Col. Richard Henry Beddome

Richard Henry Beddome (1830-1911) was the son of Richard Boswell Beddome. He joined the Indian Army, and then the Indian Forestry service. He was a naturalist, with an interest in reptiles and plants, and published several books.

Books by Richard Henry Beddome available online
Obituaries in The Times
"Who Was Who" published by Who's Who
Life of R H Beddome introducing his Reptile publications
Obituary in Malacological Society Proceedings
Article published in Cobra
"Hall of Fame" Tamil Nadu Forest Department 2016
Plants collected by R. H. Beddome
Reptile collection in British Museum
Postumous paper by Darwin
Prize for Crinum Mearsii
Wife and Children
Grave and Probate
A possible description of Col. Beddome
See also:
Forests of India
Richard Beddome's probate
Wikipedia article of R H Beddome
Article published in Cobra (see below)

The picture on the right is taken from

Bulletin of the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation vol. 18, no.1, spring 2006

Books by Richard Henry Beddome available online

Trees of the Madras Presidency
Ferns of British India vol 1
Ferns of British India Vol 2
Ferns of India, Ceylon, Burmah, and the Malay peninsula
The flora sylvatica for southern India Vol I
The flora sylvatica for southern India Vol II
Handbook to the ferns of British India, Ceylon and the Malay peninsula

Death notice in the Times Monday, Feb 25, 1911

Death notice of Richard Henry Beddome in the Times

Obituary in the Times Monday, Feb 27, 1911

Obituary of Richard Henry Beddome in the Times

"Who Was Who"

From Who was who, a companion to Who's who, containing the biographies of those who died during the period 1897-1916:

BEDDOME, Colonel Richard Henry, Indian Staff Corps (retired).

Educ.: Charterhouse. Entered Indian Army, 1848;
Quarter-Master and Interpreter to his Regt. (Madras 42nd), 1856;
appointed to Forest Department on its organisation, 1857;
head of the Department in Southern India, 1860-82;
Fellow, Madras University.

The Flora Sylvatica for Southern India, with plates of 330 trees;
Icones Plantarum, with 300 plates of new and rare plants;
The Ferns of Southern India;
The Ferns of British India, figuring 661 ferns;
Handbook of Indian Ferns.

lawn tennis and skating;
gardening, especially hybridisation;
reptilia and land shells, author of various pamphlets describing new genera and species in these branches of natural history.

Address: Sispara, West Hill, Putney.

Clubs: East India United Service, Roehampton, Hurlingham.

Died 23 Feb. 1910.

Home of R.H.Beddome

Sispara Mansions, West Hill, Putney

'Sispara', the name of Col. Beddome's home in retirement, is the name of a hill range in the Nilgiris, Western Ghats, south India. He will have chosen that name in memory of his time in India, of course. The road sign below is in Ootacamund, the main town in Nilgiris, showing another connection. The man in the photo is S.R. Ganesh, the author of the article published in Cobra.

Beddome's Road in Ootacamund, the main town in Nilgiris

Life of R H Beddome - introducing his Reptile publications

This life of Colonel Beddome is in the introduction to "A Facsimile of R. H. Beddome's articles on Indian Reptiles 1862-1870." Unfortunately, the publications themselves don't seem to be easily available.

Colonel Beddome's articles on Indian reptiles appeared originally in the Madras Quarterly Journal of Medical Science and its successor The Madras Monthly Journal of Medical Science.

Col. Richard Henry Beddome (1830-1911) was educated at Charterhouse school and entered the Indian Army in 1848. He was a keen naturalist, and on the organisation in 1857 of the Madras Forestry Service, he became chief assistant to the conservator, Dr. R. C. Cleghorn (1820-1895), whom he succeeded as conservator in 1867. This post Beddome held until his retirement in 1882. As a forestry officer, he naturally tended to give more attention to botany than zoology, although at one time he was equally intereted in both, and he wrote several important botannical works, notably:

A Flora Sylvatica of Southern India (2 vols, 1869-74) [covers trees and shrubs]
Ferns of Southern India (1863; 2nd edition 1873)
Ferns of British India (3 vols, 1865-70)
Icones Plantarum Indiae Orientalis (1869-74) [Pictures of plants of the East Indies]
Handbook to the Ferns of British India, Ceylon and the Malay Peninsula (1883)

After his return to England from India he became an enthusiastic gardener, and published:

An annotated list of the species of Campanula (1907, J. R. hort. Soc, 32:196-221)
Gesneraceae, with annotated list of the Genera and Species which have been introduced to Cultivation (1908, J. R. hort. Soc, 33:74-100)
Acanthaceae, with annotated list of the Species known to have been in Cultivation (1908, J. R. hort. Soc, 34:54-96)

A number of horticultural and botanical books from his library were presented to the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society after his death.

