Francis Walker (1809-1874)

Francis Walker

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Francis Walker (July 31, 1809 - October 5, 1874) was an English entomologist. He was one of the most prolific authors in entomology, and stirred controversy during his later life as his publications resulted in a huge number of junior synonyms.
Walker was employed by the British Museum between 1837 and 1863. He was born in Southgate, England on 1 July 1809 and died at Wanstead, England October 5, 1874. Walker added an immense amount of material to the collections of the British Museum and wrote 87 scientific papers. He is best known for his catalogues of Orthoptera, Neuroptera, Homoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera. Collaborating with Alexander Henry Haliday, a life-long friend, he was one of the first students of the Chalcidoidea. He was also a close friend of John Curtis. Walker was a Fellow of the Entomological Society and was elected an Honorary Member of the California Academy of Sciences in 1883. Walker's specimens are in the Natural History Museum, London, Hope Department of Entomology , University of Oxford, The National Museum of Ireland, Dublin Zoologische Staatssammlung München and the School of Medicine, Cairo, Egypt.
Francis Walker was born in Southgate, England on 1 July 1809 and died at Wanstead, England October 5 1874. Walker was employed by the BMNH as a curator between 1844 and 1873. He described almost 20,000 new insect species, but, unfortunately, he was, sometimes a careless taxonomist, often describing the same species more than once under different specific names. The British Museum paid him 1 shilling for each new species and 1 pound for each new genus. He is best known for his catalogues of Orthoptera, Neuroptera, Homoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera. Upon his death one (anonymous) obituary read: “More than twenty years too late for his scientific reputation, and after having done an amount of injury to entomology almost inconceivable in its immensity, Francis Walker has passed from among us.” Walker described 222 Cicadellinae species of which 138 are considered valid. Despite his generally poor taxonomic reputation, Carvalho & Webb (2005) describe in detail the labelling of Walker specimens, which has generally led to confident selection of type specimens of the species he described.

Walker is notable in the present time for the large number of synonymous taxa he described. A careless taxonomist by today's standards, he often gave more than one name to the same species. In this respect, however, he was no worse than many entomologists of that time; what makes for the more common occurrence of Walker's taxa in synonymy is the sheer volume of this scientist's work.
An unsigned obituary [by J. T. Carrington] in the Entomologist's Monthly Magazine (1874, 11: 140–141) began 'More than twenty years too late for his scientific reputation, and after having done an amount of injury almost inconceivable in its immensity, Francis Walker has passed from among us', Edward Newman (1874, Entomologist, 7: 260–264), in contrast described him as the 'most voluminous and most industrious writer on Entomology this country has ever produced' and said of him 'I never met anyone who possessed more correct, more diversified, or more general information, or who imparted that information to others with greater readiness and kindness'.
Kenneth G.V. Smith (Smith, K. G. V. 1987. Darwin's insects: Charles Darwin's entomological notes, with an introduction and comments by Kenneth G. V. Smith. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series. Vol. 14(1): 1-143) says this '[h]is Catalogues of Insects in the British Museum Collections' will always stand as a tribute to his industry. Walker (1836) also described the Diptera from Captain P. P. King's collection made on the first surveying voyage of Adventure and Beagle.Fortunately, many of his descriptions of Darwin's insects will endure because they were of little known groups from little worked regions and most of his types are still in the British Museum (Natural History). For a recent balanced account of this remarkable man see Graham, M. W. R. de V. 1979. "Ambulator": Francis Walker, English Entomologist (1809–1874). Entomologist's Gazette 30: 7–20.

ANT TAXONOMY
PUBLICATIONS

Walker, F. 1859.  Characters of some apparently undescribed Ceylon insects. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 3(4): 370-376

Walker, F. 1860.  Characters of some apparently undescribed Ceylon insects. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 3(5): 304-311

Walker, F. 1871.  A list of Hymenoptera collected by J. K. Lord, Esq. in Egypt, in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, and in Arabia, with descriptions of the new species. London: E. W. Janson, vi + 59 pp.

REFERENCE

Graham, M.R. de Vere 1979. Entomologist's Gazette 30: 7-20, portrait.

Bolton B, Alpert G, Ward PS, Naskrecki P. 2007. [CD-ROM] Bolton's Catalogue of the Ants of the World. Harvard University Press.