S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Chapman, Mr Frederick (palaeontology, geology)

Born: 14 February 1864, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 10 December 1943, Melbourne, Australia.

Frederick Chapman, British and Australian palaeontologist, was the son of Robert Chapman, a surgical instrument maker, and his wife Eleanor Dinsey. He received his school education in Chelsea, London, and after further private study became an assistant to Professor J.W. Judd in the Department of Geology, Royal College of Science, London, in 1881. There he later qualified as a teacher of geology and physiography. Encouraged by Judd and his mentor, T.R. Jones* he studied the Foraminifera - an order of unicellular microscopic organisms with a perforated shell through which protrusions of protoplasm emerge. Eventually he became a world authority on both the living and fossil members of this group. On 12 August 1890 he married Helen M. Dancer, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

In 1902 Chapman was appointed as the first palaeontologist of the National Museum of the State Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. He subsequently published various papers on the plants, sponges, corals, molluscs, fishes, and other specimens in the museum's collections. However, his main activity was to examine microscopic fossils from all over the world. In addition to several books he published over 400 scientific papers and popular articles on geology, palaeontology and zoology, including many on the Foraminifera of Australia, New Zealand, California and Antarctica. His most important book was The Foraminifera: An introduction to the study of the protozoa (London, 1902, 354p).

Chapman published several papers on South African rocks and fossils in both overseas and South African journals: "Notes on the Olifant Klip from Natal, the Transvaal, and Lydenburg" (Geological Magazine, 1901); "Foraminifera and Ostracoda from the Cretaceous of East Pondoland, South Africa" (Annals of the South African Museum, 1904, Vol. 4(5), 17p); "Report of Pleistocene Microzoa from a boring in the bed of the Buffalo River, East London" (Records of the Albany Museum, 1907, Vol. 2(1), 12p); "Foraminifera and Ostracoda from the Upper Cretaceous of Needs Camp, Buffalo River, Cape Province" (Annals of the South African Museum, 1917, Vol. 12(4), 12p); "On some Foraminifera and Ostracoda from the Cretaceous of Umzamba River, Pondoland" (Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1923, Vol. 26, pp. 1-6); and "On a Foraminiferal limestone of Upper Eocene age from the Alexandria Formation, South Africa" (Annals of the South African Museum, 1930, Vol. 28(2), 6p).

Chapman was a Fellow of the Geological Sociciety of London, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1892 (and an honorary Fellow in 1929), and became an associate of the Linnean Society in 1896. From 1919 to 1920 he served as president of the Microscopic Society of Victoria and from 1929 to 1930 as president of the Royal Society of Victoria. During 1920-1932 he was a part-time lecturer in palaeontology at the University of Melbourne, and from 1920 was a member of the International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature.

He retired from his museum position in 1927 and accepted an appointment as the first Commonwealth palaeontologist in Australia, a position he held until 1935. During these years he was mainly involved in the examination of micro-fossils in connection with the search for oil. After his second retirement he became honorary palaeontologist to the National Museum in Melbourne and to the Geological Survey of Victoria. He was an expert photographer and artist; a quiet and patient person with a gentlemanly manner and a willingness to help others.

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

Hall, A.L. A bibliography of South African geology.... Pretoria. Geological Survey, Memoirs No. 18 (1922), 25 (1927) and 27 (1931).

Australian dictionary of biography. Melbourne University Press, 1966-1991.

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

Records of the Albany Museum, 1907, Vol. 2.

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

Who was who, Vol. 4, 3rd ed. London: Adam & Black, 1964.

Compiled by: C. Plug