Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 54, 1923
– xiv –

David Sharp, 1840–1922.

Dr. David Sharp, one of the most distinguished entomologists of the present time, died at his residence, Lawnside, Brockenhurst, England, on Sunday, the 27th August, 1922. He was born at Towcester, Northants, on the 15th October, 1840. He studied medicine, first at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and subsequently at Edinburgh, where, in 1866, he graduated as M.B. and C.M. In 1867 he was appointed to the Crichton Institution at Dumfries, but after 1883 he was enabled to discontinue active medical practice and devote himself entirely to scientific work. In 1890 he accepted the charge of the insect collections of the University Museum of Zoology at Cambridge. This curatorship he retained until 1909, when he built a house at Brockenhurst, overlooking the New Forest, whither he retired until the time of his death.

As is so frequently the case, his first attention was given to the Lepidoptera, but his energies were soon transferred to the Coleoptera, with which order his name will be inseparably associated in the future.

The magnitude of Dr. Sharp's entomological work may be realized when it is known that in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers and the Zoological Record there are entered no less than 257 papers written by him. In 1891 he became responsible editor of the Zoological Record.

– xv –

To him are due two excellent catalogues of the English Coleoptera, issued in 1871 and 1893, the latter in conjunction with the Rev. Canon Fowler. In the Scottish Naturalist he published (1871–79) an exhaustive annotated list of Coleoptera north of the border. His most important contribution to the Transactions of the Entomological Society of London was an essay, issued in 1912 (in conjunction with Mr. F. Muir), “On the Comparative Anatomy of the Male Genital Tube in Coleoptera.” His best book is the treatise on “Insects,” forming the greater part of two volumes of the Cambridge Natural History (1895–99). Of this it can safely be said that no work of equal value on general entomology has been produced in Britain since Westwood's Introduction, which appeared more than half a century before.

Dr. Sharp's extensive collection of Coleoptera from all parts of the world was, a few years before his death, acquired by the nation: the whole of his library was purchased by the Cawthron Institute, Nelson.

He joined the Entomological Society of London in 1862, and at the time of his death he was the senior surviving Fellow. He was Vice-President on four separate occasions, and President in 1887 and 1888. In 1890 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was honorary or corresponding member of most of the chief entomological societies throughout the world, and he specially valued his connection with the New Zealand Institute. Of this he was the oldest surviving honorary member, having been appointed in 1877, the date of the next oldest being as recent as 1890.

Dr. Sharp's influence on New Zealand entomology has been very great. From early in the “seventies” of last century until about the year 1888 he was in constant correspondence with that indefatigable collector the late Mr. R. Helms, of Greymouth, and as a result of the joint labours of these two naturalists some of our most conspicuous and remarkable beetles were first made known to science. Later on, the writer of this notice also had the privilege of corresponding with Dr. Sharp, and it was entirely due to his influence and encouragement that a paper appeared in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute for 1893 stressing the urgent necessity for the formation of extensive collections of New Zealand animals and plants (including, of course, insects) before the further advance of settlement had resulted in the extermination of many interesting species.

To Dr. Sharp's very early association with the great English philosopher Herbert Spencer may probably be ascribed his cautious and extremely logical mode of thought. Whilst keeping closely in touch, throughout his long life, with modern evolutionary doctrines, he never allowed himself to be unduly led away by enthusiasm. He always kept his great store of facts steadily in view when attempting to test the truth of theories supposed to explain the multifarious phenomena of insect-life.

G. V. Hudson.