BENNETT, George (1804-1893)


BENNETT, George (1804-1893)
naturalist
was born at Plymouth, England, on 31 January 1804. On leaving school he visited Ceylon in 1819, and on his return studied for the medical profession. He obtained the degree of M.R.C.S. in 1828, and later F.R.C.S. After qualifying as a medical man he obtained employment as a ship's surgeon, and visited Sydney in 1829. In 1832 his friend (Sir) Richard Owen was engaged in examining the structure and relations of the mammary glands of the Ornithorhyncus, and Bennett became so interested that on leaving England shortly afterwards for Australia he determined while in that country to find a solution of the question. (Transactions of the Zoological Society, vol. I, 1835, p. 222). In May 1832 he left Plymouth on a voyage which terminated almost exactly two years later. An account of this appeared in 1834 in two volumes under the title Wanderings in New South Wales, Batavia, Pedir Coast, Singapore. and China. In 1835 Bennett published in the Transactions of the Zoological Society of London, vol. I, pp. 229-58, "Notes on the Natural History and Habits of the Ornithorhyncus paradoxus, Blum", one of the earliest papers of importance written on the platypus. Bennett again went to Australia in 1836 and established a successful practice as a physician at Sydney. He, however, kept up his general interest in science, and acted as honorary secretary of the Australian Museum which had just been established. He compiled A Catalogue of the Specimens of Natural History and Miscellaneous Curiosities deposited in the Australian Museum which was published in 1837. In 1860 he brought out his Gatherings of a Naturalist in Australasia. He kept up a correspondence with his early friend Sir Richard Owen, to whom he had sent the first specimens of the Nautilus to arrive in England, and with Darwin and other scientists of the time. He was much interested in the Sydney botanic gardens and the Acclimatization Society, and was a vice-president of the Zoological Society, and a member of the board of the Australian Museum. He died at Sydney in his ninetieth year on 29 September 1893. He was married three times and left a widow and three sons. In addition to the works mentioned Bennett contributed papers to the Lancet, the Medical Gazette, the Journal of Botany, Loudon's Magazine of Natural History, and other journals. The variety of his interests may be suggested by the fact that he published in 1871 papers on "A Trip to Queensland in Search of Fossils" and on "The Introduction, Cultivation and Economic Uses of the Orange and Others of the Citron Tribe". When 84 years of age he contributed the chapter on "Mammals" to the Handbook of Sydney, prepared for the Sydney meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science held in 1888. In 1890 the Royal Society of New South Wales awarded Bennett the Clarke memorial medal for his valuable contributions to the natural history of Australia.
Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. VIII, 1893, p. 542; The Journal of Botany, vol. XXXII, 1894, p. 191; The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 1893; J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates, p. 233.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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