World-rated zoologist classified many native NZ spiders

Raymond Forster
Museum director
Staff Writer

Dr Raymond Forster, director of the Otago Museum for 30 years and a world-renowned spider expert, died recently aged 78.

Born in 1922 in Hastings, his interest in insects and spiders developed as a young boy and he wrote his first paper on spiders at the age of 17.

He was educated in Hastings and took the degrees BSc, MSc (Hons) and DSc at Victoria University. He was also DSc (Otago).

His distinguished career as an scientist began in 1940 at the National Museum in Wellington, where he was employed as the entomologist until 1947, although this was interrupted by war service.

He moved to Christchurch in 1948 as a zoologist and assistant director of the Canterbury Museum, before shifting to Dunedin in 1957 to take up the job of director and zoologist at Otago Museum. He retired from the position in 1987.

More than 100 scientific papers and volumes were published bearing his name, including the definitive six-volume Spiders of New Zealand, in co-authorship with international colleagues. He also published Small Land Ani mals and co-authored NZ Spiders, An Introduction.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1961, Dr Forster also received the society's highest honours, the Hutton and Hector medals, for outstanding scientific work in biological research.

He carried out much research overseas, notably in Honolulu, New York and Washington, and was a Fulbright Research Scholar and a Research Fellow at Harvard University.

In 1984 Dr Forster was recognised for his services to science and museology with a Queen's Service Order, and had earlier received the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal.

His international reputation was earned through his work researching and classifying many of New Zealand's thousands of native spiders, most of which had never been officially classified. He set up Otago Museum's spider collection, considered to be the best in the country, and had also helped to "popularise" spiders through media contributions and publications for the lay person.

Dr Forster developed a particular interest in Fiordland after joining expeditions in the area in the 1950s and discovered a small valley which now bears his name, Forster Burn.

His hobbies included natural history, photography and gardening.

He is survived by his wife and their two daughters and two sons.

Saturday, 8-July 2000