Discovery of Australia's Fishes


eBook - May 2012 - eRetailers Google Books Kobo

Traces the discovery of Australia's fishes from the earliest days of taxonomy to the first part of the 20th Century.

This book traces the discovery of Australia’s fishes from the earliest days of taxonomy to the first part of the 20th century. It provides a unique insight into the diverse pathways by which Australia’s fish were discovered and outlines the history of early maritime explorations in Australia that collected natural history specimens. The book covers the life and work of each of the most important discoverers, and assesses their accomplishments and the limitations of their work. + Full description

Discovery of Australia’s Fishes is distinctive in that a biographic approach is integrated with chronological descriptions of the discovery of the Australian fish fauna. Many of northern Australia’s fishes are found in parts of the Indian and western Pacific oceans. The book covers the work of collectors who travelled outside Australia, together with that of the British and European zoologists who received and described their collections. The account ceases at 1930, the year the first modern checklist of Australian fishes was published.

2012 Whitley Award Commendation for Historical Zoology.

- Short description


No longer available in a print edition.


"This remarkable resource on the early history of Australian ichthyology is of much broader significance than the title might suggest... This handsome volume, with its many photographs of scientists and fishes and 16 colored plates, is a tribute to Saunders and CSIRO Press. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals."
J.C Briggs, CHOICE Magazine, January 2013

"Saunders has done a marvellous job, neatly threading together rich chunks of archival material, correspondence, diaries, papers and illustrations (monochromes of people and fishes, and 15 colour plates of fishes) with his wry narrative. It’s a scholarly contribution to the history of Australian science viewed through a fish-eye lens."
Brendan Atkins, Explore 34 (4), pp. 26, Summer 2012

"Brian Saunders has produced a wonderful, detailed and beautifully illustrated book on the history of Australian ichthyology, providing in-depth biographies of the ichthyologists who made the most significant contributions during this time... There are lots of reasons to purchase this book, and it will appeal to a wide range readership, not just those interested in the study of fishes. I commend Brian Saunders for his excellent informative and entertaining book – it certainly deserves a place on many bookshelves."
Dianne J. Bray, AMSA Bulletin 188, Issue 2, pp. 27, 2012

"Saunders melded history and biology, to the benefit of both, with the result that Discovery of Australia’s Fishes could serve as a model for others who write books on the history of natural history. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and enthusiastically recommend it."
William D. Anderson Jr., Environmental Biology of Fish, November 2012

"Discovery of Australia’s Fishes is an important and useful contribution to the history of Australian science. Consistently readable, flawlessly edited, designed with flair and robustly bound, it provides a valuable historical compendium of Australian fish species and their taxonomists."
Peter Hobbins, HRAS, pp. 229-231

"Ichthyology will benefit from having this text, which incorporates the workers and their background with the science in a single and comprehensive volume... The style of writing is clear and not overlayed with jargon, it is easy and often entertaining to read... I would recommend this volume to all ichthyologists interested in the discovery of the Australian fish fauna and those interested in the history of science in Australia especially where this pertains to fish."
Graham R. Fulton, Pacific Conservation Biology, June 2013

"The book makes an interesting reading to everybody interested in Australian and general ichthyological history"
Harro Hieronimus, Bulletin of Fish Biology 15(1/2), 2015, pp. 155-156


ePDF | May 2012
ISBN: 9780643106710
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers

ePUB | May 2012
ISBN: 9780643106727
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers


  • Provides an historical overview of the discovery and taxonomy of Australia’s fish.
  • Includes brief biographies of many Australian zoologists with more detailed accounts of those most important to the subject.
  • Highlights the contribution to ichthyology made by museums in Australia.
  • Gives an appreciation of the nature of the day-to-day work of zoologists in Australian institutions (particularly from 1885 to 1930.)


Abbreviations of sources
Part One (to 1800)
Early ichthyology to the time of Ray and Willughby
Artedi, Linnaeus and the Systema Naturae
Linnaeus’ students, their voyages of discovery, and their French contemporaries
Seba, Dutch naturalists and the stadholder’s cabinet
Bloch and Schneider, Pallas, Lacépède, Broussonet
The British Museum before 1800 (Shaw)
Voyages to Australia before 1800
Collections in Australia before 1800
Part Two (1800 to 1870)
Flinders (Bauer, Brown) and Baudin (Péron and Lesueur)
French voyages (1817 to 1840)
Darwin (Jenyns)
Cuvier and Valenciennes, and their contributors
Gray at the British Museum, and the Bennetts
Ichthyology and empire
Continental ichthyology
Fish collection and ichthyology in Australia (1800 to 1870)
Part Three (1870 to 1930)
Overseas contributions
Contemporaries of Ogilby, Waite and McCulloch
A glance forward from 1930
Appendix: Classification of fish species


Brian Saunders is a retired Adelaide eye surgeon with a lifelong interest in marine biology and a long-standing interest in the history of ichthyology. In 2009 he published Shores and Shallows of Coffin Bay.