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
ALLEN, Cyril

The NHM purchased 293 beetles collected by him in Colombia in 1924. Is this perhaps the C.Allen whose name appears on Coleoptera in Doncaster Museum's general collection. (see William Allen). (MD 8/17)


ALLEN, Benjamin 1663-1738

One of the first British naturalists to have taken a serious interest in beetles. He was born in Somerset and subsequently educated at St. Paul's School and at Queen's College, Cambridge where he took a degree in Medicine (15 April 1688). By 1692 he had established himself as a Doctor at Braintree, Essex and it was there that he met John Ray who subsequently became a life-long friend, and Samuel Dale, the botanist. It would seem that it may have been Allen's interest in Lampyridae which first brought him into contact with Ray for in a letter to Sir Tancred Robinson of 8 July 1692 Ray wrote: ‘1 doubt not but that they are everywhere to be found, being nothing else but a kind of long-bodied beetle ... The reason why I mention this is because this gentleman [Allen], meeting with this beetle and finding by strict observation that the body of it answered exactly in figure to that of the creeping glow worm, suspected it to be the male glow worm; and, having some creeping glow worms by him, put this animal into a box with one of them; which after some short time, coupled with it.’ Nearly twenty years later Allen published his own account of this experiment in The Natural History of the Mineral Waters of Great Britain to which are added some Observations of the Cicindela Glow Worm, London, 1711. Allen also published another work concerning beetles entitled 'An Account of the Scarabaeus Galeatus Pulsator or Death Watch' (Phil.Trans., xx, 1699, pp.376-8). In this he recorded that in August 1695 he took two of the beetles and that he kept them several days for observation. He describes them in minute detail, ridicules the common idea of the noise foretelling death, and illustrates his description with three figures one of which was 'drawn with the help of the microscope'. (Is this the first record of someone using a microscope to study beetles?)

Two manuscript Common Place Books in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons contain amongst medical and other information several hundred pen sketches of 'insects' (a term used by Allen in a very wide sense, he includes, for example, that well known 'insect' the Oyster!) amongst which are more than fifty drawings of beetles. There are two excellent accounts of him by Miller Christy in The Essex Naturalist, 16, 1910, pp.145-75 and ibid., 17, 1912, pp.1-14. Allen is buried alongside Ray in the churchyard at Black Notley, Essex. (MD 7.01)

ALLEN, Anthony Adrian 1 July 1913 - 23 June 2010

Educated at Downside and Imperial College, London before entering, the scientific Civil Service as an analytical chemist. His contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the British Coleoptera was prodigious. From 1935 when, at the age of twenty two, he published his first article in the EMM listing several hundred less common beetles which he had found in southern England and Wales (earliest recorded capture 1931), and 1937 when his first article in the Ent. Rec. was published, until 1981, no fewer than 823 further notes and articles appeared in these two magazines. Later many further publications took the total to past 1,000. Although some were devoted to the Heteroptera, Diptera (excluding Nematocera) and some Microlepidoptera, the majority were about Coleoptera. During the course of his work he added some 46 beetles to the British list and described 13 species as new to science four of which have survived:  Aleochara phycophila (1937) Acrotona benicki  (1940),  Scraptia testacea (1940) and Longitarsus fowleri (1967). Trachyphloeus alleni (Donisthorpe, 1948, later synonymised with  T. asperatus  (Boheman)) and Corticaria alleni Johnson 1974, were named after him .

            Allen confined his interests to the British fauna and did most of his collecting in the south east with particular success in the gardens of his houses at Blackheath and 49 Montcalm Road, Charlton, London SE7 8QG. His collection, which was acquired by the BMNH after his death, was meticulously laid out and almost comprehensive, and includes a good many duplicates from the late P. Harwood (in all groups but especially perhaps Staphylinidae) from most parts of Britain. The Museum has digitally scanned all the drawers in high definition and will make these available on the internet. Incorporated within the collection is that of the late Harry Dinage of mainly Sussex material.

            Allen was very private and retiring but well known to British Coleopterists and always very prompt and authoritative in dealing with enquiries, in most cases accompanied by lengthy notes on where and how he had found species and with useful tips for determinations. Numerous institutions and individuals are recorded to have received duplicates and to have correspondence including myself.

