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Abstract

In the pioneering century of Australian geology the ‘BM’ (British Museum (Natural History): now NHMUK) London played a major role in assessing the palaeontology and stratigraphical relations of samples sent across long distances by local men, both professional and amateur. Eighteen-year-old Arthur Woodward (1864–1944) joined the museum in 1882, was ordered to change his name and was catapulted into vertebrate palaeontology, beginning work on Australian fossils in 1888. His subsequent career spanned six decades across the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries and, although Smith (renamed to distinguish him from NHMUK colleagues) Woodward never visited Australia, he made significant contributions to the study of Australian fossil fishes and other vertebrates. ‘ASW’ described Australian and Antarctic Palaeozoic to Quaternary fossils in some 30 papers, often deciding or confirming the age of Australasian rock units for the first time, many of which have contributed to our understanding of fish evolution. Smith Woodward’s legacy to vertebrate palaeontology was blighted by one late middle-age misjudgement, which led him away from his first-chosen path. ASW’s work, especially on palaeoichthyology with his four-part Catalogue of Fossil Fishes, was one of the foundations for vertebrate palaeontology in Australia; it continues to resonate, and influenced subsequent generations via his unofficial student Edwin Sherbon Hills. Some taxa, however, have never been revisited.

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