Richard Dell

Richard Dell

Richard Kenneth Dell (11 July 1920 - 6 March 2002) was a New Zealand scientist, a malacologist.

Dell was born in Auckland. As a young boy, he took an interest in shells, collecting them from the shores of Waitemata Harbour. He even managed to start a "museum" in his backyard. He also helped curate the Auckland War Memorial Museum shell collection.

Dell studied at Mount Albert Grammar School and later at the Auckland University College. He took a teacher’s course at Auckland Teachers' College, but World War II delayed his plans to become a teacher. He joined the New Zealand Artillery, serving on Nissan Island, the Solomon Islands, in the Middle East, Egypt, and Italy.

He later published several papers on the land snails he had collected in the Solomon Islands.

After the war, Dell was offered a job as malacologist at the Dominion Museum, where he started to standardise the cabinets and built up a collection of more than 30,000 specimens. In the meantime, he took a Masters degree in Science at Victoria University of Wellington, with a pioneering thesis on cephalopods, octopuses and squid.

His breakthrough came with the Chatham Islands Expedition of 1954. The results were published in 1956 as The Archibenthal Mollusca of New Zealand, which was a major contribution to the knowledge of molluscan fauna in the bathyal zone of New Zealand waters. This publication earned him a Doctorate in Science in 1956.

Soon after, Dell started to work on Antarctic collections, with among others Alan Beu and Winston Ponder. In 1964 he published a major monograph on the Antarctic bivalves, chitons and scaphopods.

Dell became first Assistant Director in 1961 and later in 1966, Director of the Dominion Museum, which would become the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

He retired in 1980, and started writing again. In 1990 he published his standard work Antarctic Mollusca with special reference to the Fauna of the Ross Sea.

Dell published more than 150 papers on Mollusca (marine, terrestrial and freshwater), crabs and birds. He also made a major contribution to the Antarctic biogeography.

He was an honoured member of many scientific societies and committees. He won prizes and medals in New Zealand and abroad. He has named many new species of molluscs and several new crustaceans.

Dell was the last of his generation of important New Zealand malacologists.

Dell died, after a long illness, in Wellington.

Read more about Richard DellSelected Publications, Taxa Named By R.K. Dell, Taxa Named in Honor of R.K. Dell

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