Sowerby, James de Carle (DNB00)

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SOWERBY, JAMES de CARLE (1787–1871), naturalist and artist, the eldest son of James Sowerby [q. v.], was born at Stoke Newington on 5 June 1787. George Brettingham Sowerby [q. v.] was his brother. He was educated privately, and as a boy delighted especially in experimental and analytical chemistry. He was a friend and companion of Faraday, and studied with him under Sir Humphry Davy. He is said at an early age to have proposed, independently of Berzelius, the classification of minerals according to their chemical composition, and he supplied analyses of many of the minerals described in his father's two mineralogical works. He also assisted his father in the execution of plates, but his name did not appear on any till after the latter's death in 1822. His earliest production appears to have been the illustrations for Dawson Turner's ‘Muscologiæ Hibernicæ Spicilegium’ (1804), the original drawings for which (dated 1803) are in the British Museum (Natural History). He also studied conchology, especially fossil forms, and before he was twenty had arranged the collections of the Marchioness of Bath, Miss Codrington, and other amateurs.

In 1838 he joined his cousin Philip Barnes and others in founding the Royal Botanic Society and Gardens, Regent's Park, of which he was at the same time elected secretary. He resided at the society's gardens in Regent's Park for thirty years, and held the post, in which he has been succeeded by his son and grandson, till his retirement in 1869. In 1840 the council of the Geological Society awarded him the ‘Wollaston Fund’ to aid him in carrying on his researches in fossil conchology. In 1846 he was appointed curator of the same society's museum, but had shortly after to resign on account of the increase in his other work. He died in London on 26 Aug. 1871. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 18 Feb. 1823, and was an original member of the Zoological Society, founded in 1826. By his wife, Mary Ann Edwards, whom he married on 25 Sept. 1813, he was father of James Sowerby (1815–1834), who wrote ‘The Mushroom and Champignon illustrated … and distinguished from the poisonous Fungi that resemble them,’ 4to, London, 1832.

Sowerby's botanical plates are considered by some not equal to those by his father, but his conchological ones leave nothing to be desired, while the fidelity and accuracy displayed in all is remarkable. While, however, always busy, working with or for others, he produced little on his sole responsibility.

He was author of some ten zoological and palæontological papers, contributed to various scientific periodicals between 1825 and 1852. He executed plates and wrote descriptions for ‘The Genera of recent and Fossil Shells,’ begun by his father, 1820–34?; and continued and illustrated his father's ‘Mineral Conchology,’ to which he had from the first contributed a great deal of the text. With T. Bell, J. G. Children, and his brother, G. B. Sowerby, he conducted ‘The Zoological Journal,’ 2 vols. 1825–6, and supplied most of the plates and some of the text (in vols. i. and ii.) of the Supplement to ‘English Botany,’ 4 vols. 1831–49. His original drawings for this are preserved in the British Museum (Natural History). In association with Edward Lear [q. v.] he drew plates for T. Bell's unfinished ‘Monograph of the Testudinata,’ 1836–42; only two-thirds of the plates appeared in that edition, but the whole sixty were issued in 1872, accompanied with text by John Edward Gray [q. v.] He also arranged, named, and described fossil shells for Adam Sedgwick, Sir R. I. Murchison, Dr. Buckland, Dr. Fitton, F. Dixon, and Colonel W. H. Sykes, his notes and figures being incorporated by those authors in their own works; and prepared illustrations, among many other works, for: ‘Flora Græca Sibthorpiana’ (1806–40); Lou- don's ‘Encyclopædia of Plants,’ 1829; Halsted's ‘Little Botanist,’ 1835; and the first six plates of Salter and Blanford's ‘Palæontology of Niti’ (1865), a unique set of which is in the British Museum (Natural History), photographic copies alone appearing with the work itself. It was apparently in his honour that A. D. D'Orbigny named the molluscan genus Sowerbya.

[Proc. Linn. Soc. 1871–2, p. lxxix; Geol. Mag. 1871, p. 478; Lancet, 23 Sept. 1871, p. 451; information kindly supplied by J. B. Sowerby, sec. Royal Botanic Soc.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Brit. Museum (Nat. Hist.) Cat.; Royal Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.