Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Frederick Petterd (1849–1910)

This article was published:

William Frederick Petterd (1849-1910), scientist and boot importer, was born on 13 July 1849 at Hobart Town, son of William Frederick Petterd, poulterer, and his wife Sarah, née Andrew. He early showed an ardent interest in natural history and as a boy he was asked so often to identity specimens of conchology and entomology that he decided to make collection his profession. By 1870 his ability as a collecting naturalist was widely recognized. In 1873 he joined a scientific exploration to collect geological specimens in the Solomon Islands and in 1875 the Chevert expedition fitted out by W. J. Macleay to New Guinea. As a competent taxidermist he contributed many specimens to Macleay's collection. When the Chevert returned to Somerset Petterd was sick with fever and rheumatism, but he decided to join the party led by Octavius Stone, F.R.G.S., in an attempt to cross the peninsula of New Guinea from Port Moresby. Petterd found specimens of coleoptera and lepidoptera he had never seen before. The party returned to Cape York on 2 February 1876.

Petterd went to Hobart and worked in a boot shop. On 22 September 1877 according to the rites of the United Methodist Free Churches he married Harriet Rule. In 1880 they moved to Launceston and he opened his own boot and shoe business in Brisbane Street. He also started a rose garden and continued his horticultural experiments and other collections. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania on 12 July 1881 after reading to the society his 'Monograph on the Land Shells of Tasmania' in November 1878 and additions in March 1879. With E. J. Higgins, he prepared papers for the society on a new cave-inhabiting spider (1881), three new helices from Australia (1882) and many other shells in the 1880s. In the next decade he turned to the study of geology, on which he published over a dozen papers, most of them with W. H. Twelvetrees who named Petterdite, a new kind of oxychloride of lead. After 1900 he returned to conchology but continued to write on minerals. Altogether he published over fifty papers and was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society of New South Wales and a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London. In 1902 he was a vice-president of the geology and mineral section of the Hobart meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. He was then chairman of several mining companies and managing director of the Magnet Silver Mining Co.

Petterd had a first-rate laboratory at his home and an excellent library. Despite a retiring disposition he was a member of the Oddfellows Lodge for over thirty years. He had a huge circle of scientific friends and in conversation was intelligent and witty. An enthusiastic promoter of horticultural competitions, he did much to beautify gardens in Launceston. Meanwhile he continued to prosper as an importer of boots and shoes. Predeceased by his first wife, he died suddenly from heart failure at his home in Frankland Street, Launceston on 15 April 1910 and was given a large funeral. He was survived by his second wife Lucy, née Manning, whom he had married on 1 October 1890 at Launceston with Primitive Methodist rites. He left an estate of £11,542 bequeathing £400 to the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage, and the remainder to his wife and her two daughters. In 1893 he had revised his Census of Tasmanian Shells, and early in 1910 finished the revision of his Catalogue of the Minerals of Tasmania; listing some 330 species it was published after he died. His mineral collection, valued at £1212, was placed in charge of the Royal Society of Tasmania on loan for 999 years.

Select Bibliography

  • O. C. Stone, A Few Months in New Guinea (Lond, 1880)
  • Royal Society of Tasmania, Papers, 1910
  • Linnean Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, 6 (1911)
  • Age (Brisbane), 3 Mar 1876
  • Mercury (Hobart), 16 Apr 1910
  • Examiner (Launceston), 16 Apr 1910.

Citation details

'Petterd, William Frederick (1849–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024