In memoriam: Campbell Robert Smith (1951–2019)
expand article infoRichard I. Vane-Wright
‡ Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom
Open Access

Campbell Smith was employed as an entomologist at London’s Natural History Museum for 35 years, during which time he worked on various catalogues, curated parts of the museum collections, and contributed to the output of several research groups. In 2009 he took early retirement to look after his widowed father. His sudden and unexpected death on 11th March 2019 came as a shock to former museum staff and various entomologists around the world, acknowledging his loss with sorrow mixed with good memories of this most amiable colleague and friend.

Campbell was born at Stoke Newington, North London, on 28th November 1951, the only child of Arthur William and Olga Lilian Smith. Olga (née Harris) and Arthur were both from Hackney, and had married there in 1951. Arthur, who worked most of his life before retirement as a Postal & Telegraph Officer (as had his father before him), served in the Army during WWII. By the time he was demobbed, he had become involved with ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association), and was later encouraged by famed trombone player Don Lusher to enter the dance band world as a singer. Arthur declined (apparently because ‘he couldn’t read the dots’), but maintained a strong interest in music – something that definitely ‘rubbed off’ on Campbell. Very sadly his mother died in 1981, at a relatively young age, but not before the family had moved to Leigh-on-Sea, an Essex town on the banks of the Thames estuary that now forms part of the borough of Southend-on-Sea.

Figure 1. 

Campbell with Graphium policenes, ca 2000, courtesy NHM.

Figure 2. 

The young Campbell, courtesy Malcolm and Sheila Catlin.

During this time Campbell developed not only his interest in music, but also an enduring fascination with the natural world, including birds and fossils. Olga, who had been a clerical officer in a bank, was very studious herself, and did much to encourage Campbell’s academic interests. He completed his secondary education at Southend High School for Boys in 1970. Thereafter he enrolled as an undergraduate at University College London, from October 1970 to June 1973, and was awarded a BSc in Zoology that August.

A year later, after a short spell as a Southend bus conductor, Campbell was recruited to the Entomology Department of the Natural History Museum on 27th August 1974, as an Assistant Scientific Officer. Assigned to Coleoptera, he first worked in a team headed by Bob Pope, helping with curation of the museum’s collection of longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae). By 1977 he was assisting Richard Thompson with a biometric study of the green weevil Phyllobius pyri species complex, including fieldwork close to home at Two Tree Island nature reserve. Three years later he was working with Peter Hammond on an assessment of beetles as colonists.

Figure 3. 

In the early 1970s, courtesy Malcolm and Sheila Catlin.

Following promotion to Scientific Officer in 1982, Campbell was assigned for a time to the group fulfilling Berry Nye’s vision of a comprehensive catalogue of the generic names of moths of the world. His contributions to this project are acknowledged in Fletcher and Nye 1984 (The Generic Names of Moths of the World volume 5, Pyraloidea: p. xv), and Nye and Fletcher 1991 (op. cit. volume 6, Microlepidoptera: p. xxix).

By 1984, however, Campbell had joined the museum’s Butterfly Section, working alongside Phil Ackery. The cataloguing skills he had acquired found a natural home in a project to complete a comprehensive synonymic list for all butterflies found in the Afrotropical Region, based on a manuscript by Bob Carcasson (former Director of the National Museum of Kenya). This culminated in an 800-page work published under Campbell’s name as one of three editors (Ackery et al. 1995). The first publication under his own name, on the type material and a bibliography of the celebrated amateur butterfly specialist Lionel George Higgins, appeared in 1988. Campbell also turned his hand to curation of parts of the museum’s huge butterfly collection, including European, South American and later African species.

Figure 4. 

Campbell 1984, old Entomology block, NHM; photo courtesy Prof Kyoichiro Ueda.

