James Wood-Mason bigraphy, stories - Scottish zoologist

James Wood-Mason : biography

December 1846 - 6 May 1893

James Wood-Mason (December 1846 – 6 May 1893) was a Scottish zoologist. He was the director of the Indian Museum at Calcutta, after John Anderson. He collected marine animals and lepidoptera, but is best known for his work on two other groups of insects, phasmids (stick insects) and mantids (praying mantises).

The genus Woodmasonia Brunner, 1907, and at least ten species of phasmids, are named after him.Bragg, 2008.


  • List of the lepidopterous insects collected in Cachar by Mr. Wood-Mason, by J. Wood-Mason and Lionel de Nicéville. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1887. (53 p., 4 leaves of plates: ill. (one col.)) Reprinted from the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal; 55 pt.2 no.4 (1886).


Wood-Mason was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. In 1888 he became a Fellow of the University of Calcutta. Over 10 marine animals have the specific name woodmasoni in his honour, including several described by Arthur Alcock of the Investigator: Heterocarpus woodmasoni, Coryphaenoides woodmasoni, Thalamita woodmasoni, Rectopalicus woodmasoni.


Category:British carcinologists Category:Scottish zoologists Category:Lepidopterists Category:1846 births Category:1893 deaths Category:Scottish marine biologists Category:Scottish people of the British Empire

Life and career

Wood-Mason was born in Gloucestershire, England, where his father was a doctor. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Queen's College, Oxford. He went out to India in 1869 to work in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, which in 2008 still housed his collection of insects.

In 1872 he sailed to the Andaman Islands, mostly studying marine animals, but also collecting and later describing two new phasmids, Bacillus hispidulus and Bacillus westwoodii.Despite the generic name, these are insects, not bacteria.

Wood-Mason described 24 new species of phasmids, mostly from South Asia but also some from Australia, New Britain, Madagascar, the Malay peninsula and Fiji. His naming of Cotylosoma dipneusticum (Wood-Mason, 1878) is particularly curious as he never formally described the species; it was wrongly imagined to be semi-aquatic; it was "described with what is probably the least precise measurement ever used for a phasmid", namely ""between three and four inches in length”; and he gave its locality as Borneo, when in fact it came from Fiji.

In 1888 he sailed on the Indian Marine Survey steamship HMS Investigator, working on and later describing new species of Crustacea.

For several years he suffered from Bright's disease. On 5 April 1893, unable to work, he left India for England, but died at sea on 6 May 1893.

Flower mantis drawing

Wood-Mason gave his flower mantis drawing to Alfred Russel Wallace, who wrote in his 1889 book Darwinism:

Wallace passed the drawing to Edward Bagnall Poulton, who published it in his 1890 book The Colours of Animals.Poulton, 1890. pp 74-75.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine