Allman, George James (DNB01)

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ALLMAN, GEORGE JAMES (1812–1898), botanist and zoologist, born at Cork in 1812, was eldest son of James Allman of Bandon, co. Cork. He was educated at the Belfast academical institution and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. 1839, M.B. 1843, and M.D. 1847. In 1842 he became a member, and in 1844 a fellow, of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, and on 1 July 1847 he was admitted to the ad eundem degree of M.D. at Oxford. Originally intended for the bar and then for medicine, he abandoned both in order to devote himself to the study of natural science, and especially of marine zoology, of which he was one of the early pioneers in England. His first scientific paper—on polyzoa—appeared in 1843; it was followed by one on hydrozoa in 1844, and in the next thirty years Allman published over a hundred papers on these and similar subjects. In 1844 he was appointed, in succession to his namesake, William Allman [q.v.], professor of botany in Dublin University. On 1 June 1854 he was elected F.R.S., and in the following year he was appointed regius professor of natural history, and keeper of the natural history museum in the university of Edinburgh; his inaugural lecture was published (Edinburgh, 1855).

Allman's reputation rests on his investigations into the classification and morphology of the cœlenterata and polyzoa. His 'Monograph of the Freshwater Polyzoa' was published by the Ray Society in 1856, and in 1871–2 the same society published in two fine folios Allman's most important work, 'A Monograph of the Gymnoblastic or Tubularian Hydroids.' The way for this had been prepared by the 'Monograph of the Naked-eyed Medusæ,' published in 1849 by Edward Forbes [q. v.], and by the 'Oceanic Hydrozoa' of Thomas Henry Huxley [q. v. Suppl.], published by the Royal Society in 1859. Six years later Allman was invited to report on the hydroids collected by L. F. de Pourtalès on behalf of the United States government in the Gulf Stream; Allman's report formed part ii. of the fifth volume of the 'Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.' In 1883 he performed a similar service for the British government, contributing a report on hydroids to a series of Challenger reports edited by Sir Charles Wyville Thomson [q. v.] Allman's report is part xx. of the seventh volume (1883). For his work on hydroids Allman received the Brisbane medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1877, the Cunningham medal of the Royal Irish Academy in 1878, and the gold medal of the Linnean Society in 1896.

Meanwhile, in 1870, Allman retired from his professorship at Edinburgh, being presented with a testimonial on 29 July. In 1871 he was elected a member of the Athenæum Club by the committee. From 1855 till the abolition of the board in 1881 he was one of the Scottish fishery commissioners, and in 1876 he was appointed a commissioner to inquire into the working of the queen's colleges in Ireland. He had always taken a keen interest in the popularisation of science, and was one of the early promoters of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; he presided over the biological section in 1873, and over the united association when it met at Sheffield in 1879. He served on the council of the Royal Society from 1871 to 1873, and in 1874 he succeeded George Bentham [q.v.] as president of the Linnean Society, to the 'Journal' of which he had contributed several papers, the most important being that on the freshwater medusa; he relinquished the presidency in 1883, when he was succeeded by Sir John Lubbock (now Lord Avebury). He also acted for many years as examiner in natural history for the university of London, for the army, navy, and Indian medical and civil services.

On leaving Edinburgh Allman had settled first at Weybridge and then in close proximity to Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, at Ardmore, Parkstone, Dorset. He died there on 24 Nov. 1898, and was buried on the 29th in Poole cemetery. His wife, Hannah Louisa, third daughter of Samuel Shaen of Crix, near Colchester, Essex, by whom he had no issue, predeceased him in 1890.

Besides the works mentioned above and his numerous scientific papers, of which a list is given in the Royal Society’s Catalogue, Allman published a lecture entitled ‘The Method and Aim of Natural History Studies’ (Edinburgh, 1868, 8vo), and contributed to J. V. Carus’s 'Icones Zootomicæ’ (Leipzig, 1857, fol.),and ‘An Appendix on the Vegetation of the Riviera’ to A. Baréty's ‘Nice and its Climate’ (English transl. London, 1882, 8vo). In the last year of his life he printed a volume of poems for private circulation.

[Allman’s Works in Brit. Museum Library; Proc. Linnean Soc. 1895–6, p. 30; Lists of Fellows of the Royal Soc.; Nature, lix. 202, 269 (by Professor G. B. Howes); Cat. Grad. Trin. Coll. Dublin; Foster’s Alumni Oxon. 1716–1886; Men of the Time, 1895; Who’s Who? 1898; Times, 28 Nov. 1898; Huxley’s Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, 1900.]

A. F. P.