Andrew Rodger Waterston, 1912-1996

By David Heppell

Extracted from Journal of Conchology 35, pp.517–519

Andrew Rodger Waterston was born at Ollaberry, Shetland, 11 March 1912, the younger son of the entomologist James Waterston who was, at that time, a minister of the United Free Church. With his death in Edinburgh on 12 July 1996 the zoological fraternity lost a great scholar naturalist whose all-round knowledge of the Scottish fauna was second to none. Although perhaps best known as an entomologist, with a particular interest in the insects of the Middle East, his contributions to malacology were considerable. He read zoology at Edinburgh University, submitting his B. Sc. honours thesis "On some points in the anatomy, histology and relationships of a new British slug (genus Limax)", a study of the greenhouse alien L. nyctelius. He took part in the University's 1935 expedition to investigate the natural history of Barra, the Hebridean island which was to become Rodgers's summer home for much of the last 30 years and, in 1938, married a fellow member of that expedition, the mycologist Marie Campbell.

Rodger Waterston was introduced to the Conchological Society by Charles Oldham and A. E. Boycott, with whom he collected non-marine molluscs in Ireland. In 1931 he had the foresight (or Scottish canniness) to subscribe six guineas for Life Membership; he was also a Life Member of the Malacological Society of London from 1935. He was appointed Assistant Keeper in the Department of Natural History of the then Royal Scottish Museum in September of that year, with responsibility for the invertebrate collections. Rodger was an active fieldworker, very interested in species distribution and with a good eye for Vertigo and other minute species. After Boycott's death in 1938, he took over the Society's Recorder for non-marine Mollusca, with a view to bringing out a new edition of Roebuck's distribution Census, but this intention was frustrated by the Second World War. In July 1943 the Society's Proceedings record that "the Recorder of non-marine Mollusca is now serving with the Forces and has been unable to provide his usual report". The Census record books were left with the Hon. Secretary, J. W. Jackson. Although unavoidably inactive because of his service abroad, Waterston held the post of non-marine Recorder until 1947, when he was succeeded by A. E. Ellis.

Rodger’s wartime record was distinguished. After service with the Royal Scots he was seconded in 1943 to the Middle East Anti-Locust Unit as Chief Locust Officer. Although based in Cairo, his official duties were wide ranging, taking him from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Palestine. He was the last of the senior staff to return to their museum duties after the war, not coming back to Edinburgh until 1952 after an absence of 13 years, for the last six of which he was the entomological adviser to the British Middle East Office and Attaché for Scientific Affairs at the British Embassies in Cairo and Beirut. In 1952 he received an OBE for his work with the Anti-Locust Unit. His interest in terrestrial molluscs remained active as in 1953 he donated to the museum his collection of more than 2000 specimens of Middle Eastern snails.

At the Royal Scottish Museum, Waterston became Keeper of Natural History in 1958, a post he held until his retirement in 1973. He did not subsequently relinquish zoological study but returned to his research on Middle Eastern dragonflies. In recognition of his distinguished service to the museum and to zoology he was accorded the special title Keeper Emeritus. His own collection of more than 2000 lots of non-marine molluscs, mostly for Scottish localities and all with meticulous locality data, was given to the museum in 1959. Many other important donations and bequests were acquired by the museum during his Keepership, including the collection of D. K. Kevan with whom Rodger had conducted much of his Scottish fieldwork. Outstanding among the bequests of Mollusca collections which he secured for the museum was that of A. E. Salisbury in 1961, at that time the largest shell collection in private hands in this country. In size alone it was twice that of the museum's entire previous shell collections. It is a tribute to Rodger Waterston’s administrative abilities that he was able to overcome considerable difficulties in persuading the authorities not only to purchase Salisbury’s extensive malacological library, without which the scientific value of the collection would have been much impaired (in fact, as the museum had no provision for the purchase of a private library, Rodger persuaded Salisbury to make the books the bequest and sell the museum the collection for the same amount!), but also to construct a Mollusca Study Room to house it and appoint, in 1966, the museum’s first Curator of Molluscs to look after it.

