FROGGATT, Walter Wilson (1858-1937)

FROGGATT, Walter Wilson (1858-1937)
son of George W. Froggatt, an English architect, was born at Blackwood, Victoria, on 13 June 1858. His mother was the daughter of Giacomo Chiosso, who came of a noble Italian family. As a child Froggatt, who was delicate, was encouraged by his mother to find interests in the open air and at an early age began collecting insects. The family having moved to Bendigo, he was educated at the high school, Bendigo, and on leaving school spent four years on the land. In 1880 he went to a goldfield near Milparinka, New South Wales, and then worked his way northward and through Queensland to Mackay, Herberton, Cairns and other parts of the colony. Wherever he went he kept up his collecting of insects. In 1883 he returned to Bendigo, worked with his father on a lease near Mount Hope, and about this period got in touch with Charles French Sen (q.v.) and Baron von Mueller (q.v.). It was partly through Mueller's good offices that Froggatt was appointed entomologist and assistant zoologist to the expedition sent to New Guinea in 1885 by the Royal Geographical Society of New South Wales. The party left in June 1885 and returned on 4 December. Early in 1886 Froggatt was engaged by William Macleay (q.v.) as a collector. He at once proceeded to North Queensland and formed large collections. In March 1887 he went to north-west Australia, began collecting in the Derby district and later in the more inland country. He returned to Derby after severe attacks of fever and then went to the Barrier Range to recover his health. Returning to the coast he took steamer on 22 February 1888 for Fremantle and thence to Sydney, where he arrived on 31 March. He then went to England at the invitation of an uncle and gained much experience in European museums and universities. On his return he worked at the Macleay museum until it was transferred to the university, and in 1889 was appointed assistant and collector at the Sydney technological museum. In the following year the first of a long series of papers by him was published in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales. In 1896 he was appointed government entomologist to the agricultural department of New South Wales.
Froggatt's work was not confined to entomology, he was also vine inspector and later inspector under the vegetation diseases act. In the many papers he was writing at this time there is an increasing tendency for his attention to be given to insect pests. He published in 1907 his work on Australian Insects, the first comprehensive text-book on Australian entomology, and in this year was sent abroad to study the best ways of dealing with fruit flies, etc. His Report on Parasitic and Injurious Insects was published by the New South Wales department of agriculture in 1909. In this year he went to the Solomon Islands to report on pests attacking coconut palms and sugar-cane, and in 1913 went on a similar mission to the New Hebrides. During the war he spent much time on the control of weevils in stored wheat, and in 1922 investigated pests attacking banana-trees in Queensland. He retired from the department of agriculture in 1923 but was forest entomologist in the department of forestry until his final retirement on 31 March 1927. His volume on Forest Insects of Australia was published in 1923; in the following four years many papers on forest entomology were also published, and in 1927 another volume, Forest Insects and Timber Borers, appeared. In his last years he did much writing on popular science in the Sydney Morning Herald, in 1933 his The Insect Book, the first of a series ,of elementary "Nature Books" for children, was published at Sydney, and in 1935 Australian Spiders and Their Allies appeared. He died at Croydon, New South Wales, on 18 March 1937. He married Ann Emily, daughter of John Lewis, in 1890, and was survived by a son, John L. Froggatt, entomologist to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and two daughters. One of the daughters, Gladys Harding Froggatt, was the author of The World of Little Lives (1916), and More About the World of Little Lives (1929).
Froggatt was loyal and unselfish, the guide, philosopher and friend to a long succession of young naturalists. He was a member of the council of the Linnean Society of New South Wales for a period of 40 years and was president from 1911 to 1913. He gave enthusiastic support to the various scientific societies with which he was connected, and was much interested in the planting of Australian trees and in gardening generally. He had a fine collection of books on science and general literature. His collection of insects was acquired by the Commonwealth government and is now at Canberra. He was a leading Australian entomologist and an untiring worker; Musgrave lists over 300 of his papers in his Bibliography. In addition to his books on entomology, Froggatt also published a volume on Some Useful Australian Birds in 1921.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 1937; Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, vol. LXVII. pp. 77-81; A. Musgrave, Bibliography of Australian Entomology.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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