Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Obituary - editorial
Died 16 February, 1946.
Mr James Andrew Kershaw, FRES, CMZS, has been known in Australian natural history for more than half a century. It it difficult to say at this stage which of his several important fields of activity will be most - vividly remembered, for he gave distinguished service to them all.
Mr Kershaw was a field zoologist of the older school when it was possible for one man to undertake many lines of inquiry and make significant contributions to each — the days before the specialist. Thus his contributions to the natural history of Victoria encompassed such widely varying fields as butterflies, shellfish, and the breeding of the platypus. For almost half a century he was a member of the staff of the National Museum, Melbourne, of which he was Director in succession to Sir Baldwin Spencer from 1929 to his retirement in 1931. Also, he played a leading part in the activities and management of the various learned societies concerned with natural history; and he was one of the prime movers in the reservation of Wilson’s Promontory as a National Park, and was secretary of the trustees of the park from its inception in 1908 until his death.
It might almost have been said that Mr. Kershaw was born into natural history and the Museum service - his father, William Kershaw, became Zoologist to the Museum in 1856, two years after its foundation, and served it under Sir Frederick McCoy for 35 years. The son, James, joined his father on the staff as museum assistant in 1883, at the age of 17 years, after an education at the Alma Road State School and the long since defunct East St. Kilda Grammar School. His early training was in entomology, but later he gained a wide technical training in general zoology and in museum administration. In 1891 he succeeded his father as Curator of the Zoological Section, and on the death of Sir Frederick McCoy in 1899 he was appointed Curator of the Museum, a post he held until, on the resignation of Sir Baldwin Spencer, he was appointed Director.
As a mark of esteem, on his retirement from the service in April, 1931, he was appointed an Honorary Scientific Worker in Zoology, and, far from regarding this as a token appointment, he worked steadily on zoological problems up to the day of his sudden death. He was engaged upon a reclassification of his own and the museum's collection of mollusca, and was also preparing a catalogue of the fishes of Australia.
Outside the Museum, Mr. Kershaw fostered a love of nature in the community by every means available to him. As early as 1883 he had attended meetings of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria, and he became a member in March, 1888. For more than 30 years he was a member of the committee, and served as honorary secretary from 1901 to 1903, and again from 1906 to 1908; he was president in 1913-15 and again in 1931-33. Becoming a member of the Royal Society of Victoria in 1900, he was elected to the council in 1902, and was president in 1918-19. He acted as honorary secretary from 1920 to 1923, and had been a trustee of the society’s property since 1922.
He was also prominent in the early affairs of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, and took part in the famous Bass Strait Islands expedition of the union in 1908. His other travels in search of biological information and zoological material took him to Queensland ffor five months with the late Dr. MacGillivray, and to Ooldea, Central Australia, as well as to most of the re- mote parts of his native State, Victoria. His various descriptive papers will be found in the Victorian Naturalist, the Emu, and the Memoirs of the National Museum, Melbourne.
Mr. Kershaw was a helpful, kindly man to all who displayed a serious interest in the subjects to which he devoted his life and, withal, a gifted and successful administrator. He married, in 1886, Miss Elsie Charlotte Brown, who died some years ago. He leaves three sons, to whom our sympathy is extended.
Source: Extracted from: WILD LIFE April 1946 p.133
Portrait Photo: Extracted from: WILD LIFE April 1946 p.133.
Data from 68 specimens