Bather, Francis Arthur

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Bather, Francis Arthur

(b. Richmond, Surrey, England, 17 February 1863: d. Wimbledon, England, 20 March 1934)


Francis Arthur Bather, the son of Arthur H. and Lucy Bloomfield Bather, attended Winchester School and New College, Oxford, where he earned the bachelor of arts degree in 1886. Bather received the master of arts degree in 1890 and the doctor of science in 1900, both from Oxford. In 1887 he took a position as assistant geologist in the British Museum, and in 1924 he was promoted to keeper of the geology department. Bather enjoyed his curatorial duties and took great interest in museum administration, finding ways to improve exhibits, corresponding with other curators around the world, and visiting natural history museums on the Continent.

In addition to his curatorial work, Bather carried out research in paleontology and contributed many fundamental studies on echinoderm morphology. Among the echinoderms the Pelmatozoa were his specialty. In 1893 his Crinoidea of Gotland (part 1) was published by the Royal Swedish Academy. His The Echinoderma, one volume in E. R. Lankester’s Treatise of Zoology (1900), remained the leading exposition of echinoderm morphology for decades, with new discoveries fitting easily into the scheme that Bather established. Intensive study of fossil morphology did not hinder Bather’s appreciation of the environment and an animal’s place in it. The study of paleoecology interested him, and he particularly recommended this study to others. In such ways he brought biological concepts to bear on fossil studies. Although Bather began his museum work nearly thirty years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, the classification of echinoderms had been untouched by evolutionary ideas.

Bather retired from the British Museum in 1928. Among the many honors he received for his scientific contributions were the Rolleston Prize of Oxford and Cambridge (1892) and the Wollaston Fund (1897) and the Lyell Medal (1911) of the Geological Society of London. He also served as president of the Geological Society, the Museums Association, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science.


In addition to the works cited above, see Bather’s presidential address to the Geological Society, “Biological Classification: Past and Future,” in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. 83 (1927), lxii–civ. Besides his general views, the address contains a lucid historical review of classificatory schemes. Further biographical material is to be found in memoirs by W.D. Lang. in Nature133 (1934), 485–486; and Percy E. Raymond, in Proceedings of the Geological Society of America(June 1935), pp. 173–186. The latter contains a complete bibliography of Bather’s writings, compiled by Thomas H. Withers.

Bert Hansen