Obituary by Malacological Society

This was published in the Proceedings of the Malacological Society v10 (1912-1913). 'Malacological' means of or petaining to the stufy of Molluscs.

Obituary Notices

By the death of Colonel Richard Henry Beddome, F.L.S., this Society has lost one of its original members. As a conchologist he was particularly distinguished among those who collected in Peninsular India. For twenty-five years he was in the Forest Department, having been approinted to it in 1857 by Dr. Cleghorn, Conservator, Captain Beddome being his chief assistant, and for twenty-two years he was the superintendent. His departmental tours gave him splendid opportunities for collecting in many branches of Natural History in the then little-known hill ranges and forests of Central and Southern India, opportunities of which he took the fullest advantage, as shown by the number of new species he discovered, not only of the land mollusca but of mammals and reptiles, and by valuable notes respecting their geographical distribution, which led to association with Dr. W. T. Blanford, Dr. T. C. Herdon, and many other naturalists working in that part of India.

Colonel Beddome, however, was essentially a botanist, and in the study of the flora of Southern India he devoted the best days of his life, the result of which was the publication of quite a series of valuable works containing figures of numberless species, the drawings being executed with great fidelity by the native draughtsmen he had trained to the work.

Some of his botanical publications are as follows:-

Trees of the Madras Presidency, 1863;
Flora Sylvatica for Southern India, 1869-73;
Ferns of Southern India, 1873;
Ferns of British India, 1876;
Forester's Manual of Botany for Southern India, 1869-74;
Icones Plantarum Indiae Orientalis, 1874;
Handbook of the Ferns of British India, Ceylon, and the Malay Peninsular, 1883 (supplement, 1892).

On Reptiles and Batrachians he wrote no less than fifteen papers, most valuable contributions to their study.

The following is a complete list of his papers on Mollusca:-

1. "Descriptions of some new Operculated Land-shells from Southern India and Ceylon," 1875.
2. "Descriptions of Land-shells from the Island of Koror, Pelew Group," 1889.
3. "Descriptions of some new Land-shells from the Indian Region," 1891.
4. "Notes on Indian and Ceylonese species of Glessula," 1906.
5. "Descriptions of Labyrinthus euclausus and Neocyclotus Belli, n.spp., from Colombia" 1908.
In conjunction with myself -
6. "New species of CyclophorusSpiraculum from the Khasi and Naga Hills, Assam".

Beddome formed a fine collection of land shells from India and other parts of the world, among which the operculates, especially the minute forms, were, I think, his favourites.

I feel that this notice is late in its appearance, but had it come out earlier I could not have put on record, which I do with considerable pleasure, and it will I am sure be shared by the fellows of this Society, that all the Indian types and rarer Indian species in the Beddome Collection will find a resting-place in the Natural History Museum alongside species found by Benson, many made by Henry and William Blandord, Theobald, myself, and others. This will make the collection from India and adjacent countries almost complete and wonderfully rich in types. For this generous gift we have to thank his widow, who having a deep interest in what it took hours and hours of her husband's life to bring together, desired to see it placed where it could be most appreciated and helpful to those engaged in malacological and conchological investigations. This is quite what Colonel Beddome would have desired, for I know that in the preparation of the Mollusca volume of the "Fauna of British India" Beddome placed his collection at the disposal at the disposal of Dr. Blanford and assisted him in every way.

Colonel Beddome's death on the 23rd February, 1911, was sudden and quite unexpected by his conchological friends. He attended the Council Meeting of this Society on 20th January, and I met him just before it began, and we talked over a new species of Oxytes he had just received from Burma and which is now named after him.

He was the eldest son son of Richard Boswell Brandon Beddome, solicitor, of Clapham Common, S.W., and was born 12th May, 1830, so was in his 81st year. He was educated at Charterhouse School, and Hart's Army List gives the following dates of his commissions:

Ensign 20th January, 1848;
Lieutenant 15th November, 1853;
Captain 18th February, 1861;
Mahor 20th January, 1868;
Lieut.-Colonel 20th January, 1874;
Colonel 20th January, 1879.

