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date: 18 September 2020

Foord, Arthur Humphreysfree

  • Kathleen Histon
  •  and Ezio Vaccari

Foord, Arthur Humphreys (1844–1933), palaeontologist and scientific illustrator, was born on 14 September 1844 at Brixton, Surrey, together with his twin brother, Alfred Stanley Foord (1844–1934), also an illustrator of scientific papers, and secretary of a mining company. Arthur was the fourth, and youngest, son of John Bromley Foord of Bexleyheath, Kent, who was secretary (in London) of the General Mining Association of Nova Scotia, and his wife, Sarah Stanley Hooper. From a preparatory school, where he studied from 1853 to 1856, he went in 1857 to Chatham House School, Ramsgate, Kent. He held a post in commercial business in London from 1861 until 1871 and during this period his ability in natural history illustration was quite well recognized, in particular by Henry Woodward, keeper of the geological department of the British Museum and co-editor of the Geological Magazine.

At the end of 1871 Foord went to Montreal with letters of introduction to Sir William Edmond Logan, first director of the geological survey of Canada, to his successor, Alfred Richard Cecil Selwyn, and to John William Dawson, principal of McGill University. Early in 1872 the geological survey of Canada appointed him as a natural history artist, a post he held until 1883. During these eleven years he came under the influence of such eminent palaeontologists as Elkanah Billings, John J. Frederick Whiteaves, and Henry Alleyne Nicholson. He worked in the survey mainly as artist, but gained much experience as a collector in the field and as a museum curator. While in Montreal he took Dawson's courses (in 1875–6) in zoology and palaeontology at McGill University. When the survey moved to Ottawa in 1883 he was appointed assistant palaeontologist, but in the summer of the same year he resigned his position and returned to England. In London he worked as a volunteer at the British Museum (Natural History) and studied privately geology under Thomas Rupert Jones, editor of the Geological Magazine, and practical zoology and comparative anatomy under George Bond Howes and T. Johnson, professors at the Royal School of Mines. After his first publication, 'Contribution to the micro-palaeontology of the Cambro-Silurian rocks of Canada' (1883), five other papers on fossil corals were published between 1884 and 1886 in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, while collaborating with Robert Etheridge junior and Henry A. Nicholson.

In 1886 Foord was charged with the preparation of his most famous work, the Catalogue of the Fossil Cephalopoda in the British Museum (Natural History), of which he completed the first two volumes (1888, 1891) and the third (1897) with George Charles Crick. In connection with this research he also studied type collections in Brussels and Munich. Several papers on nautiloids and reviews were also published by him at about this time in the Geological Magazine. In 1888 the Geological Society of London, of which he was a fellow, awarded him one half of the Lyell geological fund in recognition of his work as a palaeontologist and illustrator. In 1891 he moved to Dublin to take up the position of librarian and editor of scientific publications of the Royal Dublin Society until his retirement in 1920. During these years he worked on cephalopod material in the National Museum of Ireland and geological survey of Ireland collections as well as compiling a considerable personal collection. He obtained a doctorate from the University of Munich in 1896 by submitting a thesis to the distinguished palaeontologist Karl Alfred von Zittel. This work was later published as part of his 5-volume monograph of the Palaeontographical Society, Carboniferous Cephalopoda of Ireland (1897–1903). The monograph, together with the catalogue cited above, form an indispensable reference for cephalopod workers, and Foord's taxonomic work ranks alongside those of Alpheus Hyatt and Laurent Guillaume de Koninck. He married, in Dublin on 2 April 1896, Ida Franziska Adelheid Kuhlmeyer (1842–1916). He translated in 1899, together with his wife, a work in German by Edmund von Mojsisovics on Himalayan fossils. In 1930 Foord moved to Hove, Sussex, where he died at his home, Red Cottage, Hove Street, on 12 August 1933.


  • A. H. Foord, Curriculum vitae, 1892, Munich University Archives, sig. OC-I-23p
  • A. H. Foord, ‘List of books and papers of my own, and others with collaborators’, 1896, Munich University Archives, sig. OC-I-23p
  • A. H. Foord, Testimonials, 1883–92, Munich University Archives, sig. OC-I-23p
  • Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 90 (1934), lii
  • J. W. Judd, ‘Award of the Lyell geological fund’, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 44 (1888), 39
  • R. J. Cleevely, World palaeontological collections (1983)
  • M. Zaslow, Reading the rocks: the story of the geological survey of Canada, 1842–1972 (1975)
  • S. Sheets-Pyenson, Index to the scientific correspondence of John William Dawson (1992)
  • W. A. S. Sarjeant, Geologists and the history of geology: an international bibliography from the origins to 1978 (1980), vol. 2
  • R. L. Praeger, Some Irish naturalists: a biographical note-book (1949)
  • BL cat., vol. 111
  • d. cert.
  • private information (2016) [R. Sharp]


  • Archiv der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, papers on A. H. Foord's doctorate, Signatur
  • National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, collections of fossil specimens
  • NHM, collections of fossil specimens


  • W. J. Topley, two photographs, 1883, NA Canada

Wealth at Death

£2315 2s. 8d.: probate, 27 Sept 1933, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

National Archives of Canada, Ottawa
[in 360 vols. with suppls., also CD-ROM and online]
Natural History Museum, London