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:

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Namesort descending Dates Biography
ANGUS, Robert Bagrie b. 14 August 1944

Educated at Gordonstoun and Oxford University. Has been employed as a lecturer in the Department of Zoology at Royal Holloway College, University of London since 1975. Angus's personal collection is limited but is fairly comprehensive in the water beetles to which he has paid particular attention. Within this group he has specialised in Helophorus F. and his collection includes Siberian and other foreign examples of this genus including some paratypes. Insects collected by him may be found in the British Museum; Hope Department; Zoological Institute, Leningrad; Ottawa and other collections.

            Published his first note 'Hydroporus marginatus (Dufts.) in East Kent' in the EMM., 99, 1964, 240 and some thirty or so further notes and articles have appeared since in this and other magazines. Most of these concentrate on water beetles and many refer to northern, particularly Scottish records. As an undergraduate Angus became interested in methods of swimming in water beetles publishing several notes on this topic. This work led to his undertaking a D.Phil. at Oxford on 'Taxonomic, Genetic and Ecological Studies on Helophorus F.' which was completed in l969. Seven of the nine chapters of this thesis have since appeared in the EMM., Canad. Ent.. Acta Zool. Fenn., and Trans. R. ent. Soc. Lond.. Between October 1969 and July 1970 Angus visited the USSR, and he has published several notes on the Russian fauna. In discussing the beetles brought back from Mongolia by Dr Kaszab's expeditions he took the opportunity to revise the East Palaearctic Helophorus fauna (Acta. Zool. Hung.,16, 1970, 249-290) and to write some notes on the Fennoscandian and Northern Russian species (Notulae ent., 54, 1974, 25-32) His Russian visit also involved the study of fossil beetles, and he has subsequently published several notes about them including an account of two small faunas from the Weichselian deposits at Voorthuizen in the Netherlands (Mededel. Rijks. Geol. Dienst.,1975) and of a rich assemblage from the middle of the last Glaciation from Isleworth  (J. anim. Ecol. 449 1975, 365- 391; with G.R.Coope). Angus's published work includes descriptions of at least eleven species of Helophorus new to science.

Angus is a member of the Freshwater Biological Association and of the Royal Entomological Society of London. (Entry supplied by R.B.Angus).

ANNANDALE, Thomas Nelson 15 June 1876 – 10 April 1924

Born in Edinburgh. Educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1898. In 1899 he joined the Skeat Expedition to the Malay Archipelago, and between 1901 and 1903 he revisited that country on more than one occasion with H.C.Robinson. These were the first of many foreign journeys which took him to Iceland, Palestine, China, Japan, Morocco and elsewhere. From 1902-4 he was a research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, where he was awarded a D.Sc. in 1905. He went to India in 1904 as Deputy Superintendent of the Indian Museum in Calcutta. In 1907 he was promoted to Superintendent, in 1923 he was made President of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1923, and in 1924 President of the Zoological Section of the Indian Science Congress. He remained in India until his death, being associated particularly with that country’s Zoological Survey.

Annandale was a man of wide ranging knowledge and ability, the writer of his obituary in Rec.Ind.Museum, XXVII (1), 1925, pp.1-28, noting that 'he worked with remarkable speed and seemed endowed with a special instinct for taxonomic differences, recognising species almost at a glance but systematic work in its narrowest sense he esteemed but little ... it was his ambition to grapple with larger problems'. This ambition led him to write extensively on many subjects from freshwater sponges to Malayan weaponry, from the dynastic genius of Siam to the growth rate of Barnacles, and from limbless skinks to island life in the Faroes. Amongst this large number of books and articles are thirty two publications on insects of which several concern beetles. These included: an Annotated List of the Asiatic Beetles in the Collection of the Indian Museum. Cicindelinae,(19O9, with W. Horn); ‘The life history of an aquatic weevil’, Journ.As.Soc.Bengal, 11, 1906, pp.105-7 (with C.A.Paiva); and ‘The Cicindelid beetles of Barkuda Island’, Rec.Ind.Museum, XXII, 1921, pp.335-7 (with C.Dover).

Although Annandale's own work on beetles was not very great, his influence on the study of Coleoptera in India was considerable. As head of the Museum he gave great help and encouragement to entomologists, and there is hardly a book about Indian insects written in the early part of this century which does not mention his name. Furthermore, he established the Records and Memoirs of the Museum which acted as vehicles for entomological publications. Most importantly, he was responsible for seeing through the establishment of the Zoological Survey of India in 1916, of which he was appointed first Director, and under whose auspices the FBI series was continued.

