John James Wild (1824-1900)
Born Jean Jacques Wild in Zurich,
Switzerland in 1824, John James Wild taught languages in Belfast and
Ireland, where he met his wife, Elizabeth Ellen Mullin.
Wild was appointed to the position of artist and secretary to the 1872-76 Challenger
expedition. This first global investigation of the ocean's depths
established the discipline of oceanography as a collaborative and
The most significant contribution by
Wild to the many volumes associated with the expedition was Thalassa; an
essay on the depth, temperature and currents of the Ocean, for which he
was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich. He
also published an illustrated popular account of his travels, At Anchor, in which he described Melbourne and produced engravings of Port Philip Heads and the Mountain Ash forests.
Despite these impressive accomplishments
Wild was curiously unsuccessful in finding a position fitting his
extraordinary range of expertise, after emigrating to Melbourne in 1881.
Having applied, again without success, for appropriate work in New
Zealand, he patched together a living in Melbourne, lecturing in modern
languages and literature at Trinity College, working as an examiner in
French and German matriculation, and as a secretary and artist.
In the Challenger's floating
laboratory, Wild had used dissection and the microscope extensively to
describe and illustrate marine specimens. Frederick McCoy clearly saw
the potential of this experience to elevate the scientific
sophistication in his own publications.
Engaged to create lithographs of both
terrestrial and marine animals, Wild's Prodromus pages were carefully
planned and tightly conceived. His images are notable for their
precision and formal clarity.
Deep appreciation for geometric patterns
in nature is obvious in Wild's depiction of the radial symmetrical of
animals such as Echinoderms. His portrayals of marine invertebrates were
generally more convincing than those of higher forms, especially where
he was tempted to place animals in a semi-realistic tableau.
A frugal artist, Wild characteristically
drew on both sides of paper and took particular care to fit as much
information as possible onto each page, giving many compositions a