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15 September 2010

On this day in history: Foundation of the Bombay Natural History Society, 1883

On 15th September, 1883, eight gentlemen with an interest in the natural world at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Bombay (now called Mumbai) to found the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). The eight included the Anglo-Indians Edward Hamilton Aitken, a customs official who became the first Honorary Secretary, and Colonel Charles Swinhoe, as well as two Indian naturalists: Dr Atmaram Pandurang and Dr Sakharam Arjun. The other four founding members were Dr G. A. Maconochie, Dr D. MacDonald, Mr J. C. Anderson, and Mr. J. Johnston.

They proposed that they should hold monthly meetings at the museum at which they would exchange notes and display specimens. The society soon had their own premises, care of the wine merchant Herbert Musgrave Phipson, who joined the society following his return from a trip to England and offered the society the use of an office in his shop at 18, Forbes Street. Phipson went on to succeed Aitken as Honorary Secretary in 1886, the same year that the BNHS published the first edition of its journal.

The journal established the reputation of the Society, which soon attracted a large membership and built up a number of collections of specimens. Today, the BNHS also takes an active role in the conservation of natural habitats and species. To learn more about the society, visit the BNHS website.

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