Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Salvin, Osbert

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1411351Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 3 — Salvin, Osbert1901Bernard Barham Woodward

SALVIN, OSBERT (1835–1898), naturalist, second son of Anthony Salvin [q. v.], was born at Elmshurst, Finchley, Middlesex, on 25 Feb. 1835. He was educated under the Rev. Charles Worsley at the Manor House, Finchley, and at Westminster School (admitted 17 Jan. 1846), going in 1853 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a scholarship at the end of his first year, and graduated B.A. as senior optime in the mathematical tripos of 1857. He graduated M.A. in 1860, and was elected an honorary fellow of his college in 1897. While at Westminster he and his elder brother built and fitted two small steamers, which were ultimately bought for use on some of the Indian rivers. A born naturalist, and especially addicted to ornithology, entomology, and palaeontology, Salvin devoted much of his leisure time at Cambridge to their pursuit, and on taking his degree joined his second cousin by marriage, Mr. (afterwards Canon) Tristram, in a five months' natural history exploration of Tunis and Eastern Algeria.

In the autumn of 1857 Salvin visited Guatemala with Mr. George Ure Skinner, the discoverer and importer of orchids. In the middle of the following year he joined Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edward Newton in the Antilles, but returned after a few months to Central America, where he proved himself an unsurpassed collector. Returning to England in May 1860, he set off again in the autumn of 1861, in company with his old college friend, Mr. F. Ducane Godman, for Guatemala, twice ascending the Volcan de Fuego near that city. This tour ended in January 1863, and soon after his return home he was induced to undertake the management of some engineering works in the north of England, but this employment being distasteful did not last long.

On 24 May 1865 he married Caroline, daughter of Mr. W. W. Maitland of Loughton, Essex, and in 1873, accompanied by her, made another journey to Central America, returning by way of the United States, in order to inspect the collections in the principal museums.

In 1874, on the foundation of the Strickland curatorship of ornithology in the university of Cambridge, Salvin accepted the post and filled it till 1882, when, having succeeded to his father's property, he removed to Hawksfold, near Farnhurst, Sussex. There he died from an affection of the heart on 1 June 1898. He became a fellow of the Zoological Society in 1860, of the Linnean Society in 1864, of the Royal Society in 1873, frequently serving on their councils; he joined the Royal Geographical Society in 1883, and was also a fellow of the Entomological Society.

Salvin's opinion was widely sought by his fellow naturalists on account of the soundness of his advice and the breadth of his scientific views; his knowledge in all branches of his favourite science was extensive, though his attention was more particularly directed to the birds of tropical America, on which he was an acknowledged authority, and to the Lepidoptera Rhopalocera among insects.

The work in connection with which he was probably best known is the 'Biologia Centrali-Americana,' edited conjointly with Mr. F. D. Godman, the two friends being themselves responsible for the sections 'Aves' (1879-98) and 'Lepidoptera Rhopalocera' (begun in 1879).

Salvin was author of: 1. 'Exotic Ornithology,' with P. L. Sclater, London, 1869, fol. 2. 'Synopsis of the Cracidse,' with P. L. Sclater, London, 1870, 8vo. 3. 'Nomenclator Avium Neotropicalium,' with P. L. Sclater, London, 1873, 4to. 4. 'On the Procellariidae,' 'On the Birds collected in Antarctic America,' and ' On the Steganopodes and Impennes,' the last two with P. L. Sclater in 'Reports of the Scientific Results of the Challenger Expedition' ('Zoology,' vol. ii. 1881). 5. 'A Catalogue of the Collection of Birds formed by . . . H. E. Strickland,' Cambridge, 1882, 8vo. 6. 'Catalogue of the Picarife (Upupse and Trochili) in the . . . British Museum,' London, 1892, 8vo. 7. 'Catalogue of the . . . Tubinares in the. . .British Museum,' London, 1896, 8vo. He also contributed notes (1) 'On some Venezuelan Birds' to Spence's 'Land of Bolivar,' vol. ii. 1878; (2) 'On Collecting and Preserving Reptiles and Fish' to the Royal Geographical Society's 'Hints to Travellers,' 6th edit, 1889, and 7th edit. 1893; descriptions of Lepidoptera Rhopalocera to (3) Jameson's 'Story of the Rear Column' (1890), and (4) Whymper's 'Travels among the Great Andes of the Equator' (1891). He completed Lord Lilford's 'Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands,' 7 vols. 1885-97 [see Powis, Thomas Littleton, Suppl.] He was one of the originators of the 'Ibis,' of which he edited series iii. and iv. 1871-82, and compiled an index to series i-iii. (1879); and for the Willoughby Society he edited 'Sir A. Smith's Miscellaneous Ornithological Papers,' 1880, and 'Leach's Systematic Catalogue of the Specimens of the indigenous Mammalia and Birds in the British Museum,' 1882. He was also author, or joint author with Mr. Godman or Mr. Sclater, of upwards of 120 papers on ornithology or the Lepidoptera Rhopalocera that appeared in various scientific journals or transactions of learned societies from 1856. He devised the simple method, now commonly adopted in museums, of constructing cabinets for natural history specimens whereby deep and shallow drawers are interchangeable.

[Proc. Royal Soc. vol. lxiv. p. xiii; private information; Nat. Hist. Mus. Cat.; Royal Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.