Naval surgeon with the First Fleet. Acute observation of birds and plants during his travels led to a collection of journal entries and sketches, including the earliest known drawing of an emu and the now extinct species of bird, the white gallinule.
sketcher and naval surgeon, was born in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, England on 23 August 1750, son of Thomas and Mary Smyth. He came to NSW with the First Fleet in 1787 as surgeon aboard the Lady Penrhyn , keeping a journal from March 1787 to August 1789 which included an account of the voyage and the first weeks of settlement. In February 1788 he recorded sketching the 'Yellow Gum Plant’ or Grass Tree. He also described bird life at Port Jackson, and at Lord Howe Island where the ship called on the way to China, and his journal contains two pen drawings of birds – one, A New Species of Bird – Shot at Botany Bay New South Wales (1788) being an early portrait of an emu. The one of an emu is a copy after a drawing by Lieutenant John Watts (q.v.) , an officer on board; the other presents three views of a bird 'of the Coot kind found at Lord Howe Island’ and is the earliest known drawing of the now extinct white gallinule. Smyth observed four other birds on Lord Howe Island now also rare or extinct and collected various specimens and curios.
Arthur Bowes Smyth died soon after his return to England. He was known in the colony as Arthur Bowes, the name in which he kept his journal. A contemporary copy is in the Mitchell Library.