Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Saunders, William Wilson
SAUNDERS, WILLIAM WILSON (1809–1879), entomologist and botanist, second son of James Saunders, D.C.L. (1770–1838), vicar of Kirtlington, Oxfordshire, was born at Little London, near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, 4 June 1809. He was educated privately till 1827, when he was sent to the East India Company's military academy at Addiscombe. He passed second in examination, and obtained his commission in the engineers in August 1829. He at once joined his corps at Chatham, and went out to India in August 1830, but resigned the following year. Returning to England, he joined his future father-in-law, Joshua Saunders, in business as an underwriter at Lloyd's, where for many years he was a member of the committee and also of the shipping committee. He resided first at East Hill, Wandsworth, but in 1857 removed to Reigate, where he started in the same year the Holmesdale Natural History Club. In 1873 the firm of which he was then head became involved in the crisis that affected mercantile insurance, and Saunders, disposing of his large collections of insects, living and dried plants, and watercolour drawings, retired the following year to Worthing, where he devoted himself to horticulture. He died at Worthing, 13 Sept. 1879. He was thrice married: first, in 1832, to his cousin, Catharine Saunders; secondly, in 1841, to Mary Anne Mello; thirdly, in 1877, to Sarah Cholmley, who survived him.
Saunders was an enthusiastic naturalist throughout his life. Few contributed more to the advancement of entomology and botany. Owing to his liberality many collectors were able both to start and to continue their labours. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1833, and acted as its treasurer from 1861 to 1873. He was an original member of the Entomological Society, and its president in 1841–2 and 1856–7. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1853 and of the Zoological Society in 1861. He was for several years vice-president of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Saunders was author of upwards of thirtyfive papers published between 1831 and 1877 in various scientific transactions. He also edited:
- ‘Insecta Saundersiana,’ containing descriptions of insects in his collection by F. Walker, H. Jeckel, and E. Saunders, 8vo, London, 1850–69.
- ‘Refugium Botanicum,’ descriptions of plants in his possession by Reichenbach, J. G. Baker, and others, illustrated by H. H. Fitch, 8vo, London, 1869–73.
- ‘Mycological Illustrations,’ in association with Worthington G. Smith, 8vo, London, 1871–2.
[Entom. Monthly Mag. xvi. 119–20; Nature, 2 Oct. 1879, p. 536; Gardeners' Chronicle, 1871, with portrait, p. 136; information kindly supplied by his son, G. S. Saunders; Roy. Soc. Cat.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]