I have been able to glean that he first studied for the legal profession, but he could not get interested in it, and preferring a life abroad, entered the Army in the Hon. East India Company's service. Obtaining a direct cadetship, and going out to India, he joined the 42nd Madras Native Infantry, and was with that regiment at Jabbalpur in 1856, bing at that time Quatermaster and Interpreter of the regiment; from there he went to Secunderabad, and soon after his arrival at this station, about the end of the year 1856, he was appointed to the Madras Forest Department, and never again rejoined his regiment.

H. H. Godwin-Austen.

Article published in Cobra

An article on R.H. Beddome was published in COBRA, the journal of the Chennai Snake Park Trust, in December 2010 to commemorate his death centennial. It is available in an online version. The article was written by S.R. Ganesh, Research Scientist at Chennai Snake Park, who has very kindly allowed me to reprint the article. The full article is here, but there are some extracts from it:

Aside from botany, he [R.H.Beddome] is best known for his herpetological studies in southern India. His most outstanding contribution is the series of collections and descriptions that he made in the Eastern and Western Ghats, which forms part of a global biodiversity hotspot rich in endemism (Myers et al., 2000). His herpetological collections, most of which he described, were deposited in the Natural History Museum in London and the Indian Museum, Calcutta (now Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata, West Bengal, India).

His name has been immortalized by his superb contributions to south India's herpetology which are of interest to the student of Indian herpetology even today after a lapse of a century.

During the period of 24 years from 1862 to 1886 Beddome had published 15 papers on the subject, most of which contained the description of at least one new species.

List of Beddome’s herpetological publications:

The above list reflects the sheer number of new taxa that it collectively contains. Several dozens of new herpetological taxa that are still valid today were collected and described by Beddome. Although his contribution to systematic research on amphibians is minor, his reptile descriptions are numerous. Chief among them are the uropeltid snakes and several geckoes and skinks from both the Eastern and Western Ghats mountain ranges. Particularly noteworthy are his contributions to our knowledge of the uropeltids since even during the one and a quarter centuries after his death, very little has been added to what we know of this elusive group of snakes endemic to south-west India and Sri Lanka, barring the work of M.V. Rajendran (1916-1993). Some of his important descriptions include enigmatic species such as Sepsophis punctatus and Chalcides pentadactylus (Reptilia: Scincidae). Some valid genera, endemic to the Western Ghats, like Melanobatrachus (Amphibia: Anura) and Xylophis (Reptilia: Serpentes) were those described by Beddome.

For his extensive contributions to Indian herpetology, Beddome has been lauded by many of his contemporaries, peers and even some of the more recent workers in the field. Given below are a few examples of such tributes, one each from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries so as to highlight this fact.

"Lieut.-Col. Beddome’s collection contains all the specimens obtained by him during his residence in India, more especially the types of the numerous interesting forms discovered and described by him. Perhaps there is now no other part of India, the reptilian fauna of which is better known than the district explored by this indefatigable collector." Günther (1875).

“….[Colonel Beddome]... exploited the South Indian Hills, including the Palni Hills, to such purpose in the seventies and eighties of the last century, that he has hardly left a snake for any later enthusiast to discover." Wall (1921).

"He described the new genus Melanobatrachus and four other species. From the remarkable collections he made, Albert Günther and George Albert Boulenger could describe about 20 new species. The fact that six Western Ghats amphibians were named after him shows how amphibian specialists have accepted him as a recognized herpetologist." Biju (2001).

The full article gives "the exhaustive list of his new herpetological taxon descriptions", "the list of herpetological species named in honour of Beddome" and the references used in writing the article.

"Hall of Fame" Tamil Nadu Forest Department 2016

Message from the "Mentor" (Hans Raj Verma, IAS., Principal Secretary to Government, E&F Dept): The hallmark of a great 'organisation' is the way in which it treats its heroes and path-breaking pioneers. During my informal interaction with the Officers from the Forest Department, the concept of the "Hall of Fame" was conceived and this book is a fitting tribute by this generation Officers to their heroes...

Page 20-21

The wonderful transformation of a British Military Officer to the Conservator of Forests came naturally to Colonel Richard Henry Beddome, as he had a penchant for nature.

Born as the eldest son of Boswell Brandon Beddome in S.W., he got trained for the legal profession, but landed up at the 42nd Madras Native Infantry as a Cadet at Jabalpur, when he was just 18 being his choice.

