Edward Frederick Kelaart

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Lieutenant Colonel Edward Frederick Kelaart (21 November 1819 – 31 August 1860) was a Ceylonese-born physician and naturalist. He made some of the first systematic studies from the region and described many plants and animals from Sri Lanka.


Edward Frederick (sometimes spelt Fredric) Kelaart was born on 21 November 1819 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The family was of Dutch and German heritage. He was the oldest son of William Henry Kelaart and Anna Frederika.[1] William worked as an assistant apothecary to the forces. The family had settled in Sri Lanka around 1726. At the age of sixteen, Edward joined the Ceylon government as a medical assistant. In 1838 he went to study at the University of Edinburgh, receiving an MD from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1841.

He returned to Ceylon to become a Staff Assistant Surgeon in the Army in 1841 and was posted in 1843 to Gibraltar as an Army Surgeon. He published Flora Calpensis, the flora of Gibraltar, in 1845. He was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society on 17 February 1846, seconded by J. D. Hooker and Ray Lankester. In 1848, he returned to Ceylon and began making systematic studies.[2] He was also a member of the Geological Society of London, although he did not publish on the topic.[3]

Promoted Staff Surgeon in 1852, he travelled around Sri Lanka and especially studied the highland regions of Nuwara Eliya. He made large collections of reptiles at Nuwara Eliya and sent them to the museum curator-zoologist Edward Blyth.[4]

In 1856 he was made Naturalist to the Government of Ceylon. His first work was to study the pearl fisheries.[2][5] His taxonomic contributions included the description of 16 species of Turbellaria, 22 species of Actiniaria and 63 species of Nudibranchia.[6] In 1852 he published Prodromus fauna Zeylanica, on the Ceylonese vertebrate fauna.

Kelaart died aboard the S.S. Ripon on the way to England on 31 August 1860 and was buried at Southampton.[2]

A bust of Kelaart was made by sculptor Henry Weigall.[7]

Two species of birds found in Sri Lanka are named after him: the black-throated munia (Lonchura kelaarti) and the hawk-eagle Nisaetus kelaarti. The Sri Lankan subspecies of jungle nightjar, Caprimulgus indicus kelaarti, also refers to Kelaart. The disused monotypic genus Kelaartia (yellow-eared bulbul) likewise commemorated him.[8] Toad Adenomus kelaartii is also named after him.[9]



  1. ^ Lewis, J. Penry (1913). List of inscriptions on Tombstones and Monumants in Ceylon. Colombo: Government Press. p. 95.
  2. ^ a b c Pethiyagoda, Rohan & K. Manamendra-Arachchi (1997). "The life and work of Edward Fredric Kelaart" (PDF). J. South Asian nat. Hist. 2 (2): 217–246. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-22. Retrieved 2014-12-22. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ Duke of Argyll (1873). Address delivered at the Anniversary meeting of the Geological Society of London on the 21st of February 1873. p. 18.
  4. ^ Smith, M. A. 1941. Fauna of British India. Reptilia and Amphibia.
  5. ^ Kelaart, E.F. (1857). "Introductory Report on the Natural History of the Pearl Oyster of Ceylon". Madras Journal of Literature and Science. 3 (5): 89–105.
  6. ^ Eliot, Charles (1906). "On the nudibranchs of southern India and Ceylon, with special reference to the drawings by Kelaart and the collections belonging to Alder & Hancock preserved in the Hancock Museum at Newcastle-on-Tyne". Proc. Zool. Soc. London: 636–691.
  7. ^ Graves, Algernon (1906). The Royal Academy of Arts. A complete dictionary of contributors and their works from its foundation in 1769 to 1904. Volume 8. Toft to Zwecker. London: Henry Graves and Co. p. 199.
  8. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2014). The Eponym Dictionary of Birds. Bloomsbury. p. 669. ISBN 978-1-4729-0574-1.
  9. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael & Grayson, Michael (2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians. Pelagic Publishing. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-907807-42-8.
  10. ^ IPNI.  Kelaart.