa is a genus of hoverflies from the family Syrphidae, in the order Diptera.

Orthoprosopa grisea is a species of hoverfly in the family Syrphidae.

Cydistomyia is a genus of horse flies in the family Tabanidae.

Myioscaptia is a genus of horse flies in the family Tabanidae.

Tinda is a genus of flies in the family Stratiomyidae.


  1. Edwards, E. (1870) Lives of the founders of the British Museum; with notices of its chief augmenters and other benefactors. 1570–1870. Trübner & Co., London. x + [i] + 780 pp.
  2. Evenhuis, N. 2018 The life and work of Francis Walker (1809-1874) Fly Times Supplement 3, 101 pp. pdf
  3. Evenhuis, Neal L. (April 2011). "HISTORICAL DIPTEROLOGY – Francis Walker: taxonomic mercenary or taxonomic narcissist?" (PDF). National History Museum. North American Dipterists Society. pp. 33–41. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  4. Carrington, J. T. (1874). "Francis Walker". Obituary. The Entomologist's Monthly Magazine. 11: 140–141. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.24388.
  5. Newman, Edward (1874). "Death of Mr. Walker". The Entomologist. 7: 260–264.
  6. Smith, K. G. V. (1987). "Darwin's insects: Charles Darwin's entomological notes". Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Historical Series. 14 (1): 114. doi: 10.5962/p.314519 .
  7. Graham, M. W. R. de V. (1979). "'Ambulator': Francis Walker, English Entomologist (1809–1874)". Entomologist's Gazette. 30: 7–20.
  8. Walker, F. (1835). "Characters of some undescribed New Holland Diptera". Entomol. Mag. 2: 468–473. Retrieved 21 August 2021.
  9. "Article: Description des Chalcidites trouvées au Bluff de Saint-Jean, dans la Florida orientale, par MM. E. Doubleday et R. Forster" . Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  10. Walker, F. (1849). List of the specimens of dipterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part III. London: British Museum (Natural History). pp. 485–687.
  11. Walker, F. (1857). "Characters of undescribed Diptera in the collection of W. W. Saunders, Esq., F.R.S., &c". Transactions of the Entomological Society of London. New Series. 4: 119–158. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  12. Walker, F. (1865). "Descriptions of new species of the dipterous insects of New Guinea". Journal and Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology. 8 (30): 102–108, 109–130. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1865.tb02425.x.
  13. "Odopoia". Retrieved 25 December 2018.

General references

— and