Self-taught naturalist, life-long Museum curator, herpetologist and fish scientist Edgar Ravenswood Waite (1866-1928) was a man of prodigious energy and enthusiasms. He may have been reserved and retiring, but as well as an illustrious scientific and museum career in Australia and NZ, he was a passionate hobbiest with interests ranging from motor cycling, drawing, painting, photography, aquarium-keeping and philately to playing the flute.

The diaries

Throughout his busy life, Waite kept detailed diaries – almost 70 in total. Waite’s  family have recently loaned 66 of these wonderful diaries to the Archives for preservation copying and transcription. As well as accounts of his own scientific and field work and camping trips and his curatorial and professional duties, the diaries are a remarkable view of the scientists, scientific institutions and museums of his generation. The diaries are now with the team from our DigiVols project -- volunteers working to digitise the Museum's vast scientific and cultural collections.

Project highlights

Archives volunteer Prue Walker has been following the digitising project with interest and picking some of her favourite extracts, starting with this one, probably drawn when Edgar was eight years old (and already developing his artistic talents):

"This lively cartoon sequence was included in the first Edgar Waite diary currently being scanned at the Australian Museum. The diary was written during a family holiday in Whitby, probably in August 1874 when Edgar was eight years old. He continued to keep diaries throughout his life and all of his diaries were enlivened by sketches. They depicted not only his work-related specimens, but also people, places and objects that caught his eye.

I have dipped into the diaries and enjoy the way they show the man as well as the scientist."

Want to help?

Become an online volunteer at the Atlas of Living Australia and help us transcribe the Edgar Waite Diaries.

More about Edgar Ravenswood Waite

Australian Dictionary of Biography.