S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Raffray, Mr Achille (entomology)

Born: 1844, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

Achille Raffray, French entomologist and Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honnour) visited Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and East Africa in 1875. He described Ethiopia and his travels there in several publications: A book, Abyssiniie (Paris, 1876), a paper to the French Geographical Society (1882), a paper on the country's architecture (1882), and several papers describing insect species from Ethiopia and Zanzibar (1877-1882). He next undertook a journey to New Guinea, which was described in the booklet Voyage en Nouvelle-Guinee, 1876-1877 in 1879, and led to a paper with descriptions of new insect species from that country (1878).

In his entomological studies Raffray focussed on the Coleoptera, and gave particular attention to the families Pselaphidae (small beetles, primarily tropical) and Paussidae (ants' nest beetles). Most of his more than 40 papers published up to 1900 dealt with the Pselaphidae, including descriptions of those collected by E. Simon in the Phillipines, Sumatra, Ceylon, and other regions. His Matériaux pour servir à l'étude des coléoptères de la famille des paussides (Material for a study of Coleoptera of the family Paussidae, 2 vols) was published in Paris in 1887, and his Etude sur les psélaphides (Study of the Pselaphidae) in Caen in 1890. In later years he published an extensive account of "Australian Pselaphidae" in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales (1900, 118p), and a 487 page monograph (in French) on the family Pselaphidae (Brussels, 1908).

Raffray resided in Cape Town for some years from about 1894 and in 1903 was listed as consul-general for France. He became a member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1895. The first paper he presented to the society, "Occurrence of blind insects in South Africa", appeared in its Transactions (Vol. 9, pp. 20-23) for 1895-1897. This was followed by a substantial contribution to Dr L.A. Péringuey's* "Descriptive catalogue of the coleoptera of South Africa", dealing with the family Pselaphidae (Transactions, 1897-1898, Vol. 10, pp. 43-130; Supplement pp. 381-418). He described new species of South African Pselaphidae in the Annals of the South African Museum (Vol. 2, Part 5) in 1901. Around this time he furthermore described eleven new species belonging to no less than six new genera of coleoptera living in ant and termite nests, in two papers in French journals (1898, 1899). He also found a new arachnid in an ants' nest on the Cape Peninsula, which was described by E. Simon in 1899.

Meanwhile Raffray had presented his first insects to the South African Museum in 1894, mainly Pselaphidae from the neighbourhood of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. A further collection followed in 1897, including nearly all the South African species of this family that he had described. Péringuey, in his annual report on the museum's Department of Entomology, reported that Raffray had found several species of insects which were closely related to similar ones occurring in the Canary Islands. He explained this by pointing out that the minute species of insects had not yet been collected in the rest of Africa, but would most probably be found to be widely distributed. Raffray donated a further 60 specimens of coleoptera in 1898, representing 13 species of which 12 species were new to the museum.

Between 1910 and 1914, long after he had left South Africa, Raffray contributed three further short papers to the Annals of the South African Museum in which he described more new species of South African Pselaphidae. He was elected an honorary member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1905, and an honorary Fellow of its successor, the Royal Society of South Africa, in 1908. In 1907 he was living in Rome, and by 1917 at Curepipe, Mauritius.

List of sources:
Annals of the South African Museum. List of papers published in Volumes I-XXX. Cape Town: South African Museum, 1938.

Cape of Good Hope. Report of the Trustees of the South African Museum, 1897, 1898.

General directory of South Africa, 1903.

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

Robertson, H.G. Collectors of insects and arachnids in Africa. http://www.museum.org.za/bio/people/.

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

Royal Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1908-1910, Vol. 1 and 1917, Vol. 6: Lists of Fellows and members.

South African Philosophical Society. Transactions, 1895-1907, Vol. 9, 10, 16, 17: Papers by Raffray and lists of members.

Summaries of some recent botanical and zoological papers referring to South Africa. Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society, 1902, Vol. 11(4), pp. 383-418.

Compiled by: C. Plug