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John Gould Memorial : 21-January-2015
John Gould Memorial : 21-January-2015

Photographs supplied by Graeme Saunders / Professor Kevin F. Kenneally AM, President WA Gould League

The John Gould Memorial commemorates John Gould, his wife Elizabeth Coxen Gould and John Gilbert. It was erected in 2004 to mark the 200th anniversary of John Gould`s birth. The memorial was rededicated and a new plaque erected in April 2009 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the WA Gould League and 25 years at Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre which opened in 1984. 

John Gould was a zoologist, who was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England.  It is probable that after some slight education he served with his father as a gardener, and thus became attracted to both plants and birds. At 23 he was appointed a taxidermist on the staff of the Zoological Society of London, and in 1829 he married Elizabeth Coxen, a talented artist.

In 1831-32 he published in twenty monthly parts A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains, a volume notable for its eighty colour plates painted by Elizabeth Gould, and the precursor of a remarkable series of books on birds and mammals. In 1832 also he began the publication of The Birds of Europe, a work of five volumes that was completed in 1837.

Gould turned his attention to the birds of Australia, and he issued in 1837-38 four parts of a so-called synopsis, with seventy-three plates by his wife, and immediately afterwards two more parts appeared. Very soon, however, he discontinued this work.  He planned an expedition to Australia and he sailed in May 1838 with his wife and eldest son, aged 7, a young nephew, a man-servant and a maid-servant, and, most important, a zoological collector, John Gilbert.

On 18 September 1838 in the Parsee the party landed in Hobart Town and at once Gould and Gilbert, accompanied at times by the servant James Benstead, began fieldwork in Van Diemen's Land and adjacent islands. In the following months, while Gilbert was operating in Western Australia, Gould visited New South Wales, spent several weeks exploring the Murray scrubs in South Australia, mainly in the company of Charles Sturt, and also visited Kangaroo Island. 

He also spent some time in Sydney, where in March 1840 he issued a prospectus relating to his proposed publications on the birds of Australia, already published before he left England, as indicated by a reprint in the Sydney Herald, 9 September 1839. 

The Gould party left Sydney on 9 April 1840, and publication of The Birds of Australia began in London on 1 December 1840. The final parts, making a total of thirty-six, appeared in 1848.  As with his earlier books, these were published with admirable colour plates; many of the drawings had been executed by Mrs Gould, but after her death in 1841 other artists were employed. The total number of colour plates in the eight volumes is 681, and the whole production is undoubtedly the greatest of Gould's eighteen major works.

Although grievously affected by his wife's death, and left with the care of six young children, he continued to work diligently at research and publishing. Gilbert died in 1845, but Gould subsidized other collectors and also kept in touch with Sturt and other explorers and naturalists in Australia. In addition to numerous papers in scientific journals, he issued works on humming-birds, on the birds of Asia, and on the birds of Great Britain, all beautifully illustrated; and during 1845-63 he produced in three volumes, The Mammals of Australia, followed in 1865 by a two volume Handbook to the Birds of Australia. He was engaged in compiling The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands at the time of his death, and this work was completed by Dr R. B. Sharpe.

During his lifetime Gould was honoured by numbers of scientific societies. Now his name persists as that of the 'father' of bird study in Australia, and he is commemorated in a nation-wide institution, the Gould League of Bird Lovers.



Address:Selby Street, Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre, Churchlands, 6017
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -31.928898
Long: 115.804997
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 10th December, 2004
Front Inscription


This memorial and Wildlife Centre commemorate the life and work of John Gould FRS `The Bird Man`, his wife Elizabeth Coxen Gould (1804 - 1841) and natural history collector John Gilbert (1812 - 1845).

It was erected by the WA Gould League (Inc) to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Gould (14 September 1804 - 3 February 1881).

John Gould was the author and publisher of some of the world`s most magnificently illustrated books on birds and mammals. He was assisted in this venture by his artist wife Elizabeth and collector John Gilbert when they journeyed to Australia in 1838 and spent the next 19 months recording the natural history of the continent. During 1845 -1863 he produced in three volumes The Mammals of Australia, followed in 1865 by a two volume Handbook to the Birds of Australia. 

Gould never visited Western Australia and entrusted John Gilbert to carry out natural history collecting activities in the Swan River Colony in 1839 and again in 1842.  Gilbert was speared to death in 1845 on Ludwig Leichhardt`s expedition to Port Essington and is buried in a lonely grave in North Queensland.

This memorial was officially dedicated by The Hon, Dr Judy Edwards MLA (Minister for the Environment) on 10 December 2004 in the presence of Dr Elizabeth Constable MLA (Member for Churchlands).

The memorial was re-dedicated by the Hon. Dr Elizabeth Constable MLA ( Minister for Education ) on the 1 April 2009 to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the WA Gould League and to mark 25 years at the Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre opened in 1984. 

President: Professor Kevin F. Kenneally  AM
Vice Presidents: Phylis Robertson and Ian Hancock 
Councillors: Margaret Buttfield, Gayne Doyle, Kevn Griffiths, Eric McCrum OAM, Anne Mueller and Alma de Rebeira OAM
Centre Staff : Roger Harris and Jennifer Newhill

Source: MA,ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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