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Biographical entry Lyell, George (1866 - 1951)

25 July 1866
Ararat, Victoria, Australia
19 May 1951
Gisborne, Victoria, Australia
Naturalist and Entomologist


George Lyell was a junior clerk then branch head with the butter, cheese and bacon manufacturer J Bartram & Son. He left in 1890 to take up a partnership with E. Cherry & Sons – makers of butter-factory and dairy appliances. They were also Victoria's only supplier of entomological equipment. However, Lyell's interest in entomology began before then: in 1888 when he captured a Caper White butterfly in a suburban park. Over the next sixty years, Lyell built up an enormous collection of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). In 1932 he donated it to the Museum of Victoria and continued to add to it until 1951 when the specimens numbered around 45,000. He also worked tirelessly at the Museum until 1946 to integrate his specimens with the Museum's existing Lepidoptera collection. George Lyell wrote widely on his findings and his 1914 book Butterflies of Australia (with GA Waterhouse) became a classic reference book over the next twenty years. Lyell's other interests included orchids, and his collection of pressed orchids is held at the National Herbarium in Melbourne.



c. 1883 - c. 1890
Career position - Junior Clerk through to Head of the Dairy Machinery Branch of J. Bartram & Son in Kew, Victoria
c. 1888 -
Career position - Member of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria
1890 -
Career position - Partnership with E. Cherry & Sons accepted
1890 - 1929
Career position - Regularly submitted articles and notes to the Victorian Naturalist
Career position - Butterflies of Australia co-authored with GA Waterhouse
Career position - Donated his massive butterfly and moth collection to the Museum of Victoria

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Musgrave, A., Bibliography of Australian Entomology, 1775-1930 (Sydney: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales., 1932), 380 pp. Details

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • Garnet, J. G. and Burns, A. N., 'George Lyell, 1866-1951', Victorian Naturalist, 68 (1951), 53-4. Details
  • Hewish, Marilyn, 'Biographical notes on George Lyell, Victorian lepidopterist, continued', Victorian Entomologist, 44 (6) (2014), 121-8. Details
  • Hewish, Marilyn, 'Biographical Notes on George Lyell, Victorian Lepidopterist [Part 1]', Victorian Entomologist, 44 (5) (2014), 96-106. Details


See also

  • Lambkin, Kevin J., 'Conrad Kelsall: 'Butterflying' on the Little Mulgrave River, north Queensland, in 1903', Archives of Natural History, 40 (2013), 111-8. Details

McCarthy, G.J.