Smith, A.Z. (1986) records that there are several collections of insects at Oxford, including material from Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the Siamese States (collected with H.C.Robinson) but does not mention Coleoptera. Harvey,J.M.V., Gilbert,P. and Martin,K.S. (1996) record that a MS notebook titled Annandale Coll[ection]: Ruwenzori Coll. Including notes about material collected on the Ruwenzori (Uganda) Expedition 1905-06 and unpublished notes and descriptions of new species, is in the NHM. (MD 7.01)


Gave 411 beetles from Africa to NHM in 1966. (MD 8/17)

ANSORGE, Sir Eric Cecil 6 March 1887 - 3 January 1977

Primarily a Lepidopterist but he was also interested in beetles. Baron de Worms noted in his obituary (Proc.BENHS., 10, 1977, pp.29-30) he ‘was quite an expert on our Coleoptera, of which he ... made a fine collection’. Ansorge undoubtedly acquired his interest in insects from his father, Dr W.J.Ansorge, the celebrated explorer and naturalist. He was educated at St. Paul's School, London and at St. John's College, Oxford before joining the Indian Civil Service in 1911. During a residency of some thirty five years in India, during which time he held many responsible posts, he collected insects, including beetles, extensively (see, for example, ‘On a collection of Carabidae from the Kumaon- Tibetan frontier’ by H.E.Andrewes, EMM., 62, 1926, p.69). His distinguished career was rewarded by a knighthood when he left India in 1946. He subsequently joined the Colonial Service and spent two years in Nyasaland before retiring to Chalfont St. Peter where he lived until his death. During retirement Ansorge travelled to many parts of Britain, especially to the Scottish Highlands, and made several trips overseas, always collecting where he went. His collections passed to the Buckinghamshire Museum, Aylesbury and there is also a collection of Lepidoptera from Africa in the Birmingham Museum, presented by Sir George Kenrick. Ansorge was a member of BENHS and of the RES, and on his death left a bequest to the AES which continues in the form of the Ansorge Award for the best junior exhibit at the annual exhibition (MD 7.01, 6/18)

ANSORGE, William John 6 April 1850 - 31 October 1913

Well known physician who worked in Angola and Uganda and explored the fauna of the African region, father of Sir Eric Ansorge. The NHM purchased 4 Coleoptera from West Africa from him in 1906.  (MD 8/17)

ARCHER, Francis 17 June 1839 - 29 February 1892

Educated at Liverpool Collegiate Institute and Trinity College, Cambridge where he gained a degree with honours in 1862. Admitted to Liverpool firm of Bateson and Robinson, solicitors, in 1865 and subsequently became a partner, before becoming attracted to journalism and politics when he gave up the law. He became sub-editor of the Liverpool Daily Post but found this 'too exacting and absorbing' and went back to the law in partnership with Isham Gill. The firm was later called Gill, Archer and Maples. He was President of the Liverpool Law Society, 1890-91. T. Mellard Reade, Archer's friend for twenty years, recorded in his obituary (Naturalist, 201, 1892, pp.113-6) that Archer was a ‘many sided man of great vigour’. His interests included Tennyson, much of which he knew off by heart; civil engineering works in Liverpool; writing reviews on scientific works for the Daily Post, and natural history. The last included entomology, particularly Coleoptera and Lepidoptera. Later in life Archer became very interested in anthropology and travelled to the Valley of the Somme, and to Ireland and to the West of England in pursuit of material.

W.E.Sharpe (1908) lists Archer as among those ‘students and collectors of the Coleoptera, belonging perhaps to a somewhat different social order [ie. not artisans], who have now passed away but to whose labours we owe much information and many records’. He also notes that Archer, who lived at Crosby, contributed a short note on the Coleoptera of the district to the ‘Liverpool Naturalists Scrapbook’, a manuscript volume having a limited and brief circulation among Liverpool naturalists, which was not printed. The more important of these records were, however, subsequently published by J.W. Ellis in Liverpool Coleoptera, 1889 (but compiled by 1880). He also wrote two articles in Zool, 22, 1864: 'Cicindela maritima and C. Hybrida’ and a ‘List of Coleoptera taken in the Liverpool district during 1862 and 1863’.