            There is a portrait photograph on the front cover of The Coleopterist, 19(3), 2010. and a brief obituary on p.150. No formal obituary has yet been published. (Information from A.A.Allen). (MD 8/17)

            Note: Should not be confused with Dr A.A.Allen interested in Lepidoptera and parasites.



ALLAN, James Russell Published a note on Acanthocinus aedilis (L) in the Scottish Naturalist, N.S. 5 (11), 1891, p.40 in which he recorded that he had found the specimen 150 fathoms down in a coal pit and that he had subsequently presented it to the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh. (MD 7.01)
ALEXANDER, William Practised as a Doctor of Medicine in Edinburgh and published Tantamen medicum de cantharidum historia ac usu, Edinburgh, 1769. It is unlikely that he died in 1783 as stated by Horn,W. and Schenkling, S. (1928) who seem to have confused him with William Alexander (1726-1783) the American general who claimed to be the 6th Earl of Stirling. Alexander published a number of works of medical subjects and a History of Women, 1779, in two volumes which was translated into French and German. He was known as William Alexander the Younger. (MD 7.01)
ALEXANDER, Keith Norman Alfred b. 3 February 1953

Educated at Shene County Grammar School (London SW14), at Reading University (1971-74) and at Royal Holloway College, London University (1975-78). Was employed from May 1979 as an invertebrate zoologist with the Biological Survey Team of the National Trust (based in Cirencester, Glos), latterly becoming Team Leader; since 2003, a freelance ecological consultant. His main interest is in saproxylic invertebrates but he also co-ordinates the Soldier Beetles, Jewel Beetles & Glow-worms Recording Scheme (Provisional Atlas published in 2003). He was the county Coleoptera Recorder for Gloucestershire until re-locating to Exeter in 2003. He is now the county Coleoptera Recorder for Cornwall. He is a member of the Editorial Board of The Coleopterist and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Insect Conservation. A member of the European committee of three which oversees the Symposia and Workshops on the Conservation of Saproxylic Beetles, which run every other year; also Honorary Specialist Advisor to the IUCN on European Saproxylic Beetles.

Personal collection consists of 28 storeboxes of mostly British and Irish material. A high proportion of the specimens are from western Britain. Some of the Welsh specimens have been lodged with the National Museum of Wales; other material is with the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Publications exceed 650 and include: ‘The population ecology of some woodland carabid beetles, with particular reference to their dispersive behaviour’ (PhD Thesis, 1986, available on-line at ‘The deadwood fauna of Cornwall’ British Journal of Entomology and Natural History, 1993, 6, 97-101; ‘The saproxylic invertebrates of historic parklands: progress and problems’ jointly with P.T. Harding, in: Kirby K.J. & Drake C.M. (eds.) Dead wood matters: the ecology and conservation of saproxylic invertebrates in Britain. English Nature Science, 1993, 7, 58-73; ‘The use of saproxylic invertebrates in the selection and evaluation of areas of relic forest in pasture-woodlands’ jointly with P.T. Harding, British Journal of Entomology and Natural History, 1994, 7 Suppl. 1, 21-26; ‘The use of freshly downed timber by insects following the 1987 storm.’ In: K.J. Kirby & G.P. Buckley (eds.) Ecological responses to the 1987 Great Storm in the woods of south-east England. English Nature Science, 1994, 23; ‘Historic parks and pasture-woodlands: the National Trust resource and its conservation’. In: D.J, Bullock & H.J. Harvey (eds.) The National Trust and nature conservation: 100 years on. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society, 1995, 56 (Supplement), 155-175; ‘The links between forest history and biodiversity: the invertebrate fauna of ancient pasture-woodlands in Britain and its conservation’ in: Kirby KJ & Watkins, C (eds) The Ecological History of European Forests. CABI, 1998, 73-80; ‘The invertebrates of Britain's wood pastures’ British Wildlife, 1999, 11, 108-117; ‘The Saproxylic Quality Index: evaluating wooded habitats for the conservation of dead-wood Coleoptera’ with AP Fowles & RS Key, The Coleopterist, 1999, 8, 121-141; ‘The invertebrates of living and decaying timber in Britain and Ireland – a provisional annotated checklist’, English Nature Research Report, 2002, 467; ‘A review of the invertebrates associated with lowland calcareous grassland’ English Nature Research Report,2003, 512; ‘Revision of the Index of Ecological Continuity as used for saproxylic beetles’, English Nature Research Report, 2004, 574; ‘Surveying terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates for conservation evaluation’ with CM Drake, DA Lott & J Webb, Natural England Research Report, 2007, NERR005; ‘The special importance of traditional orchards for invertebrate conservation, with a case study of the BAP priority species the Noble Chafer Gnorimus nobilisLandscape Archaeology and Ecology, 2008, 7, 12-18; ‘European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles’ with A. Nieto, 2010, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union; ‘The Noble Chafer and Traditional Orchards - an old-growth species in the English cultural landscape’ British Wildlife, 2011, 23, 17-22; ‘The beetles in decaying wood in Ireland. A provisional annotated checklist of saproxylic Coleoptera.’ With R. Anderson, Irish Wildlife Manuals. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland, 2005, 65; ‘Ancient trees, grazing landscapes and the conservation of deadwood and wood decay invertebrates.’ In: Rotherham I (ed) Trees, Forested Landscapes and Grazing Animals. A European Perspective on Woodlands and Grazed Treescapes, 2013; ‘A review of the scarce and threatened beetles of Great Britain. Buprestidae, Cantharidae, Cleridae, Dasytidae, Drilidae, Lampyridae, Lycidae, Lymexylidae, Malachiidae, Phloiophilidae and Trogossitidae’. Species Status No. 16, Natural England Commissioned Report, 2014, NECR134; ‘A review of the scarce and threatened beetles of Great Britain. The darkling beetles and their allies. Aderidae, Anthicidae, Colydiidae, Melandryidae, Meloidae, Mordellidae, Mycetophagidae, Mycteridae, Oedemeridae, Pyrochroidae, Pythidae, Ripiphoridae, Salpingidae, Scraptiidae, Tenebrionidae & Tetratomidae (Tenebrionoidea less Ciidae)’ with Dodd, S. & Denton J. Species Status No. 18, Natural England Commissioned Report, 2014, NECR148.

