FRENCH, Charles (1840-1933)

FRENCH, Charles (1840-1933)
was born at Lewisham, Kent, England, on 10 September 1840. His father died when he was a child and his mother marrying again, the boy was brought to Melbourne in 1852. The family settled at Cheltenham, where French began to be interested in natural history. In 1858 he was apprenticed to James Scott, a nurseryman at Hawthorn and later on met Baron von Mueller (q.v.). In 1864 Mueller placed French in charge of the glass-house at the botanic gardens, and in 1881 he was made custodian of the botanical museum. He was appointed first Victorian government entomologist in 1889 and in 1891 published Part I of his A Handbook of the Destructive Insects of Victoria. Four other parts were published by 1911. A sixth part dealing with beneficial insects was completed but has not been published. French was also the author of some pamphlets, and papers by him were published in the Victorian Naturalist and other journals. In 1907 he attended the International Conference of Entomologists in London, and in 1908 he retired and was succeeded by his son, Charles French, Jun. He had founded the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria in 1880. It grew into a flourishing organization and remained a great interest to French during a long retirement. He died at Melbourne on 21 May 1933. He was married twice and left a widow, a son and two daughters.
Comparatively little work in entomology had been done in Australia when French began his researches, and his work in showing how insect pests could be controlled by the use of sprays was of great value. He also fully realized the value of insectivorous birds in keeping the balance of nature at a time when there was a tendency to look upon all birds as a danger to crops.
E. E. Pescott, The Victorian Naturalist, July 1933; ibid, May 1940; The Cyclopedia of Victoria, 1903; The Argus, Melbourne, 23 May 1933.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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