Everard Baldwin Britton
Britton was born in Cardiff, Glamorganshire, Wales on 16.vii.1912.
While his father was in the army during WW1, Ev lived with his
mother in the small seaside village of West Angle, near Pembroke.
There, according to his first teacher, he spent much time turning
over stones and peering under bark.
A conscientious student at school, he won two scholarships to
University College, Cardiff, majoring in Zoology, Botany and
Chemistry, graduating with First Class Honours in Zoology in
1933. He became a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society
of London in 1935, gained his M.Sc. in 1936, and was awarded
a D.Sc. in 1961 for his contributions to Entomology.
After graduation, Ev went almost immediately into employment
with the British Museum (Natural History) as Assistant Keeper
in the Department of Entomology where he worked until the outbreak
of World War II. During this time, he was responsible for the
organisation and use of the world collection of beetles, and
visited southwest Africa with the British Museum expedition
in 1936-7. His main research interests were the Carabidae of
New Zealand and Hawaii and the fauna of Yemen. Evs interest
in the Australian Melolonthinae (Chafers) was stimulated when
the then Chief of the CSIR Division of Entomology in Canberra,
A.J. Nicholson, requested a specialist be appointed for a period
of 12 months to work in Australia to study the Melolonthinae
beetles, in view of their importance to agriculture in Australia.
Ev volunteered and spent 14 months in Australia and New Zealand.
During the war, Ev became a Radio Officer with Britains
Anti Aircraft Command but, in 1942, he joined a group of boffins
with the Army Operations Research Group developing the emerging
radar technology. 1945 saw him rejoin the British Museum (Natural
History) as Principal Scientific Officer, a position that involved
travelling through post-war Europe, assessing insect collections,
and to the Americas. But, with his interest in the Australian
beetle fauna, he was seconded to the CSIR Division of Entomology
in 1946 and 1947. This visit resulted in the publication in
1957 of the book A Revision of the Australian Chafers.
Ev married Joyce Webb at Caxton Hall, London in 1949. At the
time of their marriage Joyce was an established milliner at
Esher, Surrey, later studying to become a Cordon bleu
chef and teacher. Together, they designed and had built their
home in Oxshott, Surrey where they enjoyed entertaining guests,
especially Entomologists, from all corners of the globe. They
had two children, Susan and Bridget and a Siamese cat, Jasper.
While at the British Museum, Ev took an active part in the Royal
Entomological Society, acting as Editor in 1948, Honorary Secretary
from 1951 to 1957 and serving on Council in 1949 and 1958. In
similar fashion, he was Treasurer of the Systematics Association
for four years and Entomological Editor of the Annals
and Magazine of Natural History for ten years. In 1936,
he published his first paper and, by the time he left England
for Australia in 1964, he had 33 papers to his name covering
some 742 pages as well as a large manuscript revising a further
section of the Australian Melolonthinae. He again visited the
(by now) CSIRO Division of Entomology in 1962 and, with an obvious
love of Australia and fascination for the Australian beetle
fauna, he successfully applied to join CSIRO Division of Entomology
in 1963. Although appointed a Research Scientist with CSIRO
early in 1964, he remained in England for a few months to study
the Australian material in the British Museum and, in September
1964, with his family (and Joyces baby grand piano), sailed
for Australia on the ocean liner, Oronsay.
During his reign in the Coleoptera section, Ev was
instrumental in introducing the unit tray system
into the Australian National Insect Collection. He was a tireless
worker both in the laboratory and in the field, and will always
be remembered by those who worked with him in the field as being
totally unflappable regardless of the conditions. Ev eagerly
participated in a number of major field expeditions, visiting
central Australia, the Nullarbor, both the Pilbara and south
western Western Australia and Arnhem Land (the latter involving
a major investigation of the area prior to the establishment
of Kakadu National Park). However, he clearly found our menu
on field trips somewhat unspeakable (which is not
surprising considering his wifes culinary skills). On
these field trips, he frequently carried with him journals of
the early explorers in the regions in which we were surveying
and would read extracts to us from the back seat as we travelled
from one site to another.
He was author of the Coleoptera chapter in the first edition
of Insects of Australia in 1970, the Supplement
in 1974, and a co-author of the similar chapter in the second
edition in 1991. He was also co-author with John Lawrence of
a book, Australian Beetles published in
1994. His main research work with the CSIRO was on the Melolonthinae
chafers and he produced five volumes of over 800
pages dealing with this group as well as a number of other papers.
In 1974, he paid a return visit of some six months to the British
Museum (Natural History).
On retirement in 1977, Ev actively continued his work on the
Australian beetle fauna as an Honorary Research Fellow, finally
retiring in July 2000. In retirement, Ev continued his review
of the genus Heteronyx in which he dealt with 353 species.
Not only was this a mammoth research project but, having taught
himself to use the computer in retirement, it included laboriously
typing the entire manuscript. His use of the computer enabled
him to maintain contact with his many friends via the internet.
This was fortunate as it was a timely replacement for his long
involvement as a Ham radio operator that had become
increasingly difficult due to his failing hearing.
In 1963, an English entomologist supplied a reference for Ev
when he sought to join the CSIRO. This stated that Britton
was personally very agreeable and even-tempered, he is quiet
and very rarely talks about himself. He is one of the few people
I have known who always maintains very good relations with all
those with whom he comes into contact. Another stated
he was gifted with the temperament of a true naturalist
a studious nature and most gentlemanly in bearing.
Everyone who ever had contact with Ev would agree wholeheartedly
with these sentiments. This was certainly the man we all knew
Everard Baldwin Britton passed away on 18 January 2004 at the
age of 91 years following a severe respiratory infection. He
is survived by his wife, Joyce, his two daughters and their
families. This gentle man with such an enquiring mind will be
much missed by all his family and friends. In his quiet, determined
way he made a substantial contribution to our overall knowledge
of Australian insects, the critical importance of which is sadly
little understood by so many in these economic rationalist days.
UPTON, M. S. 2004. OBITUARY. Everard Baldwin Britton, D.Sc..
1912 - 2004. Myrmecia January 2004: 2-4.