Sir Frederick McCoy's Medals

08 March, 2009

This medal was awarded to Sir Frederick McCoy at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The edge is inscribed with the following: PROF. FREDK. MC. COY J.P. - FOR SERVICES.
This medal was awarded to Sir Frederick McCoy at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The edge is inscribed with the following: PROF. FREDK. MC. COY J.P. - FOR SERVICES.
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: There appear to be some new medals in the collection drawers in The Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum. Where did they come from and who did they belong to?

Answer: The new display in the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre is a collection of medals that belonged to Sir Frederick McCoy.
 
Sir Frederick McCoy was born in Dublin in 1823. His father was a physician and professor so, when the time came for McCoy to choose his study options, McCoy took a number of subjects in the same field as his father. McCoy soon became so interested in comparative anatomy, physiology and natural history, that medicine lost its appeal and he pursued a career in natural history. He published his first scientific paper in 1841, when he was just 18.
 
McCoy published his first major paper, Synopsis of the British Palaezonic Rocks and Fossils, in 1855 and was then appointed Professor of Natural Sciences at The University of Melbourne. In this role, McCoy was required to cover the fields of chemistry, mineralogy, botany, zoology, comparative anatomy, geology and palaeontology. 
 
McCoy considered a museum to be an essential part of a university. He convinced the university to house some of his equipment and specimens in a museum on the university grounds. McCoy was able to use his dual role as a University Professor and Museum Curator to publish papers on the zoology and palaeontology of Victoria, as well as assembling a natural history collection. He became the Director of the National Museum in 1858 and was State Palaeontologist and President of the Royal Society of Victoria.

Three of the medals on display in the Discovery Centre have been kindly loaned to Museum Victoria by descendants of Sir Frederick McCoy; the others are from Museum Victoria’s collection. The Murchison Medal was awarded to McCoy in 1879 by the Geological Society of London. The Order of the Crown of Italy was awarded to McCoy in the 1890’s; the Order was awarded for civilian and military merit. Frederick McCoy was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George in 1891.

The Discovery Centre display also includes three medals awarded to McCoy for his contributions to International Exhibitions both as commissioner and exhibitor, and the Branwhite Clarke medal which he received in 1881 from the Royal Society of New South Wales for distinguished work in the natural sciences.
 
Sir Frederick McCoy died in Melbourne in 1899. He is buried at Brighton Cemetery.

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