Joseph James Fletcher

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Joseph James Fletcher
BornJoseph James Fletcher
(1850-01-07)7 January 1850
Died 15 May 1926(1926-05-15) (aged 76)
Residence New Zealand and Australia
Nationality New Zealander
Education Ipswich Grammar
Newington College
University of Sydney
Royal School of Mines
University College London
Known for Biology
Spouse(s) Emma Jane
(née Spencer)
Awards Clarke Medal, 1921
Scientific career
Author abbrev. (zoology) J. J. Fletcher

Joseph James Fletcher (7 January 1850 – 15 May 1926) was an Australian biologist, winner of the 1921 Clarke Medal.

Biologist scientist studying living organisms

A biologist is a scientist who has specialized knowledge in the field of biology, the scientific study of life. Biologists involved in fundamental research attempt to explore and further explain the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living matter. Biologists involved in applied research attempt to develop or improve more specific processes and understanding, in fields such as medicine and industry.

Clarke Medal award

The Clarke Medal is awarded by the Royal Society of New South Wales, the oldest learned society in Australia and in the Southern Hemisphere, for distinguished work in the Natural sciences.


Fletcher was born at Auckland, New Zealand the son of the Rev Joseph Horner Fletcher, a Methodist clergyman, and his wife Kate, née Green. The family arrived in Australia early in 1861, and, after a term of four years in Queensland (where Joseph James studied at Ipswich Grammar School), Rev. Fletcher went to Sydney to become principal of Newington College, from 1865 to 1887. J. J. Fletcher completed his schooling at Newington (1865–1867) [1] and then went to the University of Sydney and graduating BA in 1870 and MA in 1876. In between these years he was a master at Wesley College, Melbourne, under Professor M. H. Irving. As no science degree was offered in Australia, in 1876 resigned from Wesley and went to London, initially studying at the Royal School of Mines and University College, University of London where he studied biology and took his BSc degree there in 1879. He studied for a time at Cambridge and in 1881 published his first paper. [2]

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. Auckland is the largest urban area in the country, with an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. A diverse and multicultural city, Auckland is home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. The Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Joseph Horner Fletcher was a West Indies-born Methodist minister of English descent and was the founding Principal of Wesley College, Auckland and the second President of Newington College, Sydney. He was elected as first president of the NSW and Qld Wesleyan Methodist Conference and later as president of the General Conference of Australasia.

In 1881 Fletcher decided to return to Australia, and, before leaving England, prepared a Catalogue of Papers and Works relating to the Mammalian orders, Marsupialla and Monotremata , which was published in Sydney soon after his arrival. There were no openings for young scientists in Sydney at this period, so Fletcher joined the staff of Newington College where his father was still principal. He spent four years at the school and was a successful teacher, encouraging his pupils to find out things for themselves instead of merely trying to remember what their teacher had told them. During this period he joined the Linnean Society of New South Wales, met Sir William Macleay, and in 1885 was given the position of director and librarian of the society. This title was afterwards changed to secretary. He began his duties on 1 January 1886 and for over 33 years devoted his life to the service of the society. During this period he edited 33 volumes of Proceedings with the greatest care.

Marsupial Members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

Marsupials are any members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. All extant marsupials are endemic to Australasia and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic common to these species is that most of the young are carried in a pouch. Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. Some lesser-known marsupials are the dunnarts, potoroos and cuscuses.

Linnean Society of New South Wales

The Linnean Society of New South Wales promotes the Cultivation and Study of the Science of Natural History in all its Branches and was founded in Sydney, New South Wales (Australia) in 1874 and incorporated in 1884.

Sir William John Macleay was a Scottish-Australian politician, naturalist, zoologist, and herpetologist.

Fletcher also published in 1892 a selection of Sermons, Addresses and Essays by his father, with a biographical sketch, and in 1893 edited The Macleay Memorial Volume, for which he wrote an excellent memoir of Macleay. He had done some very good research work in connexion with the embryology of the marsupials, and on Australian earthworms. Later he took up the amphibia, on which he eventually became an authority. In January 1900, he was president of the biology section at the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, and chose for the subject of his address "The Rise and early Progress of our Knowledge of the Australian Fauna", a work of much value to all interested in the history of research in the natural history of Australia. In addition to being secretary of the Linnean Society and editor of its Proceedings, Fletcher was an executor of Macleay's will and he had much work in carrying out the provisions of it as financial and legal difficulties arose in connexion with the appointment of a bacteriologist and the foundation of the research fellowships.

