Biographical dictionary

The Biographical Dictionary of British Coleopterists is compiled and maintained by Michael Darby. The Dictionary can be accessed below, and see also the additional information provide by Michael:

Michael would be pleased to hear from anyone wishing to make corrections or alterations to the Dictionary, which will be fully acknowledged. Email Michael Darby or write to Michael at 33 Bedwin Street, SALISBURY, Wiltshire, SP1 3UT.

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Namesort descending Dates Biography
WILLIAMS, S.H. K.C.Lewis tells me that specimens collected by Williams are in his collection. (MD 12/06)
WILLIAMS, Stanley Alexander. 31 August 1933 - 16 February 2021

Listed as a subscriber to the Coleopterists Newsletter in 1981 (MD 1/22)

WILLIAMSON Mentioned by Stephens (1828) p.179. (MD 12/04)
WILLOUGHBY ELLIS, Herbert 28 June 1869 – 15 October 1943

Sometimes confused with J.W.Ellis. Ellis was born in Woodville, Burton-upon-Trent. He attended Nuneaton School and Coppers Hill College, and worked as an electrician, founding Ellis and Ward Ltd. of Portugal Street, London. In 1890 he joined the Birmingham Nat Hist and Phil Soc. He served as its Vice-President in 1907, 1910-1939 and as President in 1908 . He was known as a geologist and fossil collector as well as an entomologist an interest he acquired at school. Through his role at the society (latterly merging with Birmingham Ent Soc) he was instrumental in the founding of a natural history collection at Birmingham Museum, originally under the City Art Gallery.

Ellis wrote the Coleoptera section of the VCH for Warwickshire and assisted with other VCH volumes, but published little else his most important paper being  'Criocephaluis polonicus, Motsch. a genus and species of Longicorn Coleoptera new to Britain (ERJV, 1903, 259-261) which he took as larvae in the New Forest with F. Gilbert Smith. (species now synonymised with Arhopalus ferus Mulsant) 

Ellis's main collection is in the Yorkshire museum purchased in 1945 and arranged by Walter Douglas Hincks and Reginald Wagstaffe (see Hincks’ entry below). It is an extensive collection of entomology, mostly coleoptera but with large numbers of Hemiptera and Hymenoptera (especially ants) as well. Simms’ (1968) estimate of approximately 100,000 specimens (across all orders) in the collection probably holds true. South of England provenance for most specimens. Denton (1993) estimates 80,000 Coleoptera specimens including 12,282 specimens of Carabidae (covered in his publication). Ellis was working with many other collectors, which are listed in the introduction of Denton 1993 – which is based on a rearrangement of the Ellis collection. Notably W G Blatch who was a correspondent and Blatch’s entomological diaries (also in the Y0rkshire Museum collection) note the acquisition of drawers and boxes of material from Blatch. The paper archive at the Yorkshire Museum associated with Ellis includes field diaries, lecture notes, and ephemera. Also three books of site lists: Coleoptera of Cannock Chase, Coleoptera of the New Forest, and Coleoptera of HuntingtonDenton (1993) is important to an understanding his collection in the Yorkshire Museum.(Information from Adam Parker).

Ellis gave beetles collected by G.Gulliver to Birmingham Museum (10 August 1914) and also beetles collected by himself at Crowthorne (24 January 1935). His material is also in the Blatch collection there. A letter copy at Liverpool dated 5 July 1932 from him (then living at Speldhurst Close, Sevenoaks), concerning the Mason collection at Bolton, states: ‘Many years ago the Mason collection came into your possession and many of the duplicates... to me. I did not incorporate many of these duplicates into my own collection.’ Other specimens collected by him are in the Bedwell collection at Norwich; the general collection at Doncaster; the collection of the RHS (8 specimens with initials HWE, Carabids, Buprestids and Cerambycids. Information from Andy Salisbury). Mackechnie Jarvis (1976) p.108 records that he owned the Blatch and Blenkarn collections, and that part of his collection went to Harrow School and part was sold. A dozen or so beetles collected by Ellis in the Isle of Wight, Knowle, Gravesend, Tonbridge, Eastleigh and Bedfordshire are in the Tullie House Museum, Carlisle (Information from Steve Hewitt). Correspondence with C.J.Wainwright (1907-1939) is in the RESL (Pederesen (2002) p.126). There are obituaries in EMM, 1943, 280 and in Proc.RESL, 8, 1944, 69 (incorrectly named as Henry Willoughby Ellis).