Some beetles collected by Archer abroad are in the H.W.Ellis collection at Liverpool Museum, and some letters survive it the correspondence of George C. Hyndman (1854-62) in the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society. He was member of the Liverpool Geological Society, the Liverpool Biological Society (taking an active part in establishing the station on Puffin Island), the Lancashire and Cheshire Entomological Society and the RES. Besides the obituary already mentioned, which includes a portrait, there are further obituaries in Ent., 25, 1892, p.100; EMM.,28, 1892, p.112 (by S.J.Capper) and EJRV., 3, 1892, p.80. MD 7/01)

ARCHER, Thomas Croxen 1817 - 19 February 1885

Began his professional career as a clerk in the Customs Office at Liverpool when he collected, arranged and named all the specimens of the imports into Liverpool for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Subsequently took to lecturing in local institutions and educational establishments and became a Professor in the Liverpool Institution. In June 1860 he was appointed Superintendent of the Technological Museum in Edinburgh and from January 1866 Director. During his directorship he did much to shape the appearance of this institution now famous as the Royal Scottish Museum. In 1876 he travelled to the USA as joint Executive Commissioner of the Phildaelphia Centennial Exhibition. He was a FRS (Edinburgh).

            Archer published various papers on natural history subjects including one on beetles entitled 'On the ravages of Scolytus destructor. Cossus ligniperdus, and other insects on forest trees' in Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, 8, 1866, 4-20)

            There is an account of Archer in the Graphic, 13, 1876, 542 which also includes a portrait (p.552) and an obituary in the Athenaeum, 28 February 1885, 283. (MD 8/17)


Collected beetles in the Gold Coast acquired by the NHM in July 1924. (MD 8/17)

ARMITAGE, Edward 20 May 1817 - 24 May 1896

One of the most successful history painters of the second half of the last century. Eldest son of James Armitage of Leeds. Educated in England, France and Germany. After deciding to become a painter studied under Delaroche in Paris from 1837. Competed successfully in the competitions for the decoration of the new Palace of Westminster and was subsequently asked to execute the two frescoes on the walls of the upper waiting hall of the House of Lords. After studying for twelve months in Rome submitted first picture at the Royal Academy in 1848. Continued to exhibit there until his death. Elected ARA in 1867 and in 1875 was appointed a Professor. The DNB notes: 'Always of independent means Armitage was able to follow his ideals in art without regard to fashion or profit'.

Besides painting, Armitage was also interested in sailing and collecting beetles. The EMM noticed: ‘In none of the numerous notices [of Armitage] has any allusion been made to his entomological proclivities... well known to many that he possessed a considerable collection of exotic coleoptera and was one of the oldest members of the Entomological Society ... never lost interest either in the subject or the Society’ (32,1896, p.164) They also notice that he did not publish anything, but he did write one article (with J.O.Westwood) entitled ‘Note on a species of Oeketicus’ (Trans.ESL., (3) 2 Proc. 1865, pp.103-4).

According to Horn,W. and Kahle,I. (1935-8) Armitage's collections were divided up as follows ‘Coleop l896 to H.S.Gorham. Exotic Coleop auct. Stevens 27 Sept 1910. Cicindelid. to F. Bates and then British Museum (Nat. Hist.). Malacoderm and M. Pic. Byrrid, Parmid. Melmid. Heterocerid. via A. Grouvelle to Mus. Nat. Hist., Paris. Lycid. Clerid. and rest Pal. Coleop. part via A. Ford to T.G.Bishop. Coccinell. Cassid. Endomychid. Erotylid. Cetoniid. via O.E.Janson to J.E.Black. Rutelid. via F. Bates, via B.G.Nevinson to BMNH. Bupestrid, 1903 to C.H. Schill. Chrysomelid. to F.C.Bowditch’. The NHM had earlier been the rcipient of several mgifts of beetles from South Africa, Italy and Greec direct from Armitage. One collection formed by Armitage is now in the RSM.

Besides the obituaries noticed by P. Gilbert (1977) there are accounts in The Art Journal, 1863, pp.177-80; Illustrated London News, 9 March 1867, pp.238-9, (Portrait p.224); Men of the Time, 1891 and DNB. Note: Armitage exhibited a painting at the Royal Academy in 1878 titled 'After an Entomological Sale, beati possidentes' in which he represented himself in a sale room rejoicing over a fresh acquisition for his collection 'in company with his friends Calderon, Hodgson, Winkfield, and others'. The present whereabouts of the picture are unknown, but an engraving is illustrated in Salmon,M.A.(2000). (MD 7.01, 6.18)

ARMITAGE, J. There are Coleoptera bearing this name in the collection at Oldham Museum (Information from S.Hayhow) (MD 7.01)