Horsfield, Thomas (1773-1859) (DNB00)

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HORSFIELD, THOMAS (1773–1859), naturalist, was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States, on 12 May 1773. His parents were Moravians, and he remained throughout life a member of that religious body. He studied medicine at the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he graduated doctor of medicine in May 1798, his thesis being ‘An Experimental Dissertation on the Rhus vernix, Rhus radicans, and Rhus glabrum,’ Philadelphia, 8vo. The following year he left America, went to Java, and took service under the Dutch government there and at Sumatra. When the English took temporary possession of the Malayan colonies of the Dutch in 1811, he permanently transferred his services to the British flag, and was despatched by Sir Stamford Raffles to the smaller island of Banca to investigate its natural history. A most valuable report followed. Horsfield left the East Indies in 1819, after nearly twenty years' service. In 1820 he was appointed keeper of the museum of the East India Company in Leadenhall Street, and held the post until his death. He died on 24 July 1859.

His name is botanically commemorated by the Horsfieldia of the Dutch botanist Blume. Besides numerous papers on scientific subjects, he published:

  1. ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Lepidoptera in the H.E.I.C. Museum,’ 2 pts. 1828–9, 4to.
  2. ‘Zoological Researches,’ 1821, 4to.
  3. ‘Plantæ Javanicæ rariores, quæ in insula Java 1802–18 collegit T. Horsfield; Descriptiones elaboravit J. J. Bennett, observationes adjecit R. Brown,’ fol., London, 1838–52, with fifty coloured plates.
  4. Catalogues of the mammals, birds, and lepidoptera in the museum under his charge between 1851 and 1854.

With Sir William Jardine he brought out ‘Illustrations of Ornithology’ in 1830, 4to, and a collection of annulosa brought by him from Java was described by W. S. Macleay in 1815.

[Proc. Linn. Soc. 1859–60, pp. 25–6; Introd. Plantæ Jav. rar.]

B. D. J.