Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turton, William

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TURTON, WILLIAM (1762–1835), conchologist, born at Olveston on 21 May 1762, was the fifth child of William Turton (1731–1802), solicitor of Olveston, Gloucestershire, and his wife Rachel, only daughter of the Rev. Andrew Cuthbert of Monmouth, and on her mother's side a descendant of Edward, eleventh baron Zouche. He matriculated from Oriel College, Oxford, on 28 March 1781, graduating B.A. on 3 Feb. 1785, proceeding M.A. on 22 Feb. 1791, and M.B. on 16 July 1791. He commenced practice in Swansea, his leisure time being devoted to the study of natural history and the publication of various works. About 1797 he married a Miss Salmon, by whom he had a son and three daughters.

From the prefaces to his books it appears that he was still at Swansea in 1807, that from 1813 to 1816 he was in Dublin, in 1819 at Teignmouth, in 1822 at Torquay, and in 1831 at Bideford, where he died on 28 Dec. 1835. He had been elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1809.

Turton was author of: 1. ‘A Medical Glossary,’ London, 1797, 4to; 2nd edit. 1802. 2. ‘British Fauna,’ vol. i. (all published), Swansea, 1807, 12mo; London, 1810, 8vo. 3. ‘Some Observations on Consumption,’ London, 1810, 8vo; Dublin, 1813. 4. ‘A Conchological Dictionary of the British Islands,’ in which he was ‘assisted by his daughter,’ London, 1819, 12mo. 5. ‘Conchylia Insularum Britannicarum’ (bivalves only), Exeter, 1822, 4to; reissued as ‘Bivalve Shells of the British Islands,’ London, 1830, 4to. 6. ‘Manual of the Land and Freshwater Shells of the British Islands,’ London, 1831, 12mo; another edition, largely rewritten by John Edward Gray [q. v.], 8vo, London, 1840 and 1857. 7. ‘A Treatise on Hot and Cold Baths’ [no date]. He also wrote, in conjunction with J. F. Kingston, the natural history portion of N. T. Carrington's ‘Teignmouth, Dawlish, and Torquay Guide’ (Teignmouth [1828?] 8vo). Three papers on scientific subjects were written by him for the ‘Zoological Journal’ and the ‘Magazine of Natural History’ between 1826 and 1834. He is also said to have prepared a ‘Pocket Flora.’

Turton edited a ‘General System of Nature, translated from Gmelin's last edition of the Systema Naturæ [of Linnæus],’ &c. London, 7 vols. 4to [Swansea, printed], 1802–1806, vols. i–v. reprinted in 1806; a new edition of Goldsmith's ‘History of the Earth,’ 1805 and 1816, 6 vols.; and ‘Luctus Nelsoniani. Poems [by different authors] on the Death of Lord Nelson, in Latin and English, written for the Turtonian Medals,’ London, 1807, 4to.

He gave his collection of shells, before his ‘Manual’ appeared, to William Clark of Bath. They subsequently passed into the hands of John Gwyn Jeffreys [q. v.], and are now with the latter's collection in the United States National Museum at Washington. Turtonia, a genus of bivalve shells, was named in his honour in 1849 by Forbes and Hanley, who remark, however, that Turton was not always to be relied on in his published statements.

[Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Gent. Mag. 1836, i. 557; Britten and Boulger's Biogr. Index; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Forbes and Hanley's Hist. Brit. Moll. ii. 81; information kindly supplied by his great-nephew, Major W. H. Turton, R.E.; prefaces and advertisements to his works; British Museum Cat.; Nat. Hist. Museum Cat.; Royal Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.