Saturday, November 28, 2015

George Masters

The photo above and the text by Roslyn Jehne are taken from the University of Sydney website, and the text is only presented here in part. The three Western Ground Parrots in the Australian Museum collection were obtained by George Masters on two separate trips to Western Australia. 

Below the text is the authorization document for the second trip,1868. The document is held by the Australian Museum.

The Macleay Museum owes a great deal of its natural history collection to the enthusiasm of one man: prolific collector George Masters. Roslyn Jehne takes a look at the English gardener who became a fearless Aussie forager.

Naturalist and entomologist George Masters was born in Kent, England in July 1837. He first became interested in natural history while employed as a gardener. Migrating to Melbourne around 1856 or 1857, he was employed first looking after an entomological collection and then spent some time in Tasmania collecting insects for himself.

Masters arrived in Sydney about 1859 or 1860, continuing with his entomology collection in his spare time. While identifying insects at the Australian Museum, he found errors, which he pointed out to the curator Gerard Kreftt. Fate intervened in Masters’ life when he was introduced to William John Macleay (1820–91), Australian Museum Trustee, wealthy pastoralist, collector and politician and beneficiary of the so-called Macleayan Museum, including the famous insect cabinets of the Macleay family. Macleay employed Masters to collect for him in Port Denison in Queensland.

After returning from his trip in July 1862, Masters began collecting and exhibiting in earnest. Also a fine marksman and taxidermist, he collected a variety of bird skins. He was a robust man, who enjoyed the country sports of ‘huntin’, ‘shootin’ and ‘fishin’. Undaunted by the heat of the Australian climate, his personality well suited life as a collector. It was said of him that he was “a splendid shot, fearless in the bush with natives and frequently caught reptiles, including venomous snakes in his bare hands”.

From 1864 to 1874 he worked as Assistant Curator to Kreftt at the Australian Museum, making extensive collecting trips throughout Australia, including NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. He also provided Macleay with specimens for his private museum. A prolific collector, Masters was responsible at one time for acquiring a considerable section of the Australian Museum’s collection.  

This authorization document is copyright Australian Museum.

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