S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science




Moseley, Prof Henry Nottidge (invertebrate zoology, botany)

Born: 14 November 1844, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 10 November 1891, Parkstone, Dorset, United Kingdom.

Henry Nottidge Moseley, British anatomist and naturalist, was the son of Rev. Henry Mosely, a mathematician, and was educated at Harrow School. He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, from 1864 and qualified as Master of Arts (MA) in the natural sciences in 1868. He continued his studies in Vienna on a fellowship, then entered University College, London, as a medical student, and in 1871 went to Leipzig, Germany, where he studied physiology under Professor Carl Ludwig. His main interest was in zoology, however, and that same year he published the first of over 60 papers. These dealt mainly with the anatomy of marine invertebrates, though some reported his studies of plants. Late in 1871 he was invited by the British government to join an eclipse expedition to Ceylon, during which he made spectroscopic observations. He also collected natural history specimens, including land planarians (flatworms of the class Turbellaria), on which he delivered an important and comprehensive account to the Royal Society of London, entitled "On the anatomy and histology of the land planarians of Ceylon" (1874).

In 1872 Moseley was appointed as one of the six naturalists of the Challenger expedition around the world, under the chief scientist C. Wyville Thomson*. Sailing from Portsmouth on 21 December 1872 the expedition visited the West Indies, Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil and Tristan da Cunha, before anchoring in Simon's Bay from 28 October to 17 December 1873. He collected many zoological specimens at the Cape, paying particular attention to the life history of Peripatus, a group of worm-like terrestrial arthropods which he collected at Wynberg. He also collected plants, and climbed Table Mountain.

After returning to England in May 1876 Moseley spent most of the next three years at Oxford working on his specimens and observations. Some of the resulting papers dealt with plants on islands in the oceans surrounding South Africa. For example, his "Notes on plants collected in the islands of the Tristan d'Acunha group" were published in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) in 1874. The next year a paper by him, "On the botany of Marion Island, Kerguelen's Land and Yong Island of the Heard Group" appeared in the same journal, followed by a description, by G. Dickie, of marine algae collected by Moseley in 40 fathoms at Marion Island (1877). Other papers by him dealt with the corals and other marine invertebrates collected by the Challenger expedition. He also published a popular account of the expedition, Notes by a naturalist on the "Challlenger" (London, 1879).

In 1877 Moseley was commissioned to go to the United States to investigate certain regions there and the next year published a book, Oregon; its resources, climate, people, and productions. In 1881 he was appointed professor of anatomy (human and comparative) at Merton College, University of Oxford, and in that position was instrumental in acquiring the Pitt-Rivers collection of anthropological objects for the university. Meanwhile he had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1877), the Zoological Society of London (1879), the Linnean Society (1880) and the Royal Geographical Society (1881). He served on the councils of the Royal Society, Zoological Society, and Anthropological Institute, and in 1887 was awarded the royal medal of the Royal Society. That year his health began to fail and he died four years later at the age of 47. In 1881 he married Amabel Gwyn Moseley, born Jeffries, the daughter of the noted conchologist J. Gwyn Jeffries. They had two sons and three daughters.

Mosely was responsible for several important advances in zoological knowledge. His memoir on Peripatus (written during the voyage of Challenger and published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1874) contained much new information and his discovery of a system of tracheal vessels in these animals helped to establish their position in the animal kingdom and furnished a new clue to the origin of the trachea. He also made important studies of live corals, and discovered the eyes on the shells of several species of chiton. The Peripatus species Peripatopsis moseleyi was named after him.


List of sources:
Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Memoir of Henry Nottidge Moseley. Retrieved from http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/sma/index.php/primary-documents/primary-documents-index/391-moseley-memoir.html on 2018-11-27.

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

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Siegfried, W.R., Forbes, P.F. & Condy, P.R. Scientific research at the Prince Edward Islands, 1847-1979: A bibliography. South African Journal of Antarctic Research, 1979, Vol. 9, pp. 35-41.


Compiled by: C. Plug


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