Campbell’s move to the butterfly group, with its strong interest in biology and cladistics, gave him more opportunities for attending conferences – and on just one occasion, overseas fieldwork. Conference trips included feisty Willi Hennig Society meetings in London (1984) and Paris (1992), convivial biology of butterflies symposia in Stockholm (1994: see Smith and Pope 1995), Crested Butte (1998) and Leeuwenhorst, Netherlands (2002), and, at the invitation of Prof Osamu Yata, a memorable visit to Fukuoka, Japan, in December 2004, to give a presentation on Graphium. For Paris, Campbell acted as unofficial travel organiser for the London contingent, which Prof Brian Gardiner recalls was greatly appreciated. Other visits included Stuttgart to work with Christoph Häuser and Axel Steiner on ‘Butterfly Taxonomy on the Internet’ (2003), and Oxford, Frankfurt, Brussels, Tervuren, Paris, Berlin, Karslruhe, Stuttgart and München to work on African collections of Papilionidae. There was also a brief excursion to the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in spring 1994, as part of the NHM Biogeography and Conservation Laboratory’s contribution to an international project on priority area analysis for the conservation of biodiversity.

His one attempt to undertake fieldwork in the tropics – Korup National Park, Cameroon, 1989, in the company of David Lees, did not end well. Campbell contracted malaria and, on his return, had to spend a while recovering in the old Rochford Hospital, a few miles from the family home at Leigh. Even so, while at Korup, together with Andrew Rawlins, he assisted David in valuable work compiling a Korup butterfly checklist, and on the life history of the enigmatic butterfly Pseudopontia (Pieridae).

As already noted, from 1990–2004 Campbell also worked in support of the Biogeography and Conservation Lab., including research with myself on the systematics of swallowtail butterflies – intended at the time as a long-term focal group for conservation planning, following up from the 1985 IUCN Red Data book by Mark Collins and Mike Morris. This ambitious aim was, sadly, never to be realised – although an idea of what was in mind can be found in Smith and Vane-Wright (2001) with its analytical section on biogeography, endemism and conservation evaluation. Campbell’s research on swallowtails was otherwise largely of a revisional nature, concerned with species limits, synonymy and distribution, but the output did include the description of one new species, Graphium abri Smith & Vane-Wright, 2001, from the Central African Republic, as well as several cladistic analyses based on detailed morphological data. He also made a significant contribution to the checklist of butterflies of Sulawesi, published in 2003 under the authorship of Rienk de Jong and myself (Zoologische Verhandelingen 343, 267 pp.).

Figure 5. 

With the bronze bull Goshingyu that guards the shrine of Michizane Suagawara (845–903), God of Learning, Dazaifu City, Fukuoka, Japan, 13.xii.2004. It is said you become wise if you touch the head of Goshingyu. Courtesy Prof. Osamu Yata.

From 2005 onward, after my retirement from the Natural History Museum in 2004, and throughout the construction of the Darwin Centre 2 building at South Kensington, all Museum lepidopterists were relocated to the museum’s outstation at Wandsworth, SW London. During this period, as well as finishing up some significant joint publications on the swallowtails, Campbell collaborated with Ian Kitching and Malcolm Scoble as part of the CATE team, ‘Creating a Taxonomic E-science’, a three-year project funded by the National Environment Research Council. His last day of museum service is recorded as 31st January 2009. After retirement he did some voluntary work on the NHM ‘LepIndex’ online database, and the Sphingidae Taxonomic Inventory, a scratchpad project into which the original CATE hawkmoth project had been converted.

Figure 6. 

Campbell (far left) with CATE team, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2008, courtesy Ian Kitching.

From an early age Campbell had taken a considerable interest in the natural world and, evidently inspired by the writings of Gerald Durrell, the need for its conservation. Wildlife societies that he supported included Fauna & Flora International, World Land Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, the Zoological Society of London, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In the course of his academic work he also became a member of several learned societies, notably the Willi Hennig Society, Royal Entomological Society, and Linnean Society of London. Probably influenced by Colin Patterson, Brian Gardiner and Chris Humphries, ‘The Linn’, which he joined in 1989, was his favourite, and not long before his unexpected death he planned to start attending meetings again. In 1988 he was also elected Executive Secretary of the Prolegs Club – a shadowy, light-hearted, after-hours occasional association of lepidopterists, reflecting his ready social engagement with colleagues.

Intensely interested in music of many genres (an extraordinary late-night session in Fukuoka with two Japanese didgeridoo players comes to mind!), but especially ‘classical’, Campbell was a subscriber to The Gramophone. While in Berlin in 1994 he took an unexpected opportunity to meet members of the Berlin Philharmonic, making instant friendships with several of the musicians that were to endure for years to come.

