Man of Many 'Ologies'
McCoy made his presence felt as soon as he set foot on colonial soil. His position as foundation Professor of Natural Science at Melbourne University was the platform from which he set about realising his ambitious scientific vision for Victoria.
Making the most of his position at the apex of the scientific hierarchy, McCoy lectured on biology, palaeontology, geology and botany. With the charm, tenacity and gall to generally get what he wanted, his capacity for enduring years of conflict was legend, while his irrepressible self-confidence was both admired and at times, parodied.
A knighthood in 1891 reflected his position as one of Australia's most important scientists of the 19th century.
Frederick McCoy was par excellence the dandy of the University, and one of the immaculates of the city. A contemporary describes him as "a spruce and dapper professor, a useful and withal an ornamental functionary."
"His personal appointments," the writer continued, "are so nearly perfect in taste and fit that he looks as neat and smooth as if he had just emerged from a bandbox. His rosy and ever-youthful face betrays no hint of the heavy cares of office, and bears no trace of prolonged and arduous scientific labours in which his life has been spent."
Strongly built, ruddy of countenance, his cheeks adorned with reddish Dundreary whiskers-which in later years had paled to a lemon-tinted reminiscence of their former glow-he carried his many 'ologies' with the grace of a dancing master. Though somewhat peppery when thwarted, he was really warm hearted and friendly.1