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, William

Published 'Extraordinary quantity of Coccinellidae' in Zool, 5, 1847, 1898-99. This is probably the same William Allen who is listed in Ent.Ann. in 1857 and 1860 as interested in Coleoptera and Diptera. At that time he lived at Western Terrace, The Park, Nottingham (A.C.F.Allen is also listed at this address interested in Hymenoptera). Horn and Schenkling (1928), 11,are surely incorrect in listing Allen's dates as 1793-1864 since these refer to William Allen the naval officer and artist. (MD 8/17).


In an article in the Ent.mon.Mag., 89, 1953, 148-9 titled 'Two remarkable rediscoveries in the British Coleoptera' A.A. Allen recorded how 'due to the energy and perseverence of Mr S.E. Allen 'Graphoderus cinereus L. and Uleiota planata L. were found near Liss in Hampshire. He went on to note that Allen had collected intensively in that area and had found amongst other 'good' things Agonum ericeti Panz., Pediacus depressus Herbst and Leptura rubra L. all of which were almost certainly new records for North Hants.

            Allen's particular interest seems to have been in the water beetles and he published two notes in the Ent.mon.Mag., 'Rantus bistriatus (Bergst) in flight' (89, 1953, 168) and 'Aestivating habits of Hydradephaga' (90, 1954, 91-2). He gave his address in 1953 as Fir Villa, Station Road, Liss, Hants.

            John Owen told me that the labels marked 'S. Allen' in the collection he presented to the RSM in 1963 refer to this Allen. (MD 8/17)

ALLEN, Miss A.M.

Mentioned by Morley (1899), iv. (MD 8/17)


Added two beetles to the British list. Epuraea distincta (Grimmer) which he took on the Gower Peninsular when collecting with G.W. Nicholson and Le B. Tomlin (Ent.mon.Mag., 55, 1919, 128-9) and Tachys micros (Fisch) which he took on the coast near Charmouth in Dorset again with G.W. Nicholson (ibid., 60, 1924, 225). At this time he lived in London N.W.2. By the time he published his last note on Tapinotus sellatus (F) in Surrey (ibid., 71, 1935, 67) he had moved to Beech Hurst, Camberley, Surrey.

His collection passed to Cambridge, the Insect Department Register in the Department of Zoology recording the receipt of  '3 cabinets 40 drawers' of British beetles from him on 20 November 1945. The specimens were subsequently amalgamated into the general collection. (MD 8/17).

ALLEN, G. Dexter

Smith (1986) records the existence of Coleoptera and Lepidoptera from Switzerland and France, and also Oriental insects of many orders, collected by Allen and presented to the Hope Department by his wife in 1930. (MD 8/17)

ALLEN, Frank d. before 1908

Listed by Sharpe (1908), 13, 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, Liverpool Coleoptera. (compiled by 1880). (MD 8/17)

ALLEN, Cyril

The NHM purchased 293 beetles collected by Allen 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'  in Phil.Trans.R.Soc, xx, 1699, 376-8. In this he recorded that in August 1695 he took two of the beetles and that he kept them for 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 Essex Nat., 16, 1910, 145-75 and ibid., 17, 1912, 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 NHM 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 are 32 pages of correspondence with Colin Johnson in MUNHM (Box 15) dated 1979-1995.

There is a portrait photograph on the front cover of Col., 19(3), 2010, provided by his friends of many years Mr and Mrs Ray Miller, and a brief obituary on p.150. No formal obituary has yet been published as far as I know. (Information from A.A. Allen). (MD 8/17, 1/22)

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 Scot. Nat., N.S. 5 (11), 1891, 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 RSM. (MD 7.01)