Campbell took early retirement in 2009, at the age of 57, to care for his long widowed father, by then in his late 80s. Campbell evidently had a very strong bond with Arthur, and for years they had taken holidays together, notably several continental train tours – which also fitted well with some of Campbell’s other interests, including good food, wine, beer, railways and ships. They also travelled together to sites where Arthur saw action during WWII, as part of a publicly funded ‘Heroes Return’ programme.

During 2017 Arthur agreed to be moved to a nearby care home, as Campbell felt no longer able to cope. He died, aged 97, in March 2018. In an email Campbell wrote “Though I miss him and will continue to do so, I am not grieving; in the end, his death was a release from extreme discomfort. Instead, I have a sense of relief. Dad has been the prime focus of my thoughts and action. Now I have to make a new life for myself. I hope I’ll be able to renew contact with old friends and colleagues.”

Sadly this never really happened, largely due to a broken ankle that he suffered a few months before Arthur’s death. Campbell’s recovery seemed slow; I met with him in London one lunchtime during July 2018, and it was clear that walking was still difficult, and he had lost confidence in being able to get about. But he was making progress and, having survived Christmas that year (always a challenge when on your own), in January he was clearly looking forward again, even contemplating reviving some unfinished research. So his sudden end (due to a stroke), almost exactly a year after his father’s passing, was a considerable shock to his numerous friends in Southend and Leigh, as well as myself and his many former colleagues.

At times outspoken (his left-wing views engendered a healthy distrust of management, and ‘bosses’ in particular!), Campbell was nonetheless a popular member of Natural History Museum staff, often remembered for his remarkable knowledge of classical music (museum quiz nights), railways and real ale. Professionally, he was a skilled museum entomologist, insightful researcher, and excellent cataloguer. Well regarded by those who knew him, his passing has been marked with sadness by many butterfly specialists around the world. The African lycaenid Eresiomera campbelli Collins & Larsen, 1998, was named in his honour.

In preparing this account, the author wishes to gratefully acknowledge, among others, Phillip Ackery, Ray Aldridge, Zsolt Bálint, Peter Barnard, Andy Brower, Malcolm Catlin, Sheila Catlin, Steve Collins, Adam Cotton, Peter Cranston, Phil de Vries, Gina Douglas, Brian Gardiner, Blanca Huertas, Rob Huxley, John Jackson, Ian Kitching, Gerardo Lamas, Colin Lander, David Lees, Steven Liseki, Val MacAtear, Geoffrey May, Djunijanti Peggie, Andrew Rawlins, Brian Rosen, Klaus Sattler, Malcolm Scoble, John Tennent, Kyoichiro Ueda, David Williams, Robert Winckworth and Osamu Yata.

Bibliography: publications by Campbell Robert Smith

1988 Lionel George Higgins – a bibliography and type catalogue. Entomologist’s Gazette 39(1): 17–37.

1991 Phylogenetic relationships of three African swallowtail butterflies, Papilio dardanus, P. phorcas and P. constantinus: new data from hybrids (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Systematic Entomology 16: 257–273. [Joint: Clarke Sir C, Gordon IJ, Vane-Wright RI & Smith CR]

1991 Phylogenetic relationships of three African swallowtail butterflies, Papilio dardanus, P. phorcas and P. constantinus: a cladistic analysis (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Systematic Entomology 16: 275–291. [Joint: Vane-Wright RI & Smith CR]

1992 Occurrence and significance of natural hybrids between Papilio dardanus and P. phorcas (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Systematic Entomology 17: 269–272. [Joint: Vane-Wright RI & Smith CR]

1994 Papilio saharae Oberthür, 1879, specifically distinct from Papilio machaon Linnaeus, 1758 (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Entomologist’s Gazette 45(4): 223–249. [Joint: Pittaway AR, Larsen TB, Clarke Sir CA, Smith CR, Crnjar R & Clarke FMM]

1994 Systematic assessment of diversity by summation. In Forey PL, Humphries CJ & Vane- Wright RI (eds), Systematics and Conservation Evaluation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 309–326. [Joint: Vane-Wright RI, Smith CR & Kitching IJ]

1995 Are butterflies the “New Birds”? Report on the meeting: Butterfly Ecology and Evolution, held at Stockholm University, Sweden, 10th-12th October, 1994. Antenna, London 19(1): 28–30. [Joint: Smith CR & Pope JE]

