Doubleday, Henry (DNB00)

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DOUBLEDAY, HENRY (1808–1875), naturalist, was born on 1 July 1808, at Epping, Essex, where his father, Benjamin Doubleday, had long been one of the principal tradesmen. Henry was the elder and only brother of Edward Doubleday [q. v.] Both in after life became distinguished as naturalists. Their keen interest in nature was probably aroused by the proximity of Epping and Hainault forests. Before 1848, when his father died, and the entire management of the business at Epping devolved upon him, he made many collecting expeditions, chiefly confined to the eastern counties. Between 1846 and 1873 he only twice slept away from his own house. A brief visit to Paris in 1843 was the only occasion on which he ever left England. His first contribution to science was probably a note on the habits of the hawfinch (Jardine, Mag. of Zoology, i. 448) in 1837. His first entomological note appeared in 1841 (Entomologist, i. 102). It described his success in capturing moths at sallow-blossoms, then an entirely novel proceeding. In 1842 (ib. i. 407; Zoologist, i. 201) he introduced the now very familiar plan of ‘sugaring’ for moths. During the remainder of his life he continued frequently to contribute observations on the habits of mammals, birds, and insects to the various scientific magazines of the day. The ‘Entomologist’ and the ‘Zoologist,’ both conducted by his intimate friend Edward Newman [q. v.], received most of these. Others are to be found in the ‘Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London,’ of which he was an original (1833) and lifelong member. Many notes, too, supplied by him, were made use of by Yarrell in his standard ‘History of British Birds’ (1837–43). Doubleday's short visit to Paris in 1843 led him to undertake the chief work of his life. While there he observed that the system of nomenclature in use among continental entomologists was wholly different from that employed by those in this country. His attention had, it seems, in the previous year been directed to the subject of nomenclature, as a ‘List of the British Noctuæ’ by him appeared in the ‘Entomologist’ (i. 377) in 1842. On his return, therefore, he set himself diligently to work to compare the two, with a view of ultimately producing uniformity. The execution of this task necessitated a vast amount of patient study and research, and it was not finally completed until some thirty years later. The earliest result of his labour was the publication of the first edition of his ‘Synonymic List of British Lepidoptera,’ which appeared at intervals between 1847 and 1850. A second and much more complete edition was brought out in 1859. This, with supplements which appeared in 1865 and 1873 respectively, brought up the number of recognised British species to nearly 2,100. The completion of this list, commonly known as ‘Doubleday's List,’ almost marks an epoch in British entomology. In or about 1838 Doubleday had attempted to render a somewhat similar service to English ornithologists by publishing ‘A Nomenclature of British Birds,’ which quickly ran through several editions. He never published any other separate works. Nevertheless, his scientific correspondence was very extensive, and his liberality in supplying specimens and information almost unbounded. He was an excellent shot, and was able to stuff his own specimens. In 1866 he sustained a heavy pecuniary loss. For a time he struggled on, but a crisis came in 1870. For three months, early in 1871, he had to be placed in the Retreat at York, where the balance of his mind, upset by his anxieties, was soon restored. Through the kindness of friends, his books and his lepidoptera were preserved to him, and he was enabled to end his days in his old home. Doubleday was never married. He was throughout life a quaker. Among scientific men at large he cannot hold a high place; but, as a lepidopterist simply, he was, in the words of his friend Newman, ‘without exception the first this country has produced.’ He died on 29 June 1875, and was buried in the ground adjoining the Friends' meeting-house at Epping. His collections of British and European lepidoptera have probably never been excelled in their richness and variety. In February 1876 they were deposited on loan by his executors in the Bethnal Green branch of the South Kensington Museum, where they have ever since been preserved intact, and known as the ‘Doubleday Collections.’ In 1877 a catalogue of them (South Kensington Museum Science Handbooks) was published by the lords of the committee of council on education.

[Obituary notices in Entomologist (with photograph), x. 53; Entomologist's Monthly Mag. xii. 69; Proc. Entomological Soc. 1875, p. xxxi; also personal acquaintance.]

M. C-y.