FESL 1900 (Council 1916-18, 1922-24, 1929 -31; Vice President 1924, 1931. Member of the Ent. Club 1923 (Secretary 1924), K.G.Blair who wrote the EMM obituary noting that his 'genial presence' at meetings would be much missed. (MD 12/04, 12/21)

WILSON, Edward Published ‘On the metamorphosis of the Bloody Nosed Beetle’ in Mag.Nat.Hist., 6, 1833, pp.533-35. (MD 12/04)
WILSON, G. FOX 26 January 1896 - 9 January 1951 possibly the first long term established colony of the pest). More than 300 specimens collected by Fox Wilson mainly at Wisley are in the RHS’s collection. Fox Wilson was President of the Association of Applied Biologists 1949-1950 and there is a 1/07)
WILSON, James 1795 – 1856 Scottish entomologist who published several notes and lists of beetles including, Entomologia Edinensis or a Description and History of the Insects found in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, Coleoptera (1834) which he wrote in conjunction with James Duncan. This includes detailed descriptions of each species as well as locality information, and is one of the best of the early local lists. It runs to 351pages. To a certain extent it relied on the earlier work of Charles Stewart (1809) and on Duncan’s own ‘Catalogue of Edinburgh Coleoptera’ in Memoirs of the Wernerian Society., 4, p.443, (read in 1831). The Register in the RSM states that a ‘large collection of British and Foreign insects formed by the late James Wilson, Woodville in 4 cabinets containing 58 drawers besides 52 loose drawers’ was purchased from Miss Wilson by the College Museum for £40 in 1868. (When I visited the Museum in 1979 Pelham Clinton indicated to me that only 6 drawers survived, of which I could only find 2). Smith (1986) p.96 records letters to Hope from J.Wilson covering the period 1827-35 but it is not clear whether this is the same person. (MD 12/04)
WILSON, Walter Archibald 1892 – 26 March 1969 Little appears to be known about Wilson who wrote The Coleoptera of Somerset, 1958 (published as a Supplement to Proc. Som. Arch. Nat. Hist. Soc., 101 and 102) beyond the fact that he lived at ‘Sunny Patch’ 16 Ballfield Road, Minehead, Somerset in 1954 and that he held a managerial position in a cable and wireless firm. Many of the records in the book are his own and most of the species mentioned are in the collection he formed in 10 drawers and 21 store boxes, which he bequeathed to the Somerset County Museum at Taunton in 1969. It is accompanied by some field notes and record cards. A ms note from the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society sent to the RES, apparently at the time of his death, states: ‘Mr Wilson had no immediate family and appears to have been something of a recluse. Little is known of him locally... Mr Wilson also appears to have been a member of the British Trust for Entomology and the Mid Somerset Naturalist Society... Bridgewater.’ There is an obituary in Proc. Som. Arch. Nat. Hist. Soc., 113, 1969, pp. 112-13 which I have not seen. FRES 1954-1969 (MD 12/04, 1/07)
WINTER, A.E. Mentioned in Walsh (1956) as a collector of Coleoptera in the Scarborough area at the same time as himself. (MD 12/04)
WOLLASTON, Thomas Vernon 9 March 1822 - 4 January 1878

Born at Scotter, in Lincolnshire the youngest son of a large family. Educated chiefly at Bury St Edmunds Grammar School and in 1842 entered Jesus College, Cambridge taking his BA in 1845. Remained in Cambridge until forced to travel to Madeira because of ill health. On his return lived in Thurloe Square and Hereford Street, Park Lane, London, until pulmonary weakness drove him to move to Kings Kerswell and then Teignmouth where he died. In the meantime he passed many winters in Madeira, though even there he was in a state of ‘constant warfare between physical incapacity and willpower... half my work was actually written in bed’ (Letter quoted in EMM,14, 1878, 214). In January 1869 he married the daughter of his friend Mr Shepherd of Teignmouth but they had no children.

Wollaston’s interest in Coleoptera first manifested itself while he was a student at Cambridge and may have been partly inspired by Revs. J.F.Dawson and Hamlet Clark who were also there and became his friends. It was at this time that he published his first article, on the Coleoptera of Launceston, in Zool, 1, 1843. Others quickly followed not just on the British fauna, to which he added several new species including Pentarthrum huttoni and compiled several revisions eg. Atomaria, but also on the fauna of the Islands he visited. It was one of these, the Insecta Maderensia which ran to pp.677 and 13 plates, and was published in 1854, which became the work for which he is best known. Later, he published a detailed catalogue for the NHM which acquired the collection, and several other smaller books: Coleoptera Atlantidum (1865), Coleoptera Hesperidum (1867) and Coleoptera Sanctae Helenae (1877).

