(17)  Richard William Coppinger


Richard William Coppinger, was born on 11thOctober 1847 in Dublin. He was the youngest of the six sons of Joseph William Coppinger, a solicitor of Farmley, Dundrum, Co. Dublin, and his wife, Agnes Mary, only daughter of William Lalor Cooke, a landed proprietor of Fortwilliam, Co. Tipperary. The family was long settled at Ballyvolane and Barryscourt, Co. Cork, and were descended from the first Danish settlers in Cork city.

Coppinger received his medical education in Dublin, graduating MD at the Queen's University in 1870. Entering the medical department of the navy, he was appointed surgeon to HMS Discovery, which left Portsmouth on 29th May 1875 under the command of Captain George S. Nares on a voyage of exploration towards the north pole. The Discovery reached a higher latitude than had ever been touched before, and Coppinger distinguished himself as the naturalist in charge of one of the sledging parties. Two geographical features on Greenland were named after him. Coppinger Berg or Mount Coppinger lies at N82° 27´ 0" and Kap Coppinger a promontory lies at N.80° 35´ 0" W.60° 34´ 0". On the return of the Discovery to England in October 1876 he was specially promoted staff-surgeon and awarded the Arctic medal.

Coppinger served as naturalist in the HMS Alerton her four years exploring cruise in Patagonian, Polynesian, and Mascarene waters from 1878 to 1882. Sailing from Plymouth on 25thSeptember 1878 and proceeding to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Straits of Magellan for a longer time in the waters of the Tahiti and Fiji Islands arriving at Sydney on 16thApril 1881. They had a 4 month stay on Thursday Island surveying the Prince of Wales Canal then visited many island South of New Guinea. Leaving Torres Strait on 1stOctober 1881 the Alert sailed via Port Darwin and Singapore between 18thNovember 18812 and 5thFebruary 1882 when they left for home arriving in Plymouth on 3rdSeptember 1882.

During this voyage his name was added to two more geographical features on the Chilean coast; a fjord “Bahia Coppinger” at S.49º 42´ 46" - W. 75º 12´ 4 and a peninsular “Peninsula In 1889 Coppinger was appointed instructor in hygiene at the Haslar Royal Naval Hospital at Gosport, where he was a most successful teacher, his knowledge of bacteriology being in advance of the time. On 13thMarch 1901 he was appointed Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets, and was for three years in charge at Haslar. On 15thMay 1904 he was placed on half pay, and, disappointed at not being made director-general of the medical department of the navy, he retired in 1906.
Coppinger wrote The Cruise of the Alert, 1878–82 (1883); ‘Some experiments on the conductive properties of ice made in Discovery Bay, 1875–6’ (PRS 27, 1878, 183–9); and ‘Account of the zoological collections made in the years 1878–1881,Coppinger” at S 50º 6' 52"- W.74º 58' 50".

He married on 8thJanuary 1884, Matilda Mary, daughter of Thomas Harvey Browne, a landed proprietor of Sydney, New South Wales. They had three sons and one daughter. She survived her husband.

During the survey of HMS Alertin the Straits of Magellan and the coast of Patagonia’ (Proceedings of the Zoological Society, 1881). He also contributed to the parliamentary paper containing the report of the Admiralty committee (1877) on ‘The outbreak of scurvy in the Arctic expedition, 1875–6’ (Parl. papers, 1877, 56, 557), and to the Report on the zoological collections made in the Indo-Pacific Ocean during the voyage of HMS Alert 1881–2 (British Museum, Nat. Hist., 1884).

Zoological collections in the British Museum and Kew hold 90 items gathered from Australia and possibly from the islands South of New Guinea. His collections between 1878 and 1882 added 1300 species to the national collection.

He died at his residence, Wallington House, Fareham, on 2ndApril 1910, and was buried at Fareham cemetery. A Grant of Probate was made on 4thMay 1910 when his estate was valued at £3439 13s. 5d.

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