Thomas Vernon Wollaston

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Plate from Wollaston's Coleoptera Sanctae-Helenae (1877) Wollaston Thomas Vernon 1877 bugs.jpg
Plate from Wollaston's Coleoptera Sanctæ-Helenæ (1877)

Thomas Vernon Wollaston FLS (9 March 1822 – 4 January 1878) was a prominent English entomologist and malacologist, becoming especially known for his studies of Coleoptera inhabiting several North Atlantic archipelagoes. He was well-placed socially. His religious beliefs effectively prevented him from supporting Charles Darwin's theories after 1859, but Darwin remained a close friend. Wollaston supported the theory that continental lands had once extended outward farther to encompass some of the island groups he studied.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Charles Darwin British naturalist, author of "On the Origin of Species, by Means of Natural Selection"

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.



Thomas Vernon Wollaston was born in Scotter, Lincolnshire, England, in 1822. In 1845 he gained a B.A. degree from Jesus College, Cambridge, [1] and in 1847 he was made a fellow of the Linnean Society.

Scotter human settlement in United Kingdom

Scotter is a large village and civil parish in West Lindsey, Lincolnshire, England, situated between Scunthorpe and Gainsborough.

Lincolnshire County of England

Lincolnshire is a county in eastern England, with a long coastline on the North Sea to the east. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders Northamptonshire in the south for just 20 yards (19 m), England's shortest county boundary. The county town is the city of Lincoln, where the county council has its headquarters.

Jesus College, Cambridge constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England

Jesus College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and the glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge. Its common name comes from the name of its chapel, Jesus Chapel.

Wollaston spent the winter of 1847–1848 in Madeira, returning for his Cambridge M.A. graduation in 1849. In the years to 1855 he made four long trips to Madeira.

Madeira Autonomous Region of Portugal in the archipelago of Madeira

Madeira, officially the Autonomous Region of Madeira, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. It is an archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Portugal. Its total population was estimated in 2016 at 289,000. The capital of Madeira is Funchal, which is located on the main island's south coast.

In 1857 Wollaston returned to the North Atlantic islands, investigating the natural history of the Canary Islands – with Richard Thomas Lowe and John Edward Gray in 1858, returning with Lowe alone in 1859. After a long and rather mysterious absence he returned to the islands in 1866, this time to Cape Verde Islands with Lowe and Gray. Wollaston was a frequent correspondent with the geologist Charles Lyell and their letters are in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library. Wollaston was also a friendly correspondent with Charles Darwin until 1860. His last trip was to St. Helena with his wife, and Gray.

Canary Islands Archipelago in the Atlantic and autonomous community of Spain

The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago and the southernmost autonomous community of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres west of Morocco at the closest point. The Canary Islands, which are also known informally as the Canaries, are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper. It is also one of eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality as recognized by the Spanish Government. The Canary Islands belong to the African Plate like the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, the two on the African mainland.

Richard Thomas Lowe (1802–1874) was an English scientist, a botanist, ichthyologist, malacologist, and a clergyman. In 1825 he graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge, and in the same year he took holy orders. In 1832 he became a clergyman in the Madeira Islands, where he was also a part-time naturalist, extensively studying the local flora and fauna. He wrote a book on the Madeiran flora. He died in 1874 when the ship he was on was wrecked off the Scilly Isles.

John Edward Gray British zoologist and philatelist

John Edward Gray, FRS was a British zoologist. He was the elder brother of zoologist George Robert Gray and son of the pharmacologist and botanist Samuel Frederick Gray (1766–1828). The standard author abbreviation J.E.Gray is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. The same is used for a zoological name.

In 1869, Wollaston married Edith, the youngest daughter of his friend Joseph Shepherd. [2] [3] Following their visit to St. Helena she wrote "Notes on the Lepidoptera of St. Helena, with Descriptions of new Species" [4] which included 37 new species attributed to her.

Wollaston died at Teignmouth, Devon, England, in 1878. [5]

Teignmouth town and civil parish in Teignbridge in the English county of Devon

Teignmouth is a large seaside town, fishing port and civil parish in the English county of Devon, situated on the north bank of the estuary mouth of the River Teign about 12 miles south of Exeter. It had a population of 14,749 at the last census. In 1690, it was the last place in England to be invaded by a foreign power.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

His principal collection of Madeiran Coleoptera was purchased by the then Oxford University Museum (now Oxford University Museum of Natural History) whilst the British Museum purchased his principal collection of Canarian Coleoptera. They are now in the Natural History Museum. Both museums contain duplicate specimens from respective secondary collections. Material can also be found Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, and California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

Selected works

Wollaston also wrote many short, and some lengthy, papers on North Atlantic archipelago Coleoptera. A paper attributed to Wollaston on the Diptera of Madeira was almost certainly written by Alexander Henry Haliday.

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Macrocoma obscuripes is a species of leaf beetle endemic to the Canary Islands, described by Thomas Vernon Wollaston in 1862.

Macrocoma splendidula is a species of leaf beetle endemic to the Canary Islands, described by Thomas Vernon Wollaston in 1862.

Silvanus inarmatus is a species of beetles of the family Silvanidae. It occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Seychelles and Cape Verde. It is probably an introduced species in Cape Verde. The species was described by Thomas Vernon Wollaston in 1867.

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  1. "Wollaston, Thomas Vernon (WLSN841TV)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. Woodward, Bernard Barham (1900). "Wollaston, Thomas Vernon". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62.
  3. Anon (1878) "Obituary". The Entomologist's Monthly Magazine. 14:213.
  4. Mrs. Wollaston, T. Vernon (1879). "Notes on the Lepidoptera of St. Helena, with Descriptions of new Species". The Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3 fifth series. pp 219-233 329-441.
  5. Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wollaston, Thomas Vernon"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 309–310.

Further reading