Humphries, Carmel Frances (1909–86), zoologist, was born 3 June 1909 in Waterford city, the elder of two children of William Francis Humphries, an engineer, and Annie Humphries (née Palmer). She had one brother, Alban Humphries (1912–85). Educated at the Ursuline convent, Waterford, and Loreto College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, she entered UCD to study science in 1929. Having won several scholarships as an undergraduate, she obtained the B.Sc. with honours in botany and zoology in 1932. The following year she undertook postgraduate studies in zoology and education and was awarded the M.Sc. and H.Dip.Ed (1933). In the same year she won the NUI travelling studentship in zoology and, preferring to pursue a career in limnology to teaching, she elected to study abroad.
Working with Winifred Frost, T. T. Macan and H. P. Moon at the Freshwater biological station at Windermere in England (1934–6), Humphries studied the benthic fauna in the lakes of Cumbria, taking on the difficult taxonomy of the larval and pupal stages of Chironomidae (non-biting midges); her work was published in 1936 in the Journal of Animal Ecology. Continuing to work on chironomids, she moved to the Hydrobiologische Anstalt (later the Max-Planck-Institut für Limnologie) at Plön, near Hamburg in northern Germany (1936–8), where she worked with August Thienemann. A co-founder of the International Limnological Association, Thienemann was influential in her decision to undertake the first comprehensive study of community composition and emergence periods of the Chironomidae of the Grosse Plöner See. This was a hugely formative period in her life and the subject of many fond reminiscences in later years. She published the results of this research in 1937 and 1938.
On her return to Ireland, Humphries was awarded a Ph.D. (1938) from the NUI based on her published work and obtained an assistantship in zoology at UCG (1938–9), where she acquitted herself well as a lecturer and an administrator. She then held a series of temporary positions as senior demonstrator in zoology at UCD (1939–41) and assistant at QUB (1941–2) until she gained a permanent appointment as an assistant in the zoology department at UCD in 1942. She remained at UCD for the rest of her career: she was appointed statutory lecturer in zoology in 1947 and then succeeded James Bayley Butler (qv) as head of department in 1957, becoming the first female professor of zoology and head of department in the country. She retired aged seventy in 1979, fifty years after first entering the university as a student.
Particularly interested in freshwater biology, Humphries was an authority on the taxonomy and ecology of the Irish Chironomidae, publishing original work in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy and other scientific journals, often as the sole author (Murray et al. list her important papers). She is also remembered for her substantial contribution to building up the zoology department in her university. She oversaw the relocation of the department from the old Royal College of Science buildings on Merrion Street to the new Belfield campus in the mid 1960s, as well as the building of a new marine field station at Coliemore Harbour (since closed). Actively involved in the UCD Womens Graduates’ Association, at one point she was one of four female professors in the faculty of science, and at the same time the zoology department itself had an all-female staff. Her university awarded her the D.Sc. in 1952 based on her publications, and she was elected MRIA in 1950. An active member of the RIA, she served on its committee of science (1955–9) with other notable scientists, including David Webb (qv), James M. O'Connor (qv), and A. E. J. Went (qv). She was a member of the RDS and the Institute of Biology of Ireland, and served as the Irish representative for both the International Limnological Association and the English Freshwater Association. When the British Association for the Advancement of Science met in Dublin in 1957 she was on the organising committee and she edited the zoology section of the handbook produced for the meeting.
As a young research scientist Humphries was commended by her supervisor for her almost photographic memory and her talent for remembering special taxonomic features. She had a determined personality and could, especially in later life, be uncivil, but she was also well known and liked for her humour and generosity: she funded continuing education for some of the technical staff in her department out of her own resources. The infectious enthusiasm she had for her subject manifested itself in an entertaining, if occasionally ribald, lecturing style and made her a popular teacher with many generations of students taking zoology at UCD. The diabetes that affected her for much of her life marred her retirement and diminished her tolerance. She was unmarried and died 7 March 1986 at her home at Rathmines, Dublin, where she had lived with her brother; she was buried at Glasnevin cemetery. Two of her former students named the chironomid species Zalutschia humphriesiae in recognition of her lifetime of work promoting taxonomy and entomology. Her contribution to the zoology department at UCD is commemorated in the Carmel Humphries prize given annually for the best zoology postgraduate research seminar. The 1999 issue of the Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society was dedicated to her memory.