S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Spencer, Dr William Kingdon (palaeontology)

Born: 10 December 1878, Barrow-upon-Soar, Leicestershire, United Kingdom.
Died: 1 October 1955, Ipswich, East Anglia, United Kingdom.

William Kingdon Spencer, educationist and authority on Palaeozoic starfishes, studied for a year at Owen's College, Manchester, and in 1898 obtained a scholarship to Magdalen College, University of Oxford, where he graduated with first class honours in zoology and geology in 1902. He spent half a year at the University of Marburg, Germany, before returning to Oxford with a post-graduate scholarship, acting as lecturer and demonstrator in geology, in addition to his research. In 1904, having been awarded a DSc degree, he became a lecturer in biology at the University College in Bangor, Wales, but soon joined the Board of Education as inspector of science in schools and training colleges, a position he held until his retirement in 1938. During these years and after his retirement he continued with palaeontological research.

Spencer published about 30 papers, mainly on fossil starfishes but including some contributions to arthropod research. His most important publications were a monograph on 'The evolution of the Cretaceous Asteroidea' [starfishes] (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1913) and A monograph of the British Palaeozoic Asterozoa [starfishes and brittle stars] (1913-1965, in 11 parts). In one of his earlier papers he described 'Archaster patersoni, n. sp. A new South African fossil starfish' in the Records of the Albany Museum (1915, Vol. 3(2), pp. 65-69).

Spencer was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1903 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1931. In 1904 he married Kate V.G. Stewart. After his retirement he settled in Nice, France, but after the death of his wife in 1940 moved to South Africa. For some time he was active in educational affairs in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Natal. In 1946 he married Joy Daisy Millard and settled in Cape Town, where he worked with the director of marine research and gave a short course of lectures at the University of Cape Town. In 1950 he published a note on a reputed Eurypterid [an order of extinct Arachnids] from the Bokkeveld Group of South Africa. After returning to Europe he worked on Ordovician starfishes at the University of Montpellier, France, until 1953. He was a tall, impressive figure with piercing grey eyes, but much beloved.

List of sources:

Google Scholar, at http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by W.K. Spencer.

Hawkins, H.L. Spencer, William Kingdon. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 1956, Vol. 2, pp. 291-298.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Records of the Albany Museum, 1915, Vol. 3(2), paper by Spencer.

Who was who, Vol. 5, 2nd ed. London: Adam & Black, 1964.

Compiled by: C. Plug