Thomas Jeffery Parker

Thomas Jeffery Parker F.R.S. (17 October 1850 – 7 November 1897) was a zoologist who worked in New Zealand.

Thomas Jeffery Parker


Parker was born at 124 Tachbrook Street[1] in London on 17 October 1850[2] the son of the anatomist William Kitchen Parker.[3][4] He studied at Clarendon House School and graduated from the University of London in 1868.[2]

At the age of 22, he worked with Thomas Henry Huxley in Huxley's zoological demonstrations, forming a teaching collection and organising laboratory practicals.[5][6] Huxley's work on crayfish kindled in Parker an interest in crustaceans, and he went on to study the marine "crayfish" (spiny lobsters) of New Zealand, together with his student Josephine Gordon Rich, who later married William Aitcheson Haswell.[7]

On 23 December 1874, Thomas Jeffery Parker married Charlotte Elizabeth Rossell in Bramley, Yorkshire.[2] In 1880, they emigrated to New Zealand. Parker become Professor of Zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin,[8] succeeding Frederick Hutton.[2] He was also curator of the Otago Museum, and was "the first trained biologist in the colony".[2][6][9]

Fin whale skeleton, Otago Museum, as acquired and displayed by T.J. Parker
Fin whale displayed in Otago Museum 2010

Parker sent a display of a series of skulls to the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, which was later reused in the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin. The display used coloured wires and painted bones to show the evolution of the vertebrate skull.[6] Indeed, Parker was noted by a Tuapeka Times correspondent as having a "mania for skeletons...[and] has procured some splendid and interesting specimens of birds and fish."[10] In 1883, Parker obtained a fin whale specimen from Captain William Jackson Barry, who had himself bought and exhibited it in Nelson.[10] The fin whale skeleton is still a central feature of the current Maritime Gallery.

Parker was made a Fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1888.[11]

In his later years, Parker suffered from diabetes, and he died on 7 November 1897 at Warrington.[2] After his death, Parker was succeeded at the University of Otago by William Blaxland Benham.[5]


Parker produced more than 40 scientific papers.[2] They include nine papers on moas published between 1889 and 1895, and a 100-page monograph on the history of the kiwi, which was later condensed into two articles in the New Zealand Journal of Science.[6][5] Parker identified a new species of sea cucumber (Chirodota dunedinensis, now Taeniogyrus dunedinensis) soon after arriving in Dunedin.[12][13] Despite living in different countries, Parker wrote an introductory textbook on zoology together with William Aitcheson Haswell, which continued to be used into the 1960s.[5]

Memoirs on New Zealand animals

  • "On the Structure and Development of Apteryx"
  • "On the Cranial Osteology, Classification, and Phylogeny of the Dinornithidæ"
  • "Observations on the anatomy and development of Apteryx". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: 182: 25-134


  • Zoötomy (1884)
  • Lessons in Elementary Biology (1890)
  • Parker, T. Jeffery; Haswell, William A. (1897). A Textbook of Zoology. London: Macmillan and Co. OCLC 863109417 (all editions). ( in 2 volumes).[14][15][16]


  1. "Obituary Notices of Fellows Deceased". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. 64: i–xxiv. 1898. JSTOR 116221.
  2. A. Warwick Don (1 September 2010). "Parker, Thomas Jeffery - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  3. Ruby Louise Gough (2005). Robert Edwards Holloway: Newfoundland Educator, Scientist, Photographer, 1874-1904. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 231, footnote 45. ISBN 978-0-7735-2852-9.
  4. Patricia Morison (1997). J. T. Wilson and the Fraternity of Duckmaloi. Clio medica. 42. Rodopi. p. 454. ISBN 978-90-420-0232-6.
  5. Trevor H. Worthy & Richard N. Holdaway (2002). The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-253-34034-4.
  6. Crane, R. (2 January 2017). "Show and tell: TJ Parker and late nineteenth-century science in Dunedin". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 47 (1): 61–66. doi:10.1080/03036758.2016.1207671. ISSN 0303-6758. S2CID 132815215.
  7. Mary R. S. Creese, Thomas M. Creese (2010). Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. Ladies in the Laboratory. South African, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian Women in Science. III. Scarecrow Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8108-7288-2.
  8. David McKitterick (2004). "Macmillan". New Worlds for Learning, 1873-1972. A History of Cambridge University Press. 3. Cambridge University Press. pp. 57–68. ISBN 978-0-521-30803-8.
  9. Crane, Rosi (13 May 2020). "What were they thinking? Tracing evolution in the Otago Museum, 1868–1936". Museum History Journal. 13: 61–79. doi:10.1080/19369816.2020.1759005. ISSN 1936-9816. S2CID 219420657.
  10. Crane, Rosi (2015). "Whale Tales". He Taonga, He Kōrero: The Lives of Colonial Objects. Dunedin, Otago: Otago University Press.
  11. "List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660–2007" (PDF). The Royal Society. July 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  12. Crane, Rosi (2015). "A 'Strange Fauna': T.J. Parker (1850-1897) and the creation of zoological knowledge in Otago". New Zealand Journal of History. 49: 60–80.
  13. "Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 1880.[electronic resource]". Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  14. See also: vol1 and vol2 in IA
  15. 3rd ed., 1921 in BHL.
  16. 7th ed. 1972: OCLC 427283710.