John Robertson Henderson

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John Robertson Henderson

Superintendent of the Government Museum, Chennai and Connemara Public Library
In office
Preceded by Edgar Thurston
Succeeded by F. H. Gravely
Personal details
Born(1863-05-21)21 May 1863
Melrose, Scotland
Died26 October 1925(1925-10-26) (aged 62)
Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Alice Roberta Sinclair (1868–1915)
  • Elizabeth (Lizzie) Adie
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Profession zoologist
The grave of John Robertson Henderson, Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh The grave of John Robertson Henderson, Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.jpg
The grave of John Robertson Henderson, Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh

John Robertson Henderson CIE FRSE FZS FLS (21 May 1863 – 26 October 1925) was a Scottish zoologist who specialized in the taxonomy of marine crustaceans, particularly the decapods, and worked on specimens collected by the oceanic research vessels Investigator and Challenger. From 1892 until 1911 he was Professor of Zoology at Madras Christian College in India. From 1908 to 1920 he was Superintendent of the Government Museum in Madras. [1] He also took an interest in numismatics and Indian history.



Henderson was born on 21 May 1863 in Melrose the son of Inland Revenue official Edward Henderson (1825–1894) and Jessie Louttit Henderson (née Robertson) (1834–1894). He was educated at both Dulwich College and Dollar Academy. He then studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh graduating with an MB ChB in 1884. He was influenced by Sir Wyville Thomson and took an interest in marine zoology. He worked at the Firths of Forth and Clyde and examined the collections obtained from the Challenger expedition while working at the Scottish Marine Station, Granton. [2]

He moved to India in 1885-6 to become a professor of zoology at the Madras Christian College where he worked until 1911. Additional duties included being in charge of the Government Museum , the principal librarian at the Connemara Public Library and as Keeper of the Madras Aquarium. In 1896 he worked on the Paguridae (hermit crabs) obtained by the Royal Indian Marine Survey ship Investigator. [3] He retired in 1911 and returned to Scotland in 1919. [4] In 1918 he was created a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE). In 1923 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Arthur Crichton Mitchell, James Hartley Ashworth, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson and James Ritchie. [5]

Henderson married Alice Roberta Sinclair (1868–1915) in Madras in 1888. They had a son and a daughter. After her death, he married Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Beatrice Adie (1882–1936) at Delting in 1921. They had no children. [2] He died in Edinburgh on 26 October 1925 at a nursing home from a malignant liver tumour. He is buried with his wife in Dean Cemetery in western Edinburgh. [6]

The genus Hendersonida Cabezas & Macpherson, 2014 and several species are named after him including: [2]


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  1. C. Hayavadana Rao (1915). The Indian Biographical Dictionary. Pillar & Co. p.  182.
  2. 1 2 3 Moore, P. G. (2020). "John Robertson Henderson (1863–1925): Scotland, India and anomuran taxonomy". Archives of Natural History. 47 (1): 63–75. doi:10.3366/anh.2020.0622. ISSN   0260-9541.
  3. Henderson, J. R. (1896). "Natural history notes from HMS Investigator Commander CF Oldham, RN, commanding. Series II., No. 24. Report on the Paguridae collected during the season 1893-94". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 65 (2): 516–536.
  4. J. R. (1926). "John Robertson Henderson, C.I.E., M.B., F.L.S." Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 45 (4): 378–379. doi:10.1017/S0370164600019192. ISSN   0370-1646.
  5. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN   0 902 198 84 X.