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 ascending Dates Biography

76 coleoptera from various countries collected by himself and others together with other insects were part of the Imperial Bureau of Entomology gifts to the NHM in 1921, 1926 and 1935. (MD 8/17)


ARMSTRONG, James Published the capture of Rhopalomesites tardyi, Curtis at Bardsea in Lancashire in EMM., 46, 1910, p.16. At that time he lived at 74 Leigh Street, Warrington. (MD 7.01)

Naturalist, friend and companion of Thomas Wollaston on the voyage to Porto Santo and the Desertas. Wollaston dedicated Aleochara armitagei in homage to him and Cleonus armitagei for discovering the species. (Information from Mike Morris) (MD 8/17)


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


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

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)

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)

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)

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)