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Arthur Dendy (1865–1925)

by Brian J. Smith

This article was published:

Arthur Dendy (1865-1925), zoologist, was born on 20 January 1865 at Patricroft, Manchester, England, eighth child of John Dendy, silk manufacturer, and his wife Sarah, née Beard. After graduating in 1885 with an honours degree in zoology from Owens College, Victoria University, Manchester (M.Sc., 1887; D.Sc., 1891), Dendy joined the editorial staff compiling the reports of the Challenger including that on monaxonid sponges. He was then appointed to the staff of the British Museum, Natural History, to continue his work on sponges, including a collection from J. Bracebridge Wilson from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. In 1888, on the recommendation of Professor Baldwin Spencer, he was appointed demonstrator and assistant lecturer in biology at the University of Melbourne. On 5 December 1888 he married Ada Margaret Courtauld, who had followed him out from England; the ceremony was conducted by Rev. E. H. Sugden at Spencer's St Kilda home. The Dendys were to have three daughters and a son.

On arrival in Melbourne Dendy had joined the Royal Society of Victoria and the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria. He also joined the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, being secretary of Section D Biology for the Melbourne meeting in 1891, and section-president at Brisbane in 1895.

Dendy undertook the identification and description of the 'nearly two thousand specimens' of sponges dredged from around Port Phillip Heads by Bracebridge Wilson, as part of the Port Phillip Biological Survey begun by the Royal Society of Victoria in 1887. This work resulted in ten major papers on the anatomy and systematics of southern Australian sponges, in which he described eighty-seven new species. It laid the groundwork for his complete revision of the phylum Porifera, on which he became a world authority.

Dendy was the first scientist to carry out systematic research on the cryptic terrestrial invertebrate fauna of Victoria. The term cryptozoa was coined by him to describe the light-abhorring animals found under logs or stones in damp, dark situations. He described new taxa, and recorded new observations on Peripatus, land planarians and land nemerteans. Many of his papers are still standard works; this is especially true of his work on land planarians, on which he published sixteen papers and of which he erected seventy-nine new taxa.

In 1893 Dendy was appointed professor of biology at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand, in 1903 professor of biology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and in 1905 professor of zoology at King's College, London. He visited Melbourne again for the 1914 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Following an operation for chronic appendicitis, Dendy died on 24 March 1925 at King's College Hospital. Although he had spent only six years in Australia, during that time he had made significant contributions to the knowledge of Australian fauna. On that groundwork Dendy built his major contributions to zoological science.

Select Bibliography

  • H. McLachlan, Records of a Family 1800-1933 (Manchester, 1935)
  • Nature (London), 115 (1925)
  • Quekett Microscopical Club, Journal, Nov 1925
  • Victorian Naturalist, 42 (1925-26)
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 51 (1926), viii.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Brian J. Smith, 'Dendy, Arthur (1865–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 January, 1865
Manchester, Greater Manchester, England


24 March, 1925 (aged 60)
London, Middlesex, England

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