This Day In History: 1953-07-23


Maude Jane Delap (1866 – 1953) died on this day.
She was a self-taught Irish marine biologist, although she received little formal education her father encouraged her interest in zoology and biology. Maude, and her sister Constance, were prolific collectors of marine specimens from Valentia Island, collecting specimens through dredging and tow-netting, many of which are now housed within the collections of the Natural History Museum, Dublin. Based on their work a survey was undertaken by the Royal Irish Academy headed by Edward T. Browne (1895 – 96), Delap remained in contact with Browne, sending him specimens and drawings, until his death in 1937. Delap became interested in the life cycle of jellyfishes and was the first person to successfully breed them in captivity. At her home laboratory she bred Chrysaora isosceles and Cyanea lamarckii in bell jars, observing their full life cycle for the first time. In recognition of her contributions to marine biology she was offered a position at the Plymouth Marine Biological Station (1906), but declined owing to her father’s reaction.

Delap is honoured in the name of a sea anemone, Edwardsia delapiae Carlgren & Stephenson, 1928, a species endemic to Valentia Island, which she was the first to record.