He was appointed in the Madras Forest Department in 1856, he went on to become an Assistant to Dr. Hugh Cleghorn, and his devotion to botany and natural history saw him succeed Cleghorn in 1863 and he remained in the post of Conservator of Forests upto 1876.

A wholesome botanist by heart, he devoted his time to the study of flora in South India and published a series of valuable works with striking illustrations with great accuracy. He also studied the species of reptiles, amphibians, was anauthority on molluscs and provided descriptions of over 40 new reptiles and amphibians. He also described over a thousand species of animals and plants.

His fine and rare collections of land shell specimens were placed at the British and Indian Museums. He has reported on the The Flora of Pulney Hills, Courtallam Hills, Eastern & Western Ghats and Tirupati Hills. He accompanied Dr. Cleghorn during 1858 for the expedition and explorations of Anamalais. He served as a Forest Officer of Tirunelveli District and explored every inch of the forests and documented the flora.

Wall (1921) has paid tribute to Colonel Beddome with the remark, "He has exploited the South Indian Hills that he has hardly left a snake for any later enthusiast to discover." His collection and description of the reptile, "Golden Gecko" is worth mentioning and a distinct plant species, "Cycas" was named after him as Cycas. beddomei.

Among the many books he authored, The Ferns of British India & Ceylon is referred till date. His other works are The Flora Sylvatica for Southern India, Forester’s Manual of Botany for Southern India, numerous descriptions of Land-shells from Southern India, Ceylon, Island of Koror and many Notes on new Mollusca from Columbia and Assam. Beddome married Mary Sophia Fullerton in London during 1862 and had seven children. Retiring from his passion in 1892, he lived at Wandsworth until his end in 1911. Like Dr. Cleghorn, consolidation and conservation of forests was his sole aim and as a tribute to his monumental contribution, many a species of plants and animals have been named after him. The botany laboratory in Madras Forest College (TNFA) was also named after Beddome.

Plants collected by R. H. Beddome

These are taken from the Natural History Museum website. They both have Principal collector as Richard Henry Beddome.

Pericopsis mooniana (Thwaites) Thwaites; Leguminosae

Plant collected by Richard Henry Beddome

Osbeckia reticulata Bedd.; Melastomataceae

Plant collected by Richard Henry Beddome

Reptile collection in British Museum

From Natural History Departments of the British Museum. Vol II Appendix, General History of the Department of Zoology from 1856 to 1895 by Dr. Albert Gunter FRS, published 1912:

Account of collection by Richard Henry Beddome

A more detailed account published in 1906 says:

2540 specimens were received, including 1518 from Southern India, collected by Col. Beddome, and containing the types of many species described by him.

Postumous paper by Darwin

Col. Beddome attended a meeting about a paper by Darwin. His brother-in-law was violently opposed to Darwin's views. See a discussion of this.

From a report in the Times, Friday, Dec 07, 1883, entitled "Postumous paper by Darwin":

Postumous paper by Darwin in the Times

Prize for Crinum Mearsii

From a report in the Times, 10 July 1907, entitled "Royal Horticultural Society":

R H Beddone prize by R.H.S.

Wife and Children

Wife: Mary Sophia Fullerton (1844-1932) in 1862, at St. John's Church in Paddington, London. She was the youngest daughter of John Younge Fullerton, and was born at Nanjambakkam, Madras.

In the Obituary in Malacological Society Proceedings (see above), it says "All the Indian types and rarer Indian species in the Beddome Collection will find a resting-place in the Natural History Museum... For this generous gift we have to thank his widow, who having a deep interest in what it took hours and hours of her husband's life to bring together, desired to see it placed where it could be most appreciated and helpful to those engaged in malacological and conchological investigations."

Walter Henry1864
Sydney Fullerton1864Agnes Woolrabe in 18941913
Maud Elphinstone1867Robert Arthur Read in 1890
Walker Henry1868
Mabel Mary18681900
Ida Violet1869

All the children were christened in Ootacamund, Madras, India.

Sydney Fullerton Beddome emigrated from East Putney, London, to Hobart, Tasmania, Australia in 1896, and farmed nearby at Camelford, near his uncle, Charles Edward Beddome. He returned to England in 1911 to settle up his father's estate and died in London within a couple of years..

The records of the Natural History Museum associated with Richard Henry Beddome includes several letters by him, including one by R H and Flora Beddome and two letters by Mabel M Beddome. These are presumably two of his daughters.

