Arthur W. Putterill was trained as a blacksmith at Harrismith and practiced his trade there for many years. In the General directory of South Africa he was initially listed as blacksmith (1890/1), then as farmer and blacksmith (1903), and later as farrier and blacksmith (1908-1916). He taught himself to play the violin, and painted in oils. At some time he married Annie E. Surtees, with whom he had four children.
In about 1880 Putterill started collecting fossils from the sediments of the Karoo Supergroup in the neighbourhood of Harrismith, in his spare time. Later he met Dr E.C.N. van Hoepen, who had been appointed palaeontological assistant at the Transvaal Museum in 1910. Putterill sold a number of dinosaur, cynodont and Lystrosaurus fossils to the museum, particularly during 1911-1913, including a good skull of Ictidopsis elegans (now Thrinaxodon liorhinus). His two daughters, Loma Putterill and Marion Smith (born Putterill) were also keen to collect and sell fossils to the museum. In 1921 Dr van Hoepen moved to the National Museum in Bloemfontein, where he received more specimens from Putterill. Most of these belonged to various genera of the mammal-like reptiles. Included were many skulls and a few fairly complete skeletons of Lystrosaurus, and perhaps his most important finds, two well-preserved skulls of Chasmatosaurus vanhoepeni. Several species were named after him, including Lystrosaurus putterilli by Van Hoepen in 1915, and Lydekkerina putterilli and Thrinaxodon putterilli (now also T. liorhinus) by R. Broom* in 1932. His specimens are in the National Museum, Bloemfontein, the Transvaal Museum, and the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research in Johannesburg. At the age of 81 Putterill died in the field near Harrismith while collecting fossils.