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Thomas Workman (entomologist)

Thomas Workman (1843–1900) was an Irish entomologist and arachnologist who travelled widely collecting butterflies and studying spiders. He is best known for his book Malaysian Spiders, published in 1896, in which he described several new species.


Thomas Workman was born at Ceara, Windsor Avenue, Belfast, Ireland on 14 August 1843 into a wealthy family involved in muslin, linen and commerce. He became a successful businessman, at first in the linen trade and then in shipbuilding. He was the elder brother of Frank Workman, born in 1856, who founded the Belfast shipyard of Workman Clark in 1879.


In the years 1869 and 1870 Workman travelled in North America spending his time mainly in the West, much with native tribes. His trip journals and accounts of the natural history of the American plains and Native Americans are now in the Public Records Office in Belfast. His collection of North American Indian artefacts is in the Ulster Museum. Each year, when business and family permitted, Workman spent lengthy periods in foreign lands, collecting insects, especially butterflies and spiders. His ethnographic collections are in the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

His most significant trips were


Workman was, as well as being actively involved in the civic administration of Belfast, the Honorary Librarian of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society becoming president in 1898. He died in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A in 1900, having caught a chill en route from Vancouver following a trip to the Rocky Mountains.


Aside from his work on spiders, especially those of the Far East, Workman was a considerable lepidopterist collecting for Adalbert Seitz and Lionel Walter Rothschild among others. Some of his specimens are figured and noted without attribution in Seitz' monumental Macrolepidoptera of the World. A systematic description of the hitherto known Macrolepidoptera, edited in collaboration with well-known specialists published in Stuttgart by Alfred Kermen.


Spiders named after WorkmanEdit

Phidippus workmania a species named for Workman
  • Damarchus workmanii Thorell
  • Theridium workmanii Thorell
  • Phidippus workmanii Peckham & Peckham
  • Goleta workmanii Peckham & Peckham

Published workEdit

  • 1880 Irish Spiders in The Entomologist
  • 1896 Malaysian Spiders Volume 1 Privately published in Belfast.



Workman's correspondence, diaries etc. are in the Public records Office Belfast


  • Irish Naturalist 9:241
  • Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society Centennial Volume 1821-1891 144pp., portrait.