1995 Carcasson’s African butterflies: an Annotated Catalogue of the Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea of the Afrotropical Region. CSIRO, East Melbourne, pp. xi + 803 pp. [Joint: Ackery PR, Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI (eds)]

1995 Biodiversity, systematics, and conservation: a case study of swallowtail butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Verhandlungen der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft 88: 148. [Joint: Häuser CL, Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

1999 Bionomics of African kite swallowtails, with a request for information. Metamorphosis 10(2): 81–83. [Joint: Vane-Wright RI & Smith CR]

2001 A review of the Afrotropical species of the genus Graphium (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Papilionidae). Bulletin of The Natural History Museum London (Entomology) 70(2): 503–718. [Joint: Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

2001 [POSTER] Citrus swallowtails – from the East, or out of Africa? Poster abstracts, 4th International Congress on the Biology of Butterflies, Leeuwenhorst, The Netherlands 23–27 March 2002, pp. 54–55. [Joint: Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

2002 [ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION] Distribution of Afrotropical kite swallowtails. [Link dead, and data, though supposedly archived, now inaccessible] [Joint: Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

2003 Graphium butterflies of the Afrotropical Region [in Japanese]. The Nature and Insects, New Science Co., Tokyo 38(7): 7–12.

2004 Independent gene phylogenies and morphology demonstrate a Malagasy origin for a wideranging group of swallowtail butterflies. Evolution 58(12): 2763–2782. [Joint: Zakharov EV, Smith CR, Lees DC, Cameron A, Vane-Wright RI & Sperling FAH]

2004 [ABSTRACT] Why are we studying Oriental Graphium? In Yata, O. (Ed.) Abstracts of International Symposium “Network construction for the establishment of insect inventory in Tropic Asia (TAIIV)”, Kyushu University, 11–12 December 2004, p. 7. Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.

2005 [ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION] Papilionidae – revised GloBIS/GART species checklist (2nd draft). [Online -] [Joint: Häuser C, de Jong R, Lamas G, Robbins RK, Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

2005 Why we are studying Oriental Graphium (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) at the Natural History Museum, London. In Yata O (ed.) A Report on Insect Inventory Project in Tropic Asia (TAIIV) “Network construction for the establishment of insect inventory in Tropic Asia (TAIIV)”. Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, pp. 49–56.

2007 [POSTER] Getting involved with CATE. XVth European Congress of Lepidopterology, Erkner, Germany, September 2007. [Joint: Smith CR, Scoble MJ, Kitching IJ, Clark B, Godfray HCJ, Mayo S, Blagoderov V, Haigh A, Jackson M, James S, Reynolds L & Young R]

2007 [POSTER AND ABSTRACT] Getting involved with CATE. TAIIV meeting, Kyushu University, Japan, December 2007. In Abe, Y. & Yata, O. (eds) Program of International Symposium “Network construction for the establishment of insect inventory in Tropical Asia (TAIIV)”, Kyushu University, 1–2 December 2007, pp. 81–82 [p. 82 in Japanese]. Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. [Joint: Smith CR, Scoble MJ, Kitching IJ, Clark B, Godfray HCJ, Mayo S, Blagoderov V, Haigh A, Jackson M, James S, Reynolds L & Young R]

2008 Classification, nomenclature and identification of lime swallowtail butterflies: a post-cladistic analysis (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Systematics and Biodiversity 6(2): 175–203; [Joint: Smith CR & Vane-Wright RI]

2008 On the status of Papilio sjoestedti Aurivillius, 1908, the “Kilimanjaro Swallowtail” (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Journal of Natural History 42(19–20): 1349–1359. [Joint: Smith CR, Liseki S & Vane-Wright RI]

2008 Introducing CATE – a model for moving taxonomy to the web. In Yata O (ed.) The 2nd Report on Insect Inventory Project in Tropic Asia (TAIIV) “Network construction for the establishment of insect inventory in Tropic Asia (TAIIV)”. Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, pp. 137–144. [Joint: Smith CR, Godfray HCJ, Scoble MJ, Clark BR, Kitching IJ, Mayo SJ, Blagoderov V, Haigh AL, Jackson M, Sadler S, Lay LN & Young RPW]