Grave and probate

Grave of Richard Henry Beddome Grave of Richard Henry Beddome

Transcription: In loving memory of Colonel Richard Henry Beddome late India Staff Corps. Born 11 May 1830 Died 23rd February 1911
Also of Mary Sophia Beddome wife of the above Born 29th February 1844 Died 30th January 1932

Probate record of Richard Henry Beddome

Transcription: Beddome Richard Henry of Sispara West Hill Putney Surrey died 23 February 1911 Probate London 4 April to Mary Sophia Beddome widow and Robert Arthur Read esquire. Effects £170326 13s. 6d.

He left more than his father - see his probate.

A possible description of Col. Beddome

In 1947, Vera Barclay wrote a children's book called "They Met a Wizard". Vera was a daughter of Florence Barclay and so the great niece of Col. R.H. Beddome. She was 18 when he died, and I am sure that she must have known him. In this book, a boy, Phil, makes friends with a girl, Emily. The children discuss her grandfather:

"I didn't know the Wizard has a little girl." [In fact the girl is his grand-daughter]
"What Wizard?"
"Well, we call him the Wizard. He looks so mysterious stalking along the lane in his black cloak and funny hat."
Emily laughed.
"Yes, he does look rather mysterious," she said. "I think he is mysterious."
"My brother named him the Ogre, first," said Phil. "He used to try and frighten me, in bed, saying the Ogre caught children to put in his larder. But I had a good look at his face as he passed, and I thought he didn't look ogreish, but kind of wise, and as if his thoughts were full of curious things, so I re-named him the Wizard."
Emily nodded.
"I was a little bit frightened of him myself when I arrived," she said. "But I thought that, too - that he is just wise and queer, and would be quite nice and kind if you could tame him."
"Can't you tame him?"
"Well, I havent had much chance to try. I only arrived here from India two days ago," Emily explained. "And he stays in his laboratory most of the time. And to-day he's gone to London."

The children wonder what the Wizard does in his laboratory.

"Perhaps he's an alchemist, and turns stones to gold," said Phil. "Or perhaps he stews herbs and bats' wings and snakes' tongues and things like that, and makes love potions."
"Wait a minute," said Emily. "I think what he is begins with Z."
"Zoologist!" said Phil. "Is he? D'you think think he's got live animals in his laboratory?"

Phil cannot resist looking through the window of the laboratory while the Wizard is away.

"What do you see?" whispered Emily.
"Glass cases!" whispered back Phil. "Butterflies. Insects. Snakes. Stuffed animals. Queer things in spirit. Pictures. A whacking great microscope. Books and books and books. Oh, hang it all - I wish I coud get in." He struggled with the window.
"Why," said a deep voice behind him," do you want to get in?"
Phil jumped, and only saved himself from falling into the flower-bed by holding on to the edge of the window-frame with his fingers. The Wizard stood on the lawn looking at him, his beady black eyes looking like two tiny bits of shiny coal in his wrinkled face.
"Why do you want to get into my laboratory?" repeated the Wizard.
"Because I'd like to have a look at all those interesting things," said Phil. "And to see what books those are. And what the photographs are of."
"You are interested in zoology?"
The Wizard nodded.

He lets them into his laboratory and shows them leaf insects and stick insects. The children ask endless questions about animal camouflage, which the Wizard answers, showing them pictures and samples as examples. He is very patient with them, and delights in their curiosity and close observation. I think you can say that the children have 'tamed' him!

The book as a whole has very little happening. But it is full of many different short vivid descriptions of animals and their appearance and behaviour. I read it as a child with delight, and was rather startled to find out later watching nature programmes that these descriptions were accurate! Vera Barclay was writing a work of fiction, and no doubt felt free to mix characteristics of different people to make a character in her books, or indeed to use her imagination. But it is tempting to speculate that as Vera knew Col. Beddome when she was young, this is her memory of him.

The Wizard is described as a zoologist, not a botanist, and no plants are mentioned in the book. But children are naturally more interested in animals than plants, so perhaps Vera changed this. Col. Beddome certainly had a notable interest in snakes, and at one point the book says:

Phil wanted to hear more of snakes.
"Emily, did you see [in India] the harmless ones that pretend to be poisonous ones?"
Emily shook her head. Bt the Wizard could not resist one of his favourite topis, for he was something of a specialist in the study of snakes.

And the Wizard goes on to describe the behaviour and coloration of mimicry.