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Biographical entry Cotton, John (1802 - 1849)

Balham Hill, Surrey, England
15 December 1849
Port Phillip district, Victoria, Australia
Naturalist, Pastoralist and Ornithologist


John Cotton arrived in Port Phillip in 1843 and took up a station on the Goulburn River. He continued his study of birds, begun in England, and published his results in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science (1848)


Born Balham Hill, Clapham Common, London, 1802. Died 15 December 1849. Educated University of Oxford (law). Legal firm, England; arrived Australia 1843; Doogallook station, Goulburn Valley 1843; added Maintoongoon station, Delatite River 1844; had published books on song birds in Great Britain and continued his ornithological studies in Victoria, publishing his results as a list of Victorian birds in the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science in 1848. He was made a Fellow, Royal Zoological Society for his work on birds. His planned book on the birds of Port Phillip, illustrated with coloured plates from his own drawings, was produced in 1974 by Allan McEvey (q.v.), as John Cotton's Birds of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, 1843-1849.

He had five sons and five daughters, all of the girls marrying ornithologists. Marian married Charles Ryan in 1847 and their two children were Major-General Sir Charles Ryan (q.v.) and Mrs Ellis Rowan (qv), flower painter; in 1846 Charlotte married Peter Snodgrass, a pastoralist and Victorian Member of Parliament 1851-67; in 1853 Caroline married Albert A.C. Le Souëf (qv), director of the Melbourne Zoo, and among their children were three distinguished zoologists: W.H. Dudley, Ernest A. and Albert Sherbourne Le Souëf (qqv). Eliza exhibited ten sketches at the 1856 Victorian Exhibition of Art.

Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • John Cotton - Records, 1840 - 1849, FM 4/1690-1; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • John Cotton - Records, 1830 - 1852, G052; National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

  • 'Cotton, John (1802-1849), pastoralist and naturalist' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 1 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1966), pp. 249-250. Details
  • Browne, Janet, 'John Cotton, 1802-1849' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Details


See also

  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 492 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J. & Rosanne Walker