His favourite families of beetles were the Cossoninae, in which he described 255 new species against 67 discovered by all other Coleopterists, and the Colydiidae. Wollaston was acquainted with Darwin, and in 1856, in a book entitled On the Variation of Species with especial reference to the Insecta, followed by an inquiry into the nature of genera, may be said to have dimly anticipated some of his views. His anonymous review of the Origin in Ann.Mag.Nat.Hist., 5(3), 1860, 132-143 was harshly critical and illuminates Wollaston's scientific and religious thinking.

He is mentioned in the Gorham diary at Birmingham eg. 25 March 1874, and is said by Mackechnie Jarvis (1976), 102, to have pioneered the mounting of beetles on cards in this country (see below). The first part of his collection of Coleoptera from Madeira and the Salvages, amounting to 4,000 specimens, was purchased by the NHM in 1855 and the second part in 1858. In 1864 the Museum purchased a selection of his Canarian Coleoptera (in the HDO is a copy of Wollaston’s Canaries Catalogue which has been annotated by J.O.Westwood as follows: ‘The first selection of specimens from the collection has been arranged by Mr Wollaston and has been purchased by the Trustees of the British Museum, a second selection was purchased by Mrs Hope for £200 and presented to the Oxford Museum’) and, at unspecified times, selections of Coleoptera from the Cape Verde Islands and St Helena were also acquired. According to Waterhouse, 601, these collections were all kept in separate cabinets.. Harvey p.224 records that there is a ms notebook containing ‘Numbers relating to localities of the Madeiran insects in the British Museum’ in the NHM. Specimens collected by him are also in the Mason collection at Bolton; the Hall collection at Oldham (from Kent, information from Simon Hayhow), and in the Butler collection at Norwich (possibly from the NHM, information from Tony Irwin). A copy of a letter from Oliver Janson at Liverpool states that Wollaston’s collection was purchased by Crotch, and an entry in his diary at Cambridge indicates that Wollaston had Crotch specimens in his collection. A box of named beetles from St Helena and the Canaries, given by Wollaston’s widow to Philip de la Garde was included in the Newbery gift to Cambridge in 1912. The Insect Department Register there indicates that pinned into the box were letters and ms lists which referred to Wollaston’s colour coding, localities, etc.. 

In the fattish volume of G.R.Crotch lists at Cambridge there is information about the mounting cards used by Wollaston – narrower in front than at the back and inscribed underneath in pencil -‘Crotch may have remounted on his own card but some may retain original cards and records and any with black pins are from Ireland where Wollaston collected chiefly about Killarney’.

The HDO acquired Wollaston’s Ceylon Coleoptera via J.O.Westwood in 1857. They also have an 11 drawer cabinet of Madeiran insects mainly Coleoptera and including many types which was purchased for £300 by Hope and presented in 1860; another 11 drawer cabinet of Canary Islands beetles purchased for £200 and presented by Mrs Hope in 1863; a box of Cape Verde Coleoptera purchased in November 1867 for £5; several further selections of Madeiran Coleoptera; 81 St Helena Coleoptera purchased from Janson for £3.15s 9d in December 1878; 30 Coleoptera from St Helena presented by Dale in 1881 and the Dale collection, also in the Department, contains a further four drawers of Wollaston’s beetles from Madeira, Cape Verde, Canary Islands and St Helena. The HDO also has letters from Wollaston to Hope and Westwood 1860-77, and other mss including a Coleoptera catalogue and lists.

Wollaston was also an authority on molluscs (I am grateful to Mike Morris for pointing out Cook’s article to me). Lott (2009), 8, discusses his collecting activities in Leicestershire at Ambion Wood near Shenton Hall where he had family connections. Wollaston's library was sold by Stevens on 9 January 1912 (Chalmers-Hunt (1976) p. 151). Pedersen (2002) p.98 records a letter in the RESL which refers to Mrs Wollaston as a collector too. My own library includes a letter from Mike Morris of 14 January 2014 including a list of the 61 names of the people to whom Wollaston dedicated species, translated from Antonio Machado with amendments.

FLS from 1843 (Council 1857-58, Publication Committee 1857). Gilbert (1977) lists 11 obituary and other notices. Roger Booth at the NHM is currently involved with work on Wollaston. (MD 12/04)