Richard Henry Beddome

Col. Richard Henry Beddome

Colonel Richard Henry Beddome (11 May 1830 – 23 February 1911) was a British military officer and naturalist in India who became chief conservator of the Madras Forest Department. In the mid 19th century, he extensively surveyed several remote and then-unexplored hill ranges in Sri Lanka and south India, including those in the Eastern Ghats such as Yelandur, Kollegal, Shevaroy Hills, Yelagiri, Nallamala Hills, Vishakapatnam hills and the Western Ghats such as Nilgiri hills, Anaimalai hills, Agasthyamalai Hills and Kudremukh. He described many species of plants, amphibians and reptiles from southern India and Sri Lanka, and several species from this region described by others bear his name.

Early life

Richard was the eldest son of Richard Boswell Brandon Beddome, solicitor, of Clapham Common, S.W. He was educated at Charterhouse School and trained for the legal profession, but preferred to join the East India Company at the age of 18 and joined the 42nd Madras Native Infantry as a cadet at Jabalpur.[1][2]

Military career

He entered the Army, obtaining a direct cadetship in 1848 in the East India Company's service, and sent to India was posted to the 42nd Madras Native Infantry[3] He was with that regiment at Jabalpur in 1856, serving as Quartermaster and Interpreter of the regiment, and from there he went to Secunderabad. Soon after his arrival at Madras, at the end of 1856, he was appointed to the Madras Forest Department, and never rejoined his regiment.

The following are dates of his commissions: Ensign, 20 January 1848; Lieutenant, l0 November 1853; Captain, 18 February 1861; Major, 20 January 1868; Lieutenant-Colonel, 20 January 1874; Colonel, 20 January 1879.[1]

Madras Forest Department

In 1857 he was selected on account of his devotion to botany and natural history as an assistant to Dr. Hugh Cleghorn, the first conservator of the newly formed Forest Department of the Madras Presidency. He succeeded Cleghorn in 1859 and remained Chief Conservator until 1882.[1]

Botanist, herpetologist, malacologist

He became a member of the University of Madras in 1880. He made many floral studies in India and Ceylon including Trees of the Madras Presidency in 1863 and Handbook of the ferns of British India, Ceylon and Malaya Peninsula in 1892. He also studied reptiles, amphibians and molluscs.

Colonel Beddome was essentially a botanist. In the study of the flora of South India he devoted the best days of his life. The result was the publication of a series of valuable works containing figures of many species. The drawings were executed with great accuracy by the native draughtsmen he had trained to draw.

His botanical publications included The Flora Sylvatica for Southern India, 1869–73; Ferns of Southern India, 1873; Ferns of British India, 1876; Forester's Manual of Botany for Southern India, 1869–74; Icones Plantarum Indies Orientalis, 1874.[4][5]

On Reptilia and Batrachia he wrote at least fifteen papers, and described over 40 new species of reptiles[6] and amphibians.[7][8]

The following is a complete list of his papers on Mollusca: Descriptions of some new Operculated Land-shells from Southern India and Ceylon, 1S75. Descriptions of Land-shells from the Island of Koror, Pelew Group, 1889. Descriptions of some new Land-shells from the Indian Region, 1891. Notes on Indian and Ceylonese species of Glessula, 1906. Descriptions of Labyrinthus cuclausus and Neocyclotus Belli, n.spp., from Colombia, 1908 and in conjunction with H. H. Godwin-Austen: New species of Cyclophorus and a Spiraculum from the Khasi and Naga Hills, Assam.[1]

Beddome described over 1,000 species of animals and plants.[9]

Beddome formed a fine collection of land shells from India and other parts of the world, among which the minute forms were his favourites. His collection of specimens was presented to the British Museum at difficult times, and some specimens were also left with the Indian Museum at Calcutta.

He married Mary Sophia Fullerton in 1862 in London.[10] They had seven children, all christened in the Madras Presidency.[11] He retired in 1892 and lived at "Sispara", West Hill, Wandsworth until his death.[1]

Eponymous species

Amphiesma beddomei (Nilgiri keelback) named in honor of Richard Henry Beddome

Some of the species named in honor of him are listed below:



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Godwin-Austen, H.H. (1912). "Obituary notices. Colonel Richard Henry Beddome". Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London. 10: 50–53.
  2. Kumar, C Satish (2011). "Richard Henry Beddome (1830–1911): A Centennial Remembrance" (PDF). Rheedea. 21 (1): 108–109.
  3. Smith, M.A. 1931. The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Reptilia and Amphibia. Vol. I.—Loricata, Testudines. London: Secretary of State for India in Council. (Taylor and Francis, printers). xxvii+ 185 pp. + Plates I-II. (Beddome, p. 9).
  4. Smith, Malcolm (1940). "A facsimile of R. H. Beddome's articles on Indian reptiles 1862–1870". Archives of Natural History. 1 (10): 273–334. doi:10.3366/jsbnh.1940.1.10.273.
  5. Turner, Ian M. "The angiosperm taxa of R.H. Beddome with notes on the dates of publication of two serially published works." (PDF). Ann. Bot. Fennici. 49: 289–304.
  6. The Reptile Database.
  7. Amphibian Species of the World 5.5, an Online Reference.
  8. Ganesh, S.R. (2011). "Richard Henry Beddome and south India's herpetofauna - a tribute on his centennial death anniversary.". Cobra. 4 (2): 1–11.
  9. Bedd., International Plant Names Index, 2005, retrieved 10 February 2011
  10. "Married". Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier. 20 February 1862. p. 3 via British Newspaper Archive.
  11. "India, Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Children of Richard and Maria Beddome. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  12. IPNI.  Bedd.

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