Richard Lydekker

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Richard Lydekker
Richard Lydekker.jpg
Lydekker, c.1900
Born(1849-07-25)25 July 1849
London, England
Died16 April 1915(1915-04-16) (aged 65)
Harpenden, England
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Awards Lyell Medal (1902)
Scientific career
Institutions Natural History Museum

Richard Lydekker ( /lɪˈdɛkər/ ; 25 July 1849 – 16 April 1915) was an English naturalist, geologist and writer of numerous books on natural history. [1]



Richard Lydekker was born at Tavistock Square in London. His father was Gerard Wolfe Lydekker, a barrister-at-law with Dutch ancestry. The family moved to Harpenden Lodge soon after Richard's birth. [2] He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a first-class in the Natural Science tripos (1872). [3] In 1874 he joined the Geological Survey of India and made studies of the vertebrate palaeontology of northern India (especially Kashmir). He remained in this post until the death of his father in 1881. His main work in India was on the Siwalik palaeofauna; it was published in Palaeontologia Indica. He was responsible for the cataloguing of the fossil mammals, reptiles, and birds in the Natural History Museum (10 vols., 1891). [4]

He named a variety of taxa including the golden-bellied mangabey; as a taxon authority he is named simply as "Lydekker". [5]


Map of Sunda and Sahul, showing Lydekker's Line Map of Sunda and Sahul.svg
Map of Sunda and Sahul, showing Lydekker's Line

He was influential in the science of biogeography. In 1896 he delineated the biogeographical boundary through Indonesia, known as Lydekker's Line, that separates Wallacea on the west from Australia-New Guinea on the east. [6] [4] It follows the edge of the Sahul Shelf, an area from New Guinea to Australia of shallow water with the Aru Islands on its edge. Along with Wallace's Line and others, [7] it indicates the definite effect of geology on the biogeography of the region, something not seen so clearly in other parts of the world. [8]

First cuckoo

Lydekker attracted amused public attention with a pair of letters to The Times in 1913, when he wrote on 6 February that he had heard a cuckoo, contrary to Yarrell's History of British Birds which doubted the bird arrived before April. Six days later on 12 February 1913, he wrote again, confessing that "the note was uttered by a bricklayer's labourer". Letters about the first cuckoo became a tradition in the newspaper. [9]


He received the Lyell Medal from the Geological Society of London in 1902. [10]

Drawing of a mantis shrimp by Richard Lydekker, 1896 MantisShrimpLyd.jpg
Drawing of a mantis shrimp by Richard Lydekker, 1896


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  1. "Lydekker, Richard". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1096.
  2. "Obituary". Ibis. 57 (3): 617–620. 1915. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1915.tb08208.x .
  3. "Lydekker, Richard (LDKR867R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. 1 2 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Lydekker, Richard"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company.
  5. Hart, J.A.; Thompson, J. (2020). "Cercocebus chrysogaster". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2020: e.T4207A17956177. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T4207A17956177.en . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  6. Lydekker, Richard. (1896). A geographical history of mammals. Cambridge, The University press. p. 400.
  7. Burkill, I. H. (1943). "The biogeographic division of the Indo-Australian archipelago. 2. A history of the divisions which have been proposed". Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. 154 (2): 127–138. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1943.tb00310.x.
  8. Gillespie, Rosemary G.; Clague, D. A. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islands. University of California Press. p. 447. ISBN   978-0-520-25649-1.
  9. Gregory, Kenneth (1976). First Cuckoo: Letters to "The Times", 1900–75. Allen & Unwin.
  10. "The Geological Society of London". The Times. No. 36699. London. 24 February 1902. p. 6.
  11. "Review of Catalogue of the Fossil Birds in the British Museum (Natural History) by Richard Lydekker". The Athenaeum (3431): 163. 29 July 1893.
  12. Catalog Record: Phases of animal life, past and present – Hathi Trust Digital Library. 1892.
  13. Catalog Record: The royal natural history – Hathi Trust Digital Library.
  14. "The Royal Natural History" . Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  15. Catalog Record: The wild animals of India, Burma, Malaya, and... – Hathi Trust Digital Library. 2005. ISBN   9788181580344.
  16. "Living races of mankind : a popular illustrated account of the customs, habits, pursuits, feasts, and ceremonies of the races of mankind throughout the world : Hutchinson, H. N. (Henry Neville), 1856–1927 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Internet Archive. 1902.
  17. Catalog Record: The game animals of Africa – Hathi Trust Digital Library. 1908.
  18. Lydekker, Richard, 1849–1915 (1912). Details – Animal portraiture / – Biodiversity Heritage Library.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)