The Mollusca collections were also enriched by Waterston’s visits to the Hebrides, and particularly by his study of the fauna of the Loch Druidibeg Nature Reserve in South Uist. In 1982, in recognition of his contribution to the natural history of the Hebrides and to Scottish entomology, he was awarded the Neill Prize Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he had been a Fellow since 1946. Rodger Waterston had an active interest in zoological bibliography and was an active supporter of the Scottish Branch of the Society of the History of Natural History. He was one of the founders of the Scottish Natural History Library which, largely due to his efforts, received both the library of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh and the natural history holdings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh when its library was disbanded some ten years ago.

Though deeply missed, Rodger will long be remembered for his excellent collections and scientific publications but, much more than that, those of us who were privileged to serve under him will never forget his kindly encouragement, his seemingly limitless zoological knowledge so freely given to others, his fascinating reminiscences of malacologists and entomologists who to a younger generation were only names and, by no means least, his dry sense of humour. We mourn a gifted naturalist who was loved and respected by all who knew him. He is survived by his wife Marie and daughter Susan.


List of conchological papers by A. Rodger Waterston.

By Alison Trew

Waterston, A. R., 1929. Some land and freshwater mollusca from Kincardineshire. Scott. Nat. for May–June 1929: 89–90.
—, 1931. Acme lineata (Drap.) in Midlothian. Scott. Nat. for 1931: 152.
Boycott, A. E., Oldham, C. & Waterston, A. R., 1932. Notes on the lake Lymnaea of South-west Ireland. Proc. Malac. Soc. Lond., 20 (2): 105–127; figures in text.
—, 1934. Notes on the Distribution of some Perthshire Molluscs. Trans. Proc. Perthsh. Soc. nat. Sci., 9, (4): 121–124.
—, 1934. Occurrence of Amnicola taylori (E. A. Smith) and Bithynia leachii (Sheppard) in Scotland. J. Conch. Lond., 20 (2): 55–56.
—, 1936. The Natural History of Barra, Outer Hebrides. The result of a scientific expedition organised by the Biological Society of the University of Edinburgh, 1st to 14th July, 1935. – Land and Freshwater Mollusca. Proc. R. phys. Edinb., 22 (5): 290–294.
—, 1939. Recorders Report (non marine mollusca). J. Conch. Lond., 21 (4 and 5): 150. —, 1939. [Contribution, p. 310] In: A discussion on the variation of Lymnaea in shell-form and anatomy with special reference to L. peregra, L. involuta, and allied forms. Proc. malac. Soc. Lond., 23 (5): 303–;315.
—, 1940. Recorders Report (non marine mollusca). J. Conch. Lond., 21 (7): 216–218.
—, 1941. Recorders Report (non marine molluscs). J. Conch. Lond., 21 (9): 284–285. —, 1942. Recorders Report (non marine mollusca)J. Conch. Lond., 21 (11): 337. —, 1966. Dr A. C. Stephen. Nature, Lond., 211: 21.
—, 1967. Alexander Charles Stephen, D.Sc. (Aberd). Yb. R. Soc. Edinb., 1965–66: 33–34.
—, 1969. Douglas Keely Kevan, F.A.C.C.A., F.R.E.S. Yb. R. Soc. Edinb., 1967–1968: 41–42.
—, 1971. Obituaries. Douglas Keely Kevan, 1895–1968.J. Conch. Lond., 26: (6): 419–421.
—, Holden, A. V., Campbell, R. N., & Maitland, P. S., 1979. The inland waters of the Outer Hebrides. Proc. R. Soc. Edinb. (B), 77: 329–351.
—, & Lyster, L. H. J., 1979. The macrofauna of brackish and fresh waters of the Loch Druidibeg National Nature Reserve and its neighbourhood, South Uist. Proc. R. Soc. Edinb. (B), 77: 353–376.
—, 1981. Present knowledge of the non marine invertebrate fauna of the Outer Hebrides, Proc. R. Soc. Edinb. (B) 79 (4): 215–264, 283–321.