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Biographical entry Smithers, Courtenay Neville (1925 - 2011)

29 August 1925
South Africa
12 May 2011
Entomologist and Museum administrator


Courtenay Smithers was an entomologist who was a world expert on Psocoptera (bark lice). He worked as an entomologist in South Africa and Rhodesia before becoming Curator of Insects at the Australian Museum in 1960. As curator he was also responsible for Arachnids, Chilopoda and Dromopoda, and revolutionised the way in which the collections were stored in such a way as to minimise damage to the fragile specimens when they were moved. His collecting activities in Australia and Melanesia resulted in the Australian Museum having one of the world's best collections of Psocoptera. Among his nearly 300 scientific publications was the major work The classification and phylogeny of the Psocoptera (1972). Smithers was a firm believer in the importance of connecting the public to the work of museum scientists, encouraging members of the public to participate in Museum programs. He wrote books and articles of a popular nature, his books on insect collecting and backyard beekeeping both running to multiple editions. Smithers played a leading role in the establishment of a national entomological society and served a term as President of the Australian Entomological Society. After retiring as Principal Curator from the Australian Museum he continued his research on bark lice, scorpion flies, butterflies and lacewings.



- 1985
Career position - Principal Curator, Australian Museum
Life event - Migrated to UK with family
1943 - 1947
Career position - Served with the British Army
Life event - Migrated to Australia
1960 - 1967
Career position - Curator of Insects, Australian Museum
1967 - ?
Career position - Deputy Director, Australian Museum
Career position - Organising secretary, International Congress of Entomologists, Canberra
Education - PhD, Rhodes University, South Africa
1977 - 1980
Career position - President, Australian Entomological Society
1983 - 2011
Award - Honorary Life Member, Australian Entomological Society
1984 - 2011
Award - Honorary Life Member, Entomological Society of New South Wales
Life event - Retired
1985 - 2011
Career position - Senior Fellow, Australian Museum

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Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Britton, David, 'Dr Courtenay Neville Smithers 1925 - 2011: a tribute', General and Applied Entomology, 40 (2011), 25-34. Details
  • Britton, David R., 'Courtenay Neville Smithers: his career in Australia', Australian Entomologist, 39 (4) (2012), 221-30. Details
  • New, T. R., 'Courtenay Neville Smithers: his scientific contributions to the "small order" of insects', Australian Entomologist, 39 (4) (2012), 231-7. Details
  • Peters, J. V., 'A tribute to Courtenay Neville Smithers and his butterfly migration studies', Australian Entomologist, 39 (4) (2012), 239-46. Details


Helen Cohn