Farran, George Philip (1876–1949), marine taxonomist and fisheries scientist, was born 21 November 1876 at Knocklyon House, Templeogue, Co. Dublin, eldest among two sons and two daughters of Edmond Chomley Farran, a man of private income, of Belcamp Park, Raheny, Co. Dublin, and Anne Hume Farran (née Ryan). His father's family had a residence at Belcamp Park; his father died (1881) when he was 5 years old, and the family moved back to his mother's family home in Knocklyon, where he had been born. He was educated at the school of the Rev. C. W. Benson (qv), Rathmines, and entered TCD to study law but graduated with a gold medal in natural science (1899). Fisheries research was going through a period of expansion, and from 1898 he took part in the fisheries investigations organised by Edward William Holt (qv) at the RDS's floating marine laboratory at Ballynakill, Co. Galway, where he investigated marine molluscs. Two years later (1900) the marine laboratory was taken over by the newly founded Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, and Farran was appointed assistant naturalist. He remained with the department until his retirement (1946). In 1910 he was appointed inspector of fisheries, and after the retirement of Charles Green, son of William Spotswood Green (qv), he was promoted chief inspector of fisheries (1938). During the first world war he served in Egypt and Palestine (1915–19) as a lieutenant with 1st Garrison Battalion, King's (Liverpool) Regiment, attached to the 2nd Bn British West Indies Regiment.
His early marine work was broad in scope and he took part in the general dredging, trawling, and hydrographic surveys carried out around the coast on several vessels, including the custom-built fisheries vessel Helga II. Most of his early papers were published in the department's fisheries journal, Fisheries Ireland Scientific Investigations. He took part in the Clare Island Survey (1909–11), the largest multi-disciplinary biological survey undertaken in Ireland, and published his findings on marine invertebrates, fish, and marine plankton in the proceedings of the RIA. On the establishment of the state, the Department of Agriculture took over fisheries (1922), and priorities changed. In a cost-cutting exercise the annual reports of the fisheries branch were terminated in 1925. The Helga II had been already been taken from fisheries activities in 1915 and renamed HMS Helga. Under British admiralty command the vessel shelled Boland's Mills, Liberty Hall, and the Dublin Distillery during the 1916 rising. In 1923 under a new name, Muirchu, it recommenced fisheries patrols in 1923 and undertook a reduced fisheries research programme. After the death of Rowland Southern (1935) and the departure of Winifred Frost (1939), Farran remained the only member of the original team of Green and Holt. As chief inspector of fisheries from the late 1930s, he was left to run the department largely on his own. He was not an enthusiastic administrator and preferred to spend his time on research work. From 1920 until his retirement he attended the meetings of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, where he was an avid proponent of the necessity for international cooperation in fisheries research in Europe. However, his main interest and life's work was planktonic organisms, particularly copepods, small free-swimming crustaceans that are the main source of food for pelagic fish. He achieved an international reputation for his taxonomic work, and was probably better known as a scientist internationally than in Ireland. He recorded many species new to Irish waters and described many new to science. His painstaking illustrations and taxonomic descriptions, some done in collaboration with Willie Vervoort of Leiden, are found in the publications of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and are still standard reference texts for identification of many planktonic species worldwide. As his international reputation grew, he received material from all over the world; he worked on the copepod material from the Great Barrier Reef, Christmas Island, and other expeditions, and worked also with the eminent marine biologist Sir Alister C. Hardy on plankton collected from the Arctic by the Nautilus expedition (1931). He published in many journals, including those of the RIA, the Zoological Society of London, and the Linnean Society, Annals and Magazine of Natural History, the Irish Naturalists' Journal, and many others. In 1946 he published his paper ‘Local Irish names of fishes’ in Irish Naturalists' Journal, viii, nos 9–12, on information he had gathered over twenty-five years. In it he recorded the Irish names of common and rare fishes, having conversed with fishermen, teachers, and others from around the coast of Ireland. An incident is recorded in which he spent quite a time discussing with a fishwife in Galway the term ‘fishogue’, but its meaning continued to elude him.
A member of the RIA (1912), he served on the flora and fauna committee for many years. A modest man, he never pursued accolades. It was said he could have had a doctorate for the asking, but he remained happy with his BA. In 1948 he was elected honorary member of the Challenger Society. Of a retiring and courteous nature, he was meticulous, conscientious, and a helpful colleague. He wrote the obituaries of Edward William Holt, Rowland Southern (qv), and Annie Massy (qv) for the Irish Naturalists' Journal. An all-round naturalist, he was also interested in local history, golf, and gardening and was a member of several societies in Dublin including the Zoological Society of Ireland. He was also a lay member of the Church of Ireland Synod.
He married (June 1920) Georgina Margaret Craig of Bray, and they lived at Knocklyon House, now (2004) the Rutland Centre. They had one son and one daughter. He died at home 5 January 1949. The Natural History Museum holds a small collection of common marine plankton species transferred from Fisheries (1911) by Farran. There is little trace of his life's valuable collection of work, which may have been lost in the collapse of a building in Kildare St. before the transfer of Fisheries to Cathal Brugha St.