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Portrait of Walter Percy Sladen (oil on canvas)

Portrait of Percy Sladen

Percy Sladen (1849-1900)

Walter Percy Sladen, known as Percy, was the son of a wealthy merchant from Halifax. His interest in echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins and related creatures) awoke during trips to the Yorkshire coast while he was still a young man. Later he toured most of the major European museums and spent several months studying preserved specimens. He also observed live animals at the Zoological Station in Naples. In 1898 Sladen and his wife Constance moved to Northbrook Estate in Exeter because he was in bad health.

Sladen gathered a large collection of specimens during his lifetime. It includes microscope slides from W.B. Carpenter and fossils from Professor PM Duncan. sladen died in Florence in 1900 and later in 1903 Constance presented his collection to RAMM. She paid for Sladen’s Study to be created in his memory and for a curator to research and display her husband’s collection. This collection is believed to be the largest and most comprehensive echinoderm collection outside the Natural History Museum, London.


Percy Sladen and HMS Challenger

Sladen’s reputation brought him to the attention of Sir Charles Wyville Thomson. thompson was looking for someone to describe the starfish specimens collected on the Voyage of HMS Challenger (1872-76). This 70,000 nautical mile voyage of exploration laid the foundations for almost every branch of ocean science we know today. Sladen wrote nearly 1000 pages describing the starfish and made 118 illustrations. These were included in the final 50-volume (30,000 page) report. Museums all over the world have specimens from HMS Challenger – explore their collections on RAMM’s HMSChallenger.net website.


Find out more

The Linnean Society published a biography of Percy Sladen written by David Nichols from the University of Exeter.

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