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Sloane, Thomas Gibson (1858–1932)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Thomas Gibson Sloane (1858-1932), grazier and entomologist, was born on 20 April 1858 at St Kilda, Melbourne, second son of Scottish parents Alexander Sloane (1829-1907) and his wife Annabella Helen, née Gibson. Alexander Sloane had arrived in Melbourne from Glasgow on 19 July 1849. After working for F. G. Dalgety and on the goldfields, he became a merchant, then a pastoralist at Mortlake. In the early 1860s he purchased Savernake and Mulwala stations near Corowa, New South Wales, and in 1863 set up the Mulwala merino stud.

Thomas, educated privately and at Scotch College, Melbourne, where he excelled as a scholar, went to Sydney to study business methods but, influenced by (Sir) William Macleay and his coterie, found natural history more to his liking. In 1880 he was a foundation member of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria and in 1881-82 published his first scientific notices on the Carenums of Mulwala. He joined the Linnean Society of New South Wales in 1887.

Sloane's speciality was the Carabidae and the Cicindelidae, the ground and tiger beetles. Encouraged by his lifelong friend J. J. Fletcher, and often accompanied by H. J. Carter, he collected widely throughout eastern Australia. An enthusiastic Darwinian, he studied the phylogeny and distribution of his two beetle groups and became the Australian and later a world authority on the Carabidae. He published over sixty papers, mainly in the Proceedings of the local Linnean Society, describing about 600 new species, mostly Carabidae including some specimens from New Guinea. His papers included a number of important keys and revisions; his 'Classification of the Carabidae' in the Transactions of the Entomological Society of London (1923) was widely acclaimed. To offset the effects of his isolation from European museums he had purchased the van der Poll collection of world caraboid beetles for £600. Sloane and A. M. Lea divided the honours between them in Coleopteral taxonomy and in giving unstinted help to the entomologists of their generation.

From 1888 Thomas managed Moorilla, Young, for Alexander Sloane & Sons. Here he kept accurate records, established his own registered merino stud flock on Mulwala blood in 1899 and won numerous prizes. On the dissolution of the partnership in 1910 he became owner of Moorilla. Robust, hard-working, unselfish and cheerful, he had a fund of yarns and was a good 'mixer' with bushfolk, whom he thoroughly understood. A retentive, though not a wide reader, he had a good library of Australian exploration, traveller-naturalists and early editions of Darwin's works.

Sloane died at Young on 20 October 1932 and was buried in the Anglican section of the local cemetery. Probate of his estate was sworn at £10,262. He was survived by his wife Eliza Scholastica, née Woolfrey, whom he had married on 28 October 1891 at Dubbo, and by two sons and four daughters.

Sloane had intended to retire to Canberra and pursue his studies, but the Depression delayed his plans. In November 1932 his widow gave his collection, described by R. J. Tillyard as 'the only extant collection of Australian Caraboidea ever put together by a specialist recognised the world over', to the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Although it had been neglected a little and damaged by dermestid beetles, the collection remains very important to Australian entomology. The Sloane and van der Poll collections are now part of the Australian National Insect Collection at the division of entomology, C.S.I.R.O., Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Musgrave, Bibliography of Australian Entomology 1775-1930 (Syd, 1932)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Nov 1907, 15 Nov 1914, 16 Nov 1932
  • New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association, Australian Stud Merino Flock Register, 8, 1929
  • Bulletin of Museum of Comparative Zoology (Harvard University), 126 (1962), p 324
  • Nature (London), 24 Dec 1932
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 58 (1933), p iii
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 6 May 1916
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Oct, 31 Dec 1932
  • records, division of entomology, CSIRO, Canberra.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Sloane, Thomas Gibson (1858–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sloane-thomas-gibson-8459/text14873, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 19 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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