George Edward Dobson

Dobson, George Edward (1848–1895), zoologist, was born on 4 September 1848 at Edgeworthstown, co. Longford, the son of Parke Dobson of Killinagh in co. Westmeath. He was educated at the Royal School of Enniskillen and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated BA in 1866, MB and MCh in 1867, and MA in 1875. He was first senior moderator and first gold medallist in experimental and natural science, and was also awarded the gold medal of the Dublin Pathological Society for his ‘Essay on the diagnosis and pathology of the injuries and diseases of the shoulder-joint’. He entered the army medical department in 1868, and retired in 1888 with the rank of surgeon-major. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 16 April 1874 and of the Royal Society on 7 June 1883. He was also a fellow of the Zoological Society and a corresponding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and of the Biological Society of Washington.

Dobson will be remembered chiefly for his investigation over a period of twenty years into the structure and classification of two groups of mammals, the Chiroptera and Insectivora, on both of which he became the chief authority of his time. While stationed in India (c.1868–c.1875) he made a careful study of the bats of that country and published papers on the subject in the Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, the Proceedings of the Zoological Society, and the Annals and Magazine of Natural History. In 1876 the trustees of the Indian Museum brought out his Monograph of the Asiatic Chiroptera, which led, on his return to England, to his being employed by the trustees of the British Museum to prepare the Catalogue of the Chiroptera in the Collection of the British Museum (1878). It became a standard work on the anatomy, nomenclature, and classification of bats.

Dobson was soon afterwards placed in charge of the museum of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, where he extended his researches to other groups of mammals. His Monograph of the Insectivora, Systematic and Anatomical (1882–90) was not completed at the time of his death. His important paper ‘On the homologies of the long flexor muscles of the feet of Mammalia’ was published in the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology in 1883, and he wrote numerous papers on zoology and comparative anatomy for British and foreign scientific journals.

Dobson died on 25 November 1895 at his home, Malling Place, West Malling, Kent, and was buried on 29 November at West Malling. Besides the works already mentioned he wrote Medical Hints to Travellers, published by the Royal Geographical Society, which reached a seventh edition in 1893, and contributed several sections to the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. These articles were afterwards used by William Henry Flower and Richard Lydekker in their Introduction to the Study of Mammals (1891).


Oxford DNB

E. I. Carlyle, ‘Dobson, George Edward (1848–1895)’, rev. P. E. Kell, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 May 2017]

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