Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dudley Robert William Best (1844–1928)

by J. C. Le Souef

This article was published:

Dudley Robert William Best (1844-1928), naturalist, was born on 1 March 1844 at Needham Market, Suffolk, England, son of Alban Thomas Best, pharmacist, and his wife Frances Ann Hunsley, née Thomas. He arrived with his parents in Victoria in the Sibella in February 1850. After education at the Model School in Spring Street he joined the firm of Joske Bros, general importers and wine and spirit merchants. In 1886 the firm became known as Joske, Best & Co., with a trade in colonial and imported wines, spirits and ales. Best retired as senior partner in 1916, but for many years continued to visit the city two or three times a week. He was an active Freemason. In his last years he turned his attention to the growing of native plants in the garden of his home at East Kew.

From the age of 12 Best had collected insects, especially beetles, and his hobby continued through adulthood. His main interest was in the study of the Coleoptera, in particular the Longicornia. He made friends with others interested in natural history, and in the late 1870s a group of enthusiasts, including Best, Charles French and D. Kershaw, decided to form a natural history society. At a preliminary meeting on 6 May 1880, Best was appointed honorary secretary and on 12 May the decision was taken to form the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria. He continued as honorary secretary for four years until pressure of business forced him to relinquish the post. For the next twelve years he remained on the committee, serving at one time as treasurer and vice-president (1891-93), but refusing the office of president. In February 1923 he was made an honorary life member.

A tall, bearded bachelor, Best attended several camp-outs and sometimes joined others on collecting trips but, being a reserved man, he mostly preferred to work alone. He obtained many specimens by breeding the beetle larvae in special cages at home. Three species were named after him, including Morphnos bestii (Carabidae) from the Grampians; these formed part of his collection which he bequeathed to the National Museum of Victoria. Best also contributed papers to the Southern Science Record and the Victorian Naturalist, some dealing with Coleoptera and others describing excursions to various parts of Victoria. Several of these papers were written in collaboration with his lifelong friend Charles French.

Best collapsed and died in his garden on 10 June 1928 and was buried in the Melbourne general cemetery. He left an estate valued for probate at £45,998.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • Victorian Naturalist, 45 (1928-29)
  • Age (Melbourne), 12 June 1928.

Citation details

J. C. Le Souef, 'Best, Dudley Robert William (1844–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 March, 1844
Needham Market, Suffolk, England


10 June, 1928 (aged 84)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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