Alexander was elected FRES in 1978, joined the British Ecological Society in 1975, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, and a Chartered Environmentalist (since 2005). Recipient of the Marsh Award for Insect Conservation in 2005 (RES). Council Member & Trustee, British Entomological & Natural History Society, 2005-2006 & 2013-14. He lives at 59 Sweetbrier Lane, Heavitree, Exeter EX1 3AQ. (KNAA 6.8.2017).

ALEXANDER, G.B. d. 1980? A collection of some twenty homemade store boxes of beetles formed by Alexander is in the Booth Museum, Brighton, presented by his sister. Locality labels are present but no species names. Some interesting specimens are included such as Dorcatoma dresdensis Herbst. which he took in his home at 24 Montpelier Place, Brighton. He was a carpenter by trade and is known to have lived in Leeds before moving south. He never married. (Information from Peter Hodge). (MD 7.01)
ALEXANDER, F.M. Appears to have become interested in entomology while stationed in India as a Captain in the 8th Madras Light Cavalry. He published two notes in EMM, one of which 'Notes on the habits of Indian insects' (2, 1865, p.23) concerned the capture of Batocera rubus at Sangor in Central India. (MD 7.01)
ALDRIDGE, R.V This name appears on labels in the general collection of Coleoptera in the Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham. Is this, perhaps, the same R. Aldridge who published three notes about Lepidoptera in Ent., 1870? (MD 7.01)
ALCOCK, Alfred William 1859-1933 Known primarily for his zoological work in India where he moved in 188I, after leaving his post as Assistant Professor of Zoology at Aberdeen. His interest in entomology developed after his appointment as Superintendent of the India Museum, Calcutta in 1893 in succession to J. Wood-Mason. His main entomological work was on mosquitoes, although beetles collected by him survive there. He left India in 1907 when he was appointed Lecturer in Entomology at the London School of Tropical Medicine. In 1919 he was appointed Professor of Medical Zoology in the University of London. P. Gilbert (1977) lists three obituaries, and there is an account of Alcock by Annandale in Rec.Indian Mus., 2, 1908-9, pp.1-9. Manuscripts and drawings survive in the NHM, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have some autobiographical notes of 1906. (MD 7.01)