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Gerard Krefft

Gerard Krefft

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Johann Ludwig Gerard Krefft (17 February 1830 – 19 February 1881), one of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

's first and greatest zoologists
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 and palaeontologists
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

. In addition to many scientific papers, his books include The Snakes of Australia, A Catalogue of the Minerals and Rocks in the Australian Museum and A Short Guide to the Australian Fossil Remains in the Australian Museum. He published the scientific description of the Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

Lungfish are freshwater fish belonging to the Subclass Dipnoi. Lungfish are best known for retaining characteristics primitive within the Osteichthyes, including the ability to breathe air, and structures primitive within Sarcopterygii, including the presence of lobed fins with a well-developed...

, a fascinating "living fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...


Krefft was born in the Duchy of Brunswick
Duchy of Brunswick
Brunswick was a historical state in Germany. Originally the territory of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in the Holy Roman Empire, it was established as an independent duchy by the Congress of Vienna in 1815...

 (now part of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

) the son of William Krefft, confectioner, and his wife Johanna, née Buschhoff. He was educated at St Martin's College, Brunswick
Braunschweig , is a city of 247,400 people, located in the federal-state of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker river, which connects to the North Sea via the rivers Aller and Weser....

, and as a youth was interested in art and wished to study painting. He was, however, placed in a mercantile house and about 1850 emigrated to New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. Krefft arrived in Australia in November 1852 and worked in the Victorian goldfields for some years before joining William Blandowski
William Blandowski
Wilhelm Blandowski born Johan Wilhelm Theodor Ludwig von Blandowski January 21, 1822 died December 18, 1878, a German zoologist and mining engineer, was born in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia ....

's explorations
Blandowski Expedition
The Blandowski Expedition was a scientific expedition that travelled from Melbourne to the area of the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers in north-western Victoria, and south-western New South Wales, Australia, to study the natural history of the region and to acquire specimens for the...

 on the Murray River
Murray River
The Murray River is Australia's longest river. At in length, the Murray rises in the Australian Alps, draining the western side of Australia's highest mountains and, for most of its length, meanders across Australia's inland plains, forming the border between New South Wales and Victoria as it...

 and Darling River
Darling River
The Darling River is the third longest river in Australia, measuring from its source in northern New South Wales to its confluence with the Murray River at Wentworth, New South Wales. Including its longest contiguous tributaries it is long, making it the longest river system in Australia.The...


Krefft visited Germany in 1858 following the death of his father. Krefft arrived in Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 in 1860 and was appointed Assistant Curator of the Australian Museum
Australian Museum
The Australian Museum is the oldest museum in Australia, with an international reputation in the fields of natural history and anthropology. It features collections of vertebrate and invertebrate zoology, as well as mineralogy, palaeontology, and anthropology...

 on the recommendation of Governor Sir William Denison
William Denison
Sir William Thomas Denison, KCB was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land from 1847 to 1855, Governor of New South Wales from 20 January 1855 to 22 January 1861, and Governor of Madras from 1861 to 1866....

. In 1864 he was appointed Director. In 1864 he published a Catalogue of Mammalia in the Collection of the Australian Museum, and in 1865, as a pamphlet, Two Papers on the Vertebrata of the Lower Murray and Darling and on the Snakes of Sydney. These papers had been read before the Philosophical Society of New South Wales and, though the title did not show it, a third paper on the Aborigines of the Lower Murray and Darling was included in the publication. In 1869 Krefft brought out The Snakes of Australia and in 1871 The Mammals of Australi, both with plates. His Catalogue of the Minerals and Rocks in the Collection of the Australian Museum was published in 1873.

Krefft was fired in 1874. He was carried in his chair to the door of the Museum and thrown into the street. He had fallen foul of the Trustees, William John Macleay
William John Macleay
Sir William John Macleay . was an Australian politician, zoologist and naturalist.-Early life:Macleay was born at Wick, Caithness, Scotland, second son of Kenneth Macleay of Keiss and his wife Barbara, née Horne...

 in particular, because he accused them of using the museums resources to augment private collections. They responded by accusing him of drunkenness, falsifying attendance records and even allowing the sale of dirty postcards. He subsequently brought an action against one of the trustees and obtained a verdict for £250. The judge held that Krefft was a superior officer under government, and that no one had power to remove him but the governor with the advice of the executive council. Subsequently parliament passed a vote of £1000 to be applied in satisfaction of Krefft's claims. In 1877 he began the publication of Krefft's Nature in Australia, a popular journal for the discussion of questions of natural history, but it quickly ceased publication. Krefft died on 19 February 1881 from congestion of the lungs, he was buried in the churchyard of St Jude's Church of England, Randwick
Randwick, New South Wales
Randwick is a suburb in south-eastern Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Randwick is located 6 kilometres south-east of the Sydney central business district and is the administrative centre for the local government area of the City of Randwick...

. He was survived by his wife Annie, née McPhail, whom he had married on 6 February 1869, and two sons.

Krefft was a member of many scientific societies, and contributed papers to the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London and other scientific and popular journals. Some of these were printed separately as pamphlets.

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