Earthworm suborder of tube-shaped, segmented annelids

An earthworm is a tube-shaped, segmented worm found in the phylum Annelida. They have a world-wide distribution and are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. An earthworm's digestive system runs through the length of its body. It conducts respiration through its skin. It has a double transport system composed of coelomic fluid that moves within the fluid-filled coelom and a simple, closed blood circulatory system. It has a central and a peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of two ganglia above the mouth, one on either side, connected to a nerve cord running back along its length to motor neurons and sensory cells in each segment. Large numbers of chemoreceptors are concentrated near its mouth. Circumferential and longitudinal muscles on the periphery of each segment enable the worm to move. Similar sets of muscles line the gut, and their actions move the digesting food toward the worm's anus.

In his later years Fletcher gave more and more time to botany, and did important work on acacias, grevilleas and Loranthaceae. On 31 March 1919 he resigned his position as secretary to the Linnean Society and was elected president in 1920 and 1921. His address on "The Society's Heritage from the Macleays", a very interesting record, occupies nearly 70 pages in volume XLV of the Proceedings. After an accident in 1922 he was much confined to his home for the remainder of his life. He overhauled and completed the arranging and labelling of his own zoological collection in 1923 before presenting it to the Australian Museum. Fletcher also gave more than 300 books and pamphlets to the Mitchell Library. Fletcher died suddenly at his home in Hunters Hill, New South Wales on 15 May 1926, leaving a widow. Fletcher was awarded the Clarke Medal by the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1921.

<i>Acacia</i> genus of plants

Acacia, commonly known as the wattles or acacias, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the subfamily Mimosoideae of the pea family Fabaceae. Initially it comprised a group of plant species native to Africa and Australia, with the first species A. nilotica described by Linnaeus. Controversy erupted in the early 2000s when it became evident that the genus as it stood was not monophyletic, and that several divergent lineages needed to be placed in separate genera. It turned out that one lineage comprising over 900 species mainly native to Australia was not closely related to the mainly African lineage that contained A. nilotica—the first and type species. This meant that the Australian lineage would need to be renamed. Botanist Les Pedley named this group Racosperma, which was inconsistently adopted. Australian botanists proposed that this would be more disruptive than setting a different type species and allowing this large number of species to remain Acacia, resulting in the two African lineages being renamed Vachellia and Senegalia, and the two New World lineages renamed Acaciella and Mariosousa. This was officially adopted, but many botanists from Africa and elsewhere disagreed that this was necessary.

<i>Grevillea</i> genus of plants

Grevillea is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants in the family Proteaceae, native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands east of the Wallace Line. It was named in honour of Charles Francis Greville. The species range from prostrate shrubs less than 50 cm (20 in) tall to trees 35 m (115 ft) tall. Common names include grevillea, spider flower, silky oak and toothbrush plant. Closely related to the genus Hakea, the genus gives its name to the subfamily Grevilleoideae.

Loranthaceae family of plants

Loranthaceae, commonly known as the showy mistletoes, is a family of flowering plants. It consists of about 75 genera and 1,000 species of woody plants, many of them hemiparasites. The three terrestrial species are Nuytsia floribunda, Atkinsonia ligustrina, and Gaiadendron punctatum Loranthaceae are primarily xylem parasites, but their haustoria may sometimes tap the phloem, while Tristerix aphyllus is almost holoparasitic. For a more complete description of the Australian Loranthaceae, see Flora of Australia online., for the Malesian Loranthaceae see Flora of Malesia.

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  1. Newington College Register of Past Students 1863–1998 (Syd, 1999) p 65
  2. He does not appear to have formally studied at Cambridge: he is not included in Venn, J & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses


Percival Serle Australian writer

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Preceded by
Joseph Edmund Carne
Clarke Medal
Succeeded by
Richard Thomas Baker