The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 724/Obituary of William Doherty

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Obituary of William Doherty  (1901) 
by Oliver Erichson Janson

Published in The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 5, issue 724, October 1901, p. 386–387


William Doherty.

William Doherty, the well-known zoological collector and traveller, died at Nairobi, East Africa, on May 25th. He was of Irish descent, born, I believe, at Mount Auburn, Cincinnati, U.S.A., where his parents now reside. He appears to have first gained notoriety as a collector in India about 1886, and made several expeditions on behalf of the authorities of the Calcutta Museum.

In 1888 he travelled through South-east Borneo, and the results of this journey were the first collections he sent to England. The following year he visited the more unexplored parts of South Assam, Manipur, and the Ruby Mines district of Burma, sending to this country extensive collections from these localities; thence he worked down through the Malay Peninsula, and on to Sumatra, returning to Calcutta in 1891.

Early in 1892 he started on a more extended expedition through the Malay Archipelago, visiting Alor, Solor, Sumba, Adonara, Burn, Amboyna, Sumbawa, Timor, Batchian, Sanguir, Talaut (where he discovered a remarkable black species of the genus Ornithopera, named after him), Ternate, Wetter, Gilolo, Tenimber, and other islands, forming most extensive and valuable collections. He finally proceeded to Humboldt Bay, New Guinea; and, although this was a most unhealthy place, and he and his trained collectors were constantly suffering from attacks of fever, the richness of the fauna, and the many new discoveries he was making, induced him to prolong his stay, until they were all attacked with "berri-berri," to which they nearly succumbed. Leaving there towards the end of 1893, he found it necessary to return to his home in Cincinnati, where the state of his health compelled him to remain inactive for nearly two years.

In November, 1895, he was in London, on his way again to the East to explore some of the islands he had not before visited. On this journey he finally proceeded to Manilla, at the commencement of hostilities between the Governments of the United States and Spain; and afterwards, when in London, related to the writer how, while apparently collecting objects of natural history there, he prepared plans of the harbour and defences, making tracings of them upon articles of clothing, which he succeeded in bringing out with him, and delivering to Admiral Dewey at Hong-Kong, and which he asserted enabled the American fleet to so easily enter and capture the place.

After this he returned to America, but early last year was again in London, arranging an expedition to East Africa and Madagascar; and, although evidently in very bad health, he left in March for Mombasa. From here he worked along the line of the Uganda Railway into the interior, making valuable collections in the neighbourhood of Lake Naivasha and other parts. In the last consignment received from him were a fine series of the remarkable, and hitherto unique, Papilio rex, and also the Danais formosa, of which it is so extraordinary a mimic. Doherty was probably the most successful and extensive collector of birds and insects since the days of Bates and Wallace.

He wrote some papers on the butterflies of some of the localities he visited, which have been published in the 'Journal' of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. He also paid much attention to land-shells, and discovered many new species.

His age is not known to the writer, but was probably about forty-five.

O. E. J.[1]

  1. Oliver E. Janson

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1925, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 97 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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