Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Westwood, John Obadiah

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WESTWOOD, JOHN OBADIAH (1805–1893), entomologist and palæographer, son of John Westwood (1774–1850), medallist and die-sinker, by Mary, daughter of Edward Betts of Sheffield, was born in that town on 22 Dec. 1805. He was educated at a Friends' school in Sheffield, and then at Lichfield, whither the family had removed.

In the autumn of 1821 he was articled to a solicitor in London, and, after being admitted, was for a short time a partner in the firm, but never really practised. Having small private means, he devoted himself to entomology and antiquarian pursuits, augmenting his income by his writings and drawings, and he became one of the greatest living authorities on Anglo-Saxon and mediæval manuscripts. His drawings of insects were masterpieces of correct delineation, and he excelled in reproducing old manuscripts, illuminations and representations of old ivories and inscribed stones, sparing no pains to make his work complete, and even making a long journeys to verify some point of interest.

He co-operated actively in founding the Entomological Society in 1833, and in 1834 became its secretary; was president for more than one term, and in 1883 was elected honorary life president. Frederick William Hope [q. v.], the first president of the Entomological Society, became Westwood's warm patron, and when in 1858 Hope presented his collection (including Westwood's, which he had previously acquired) to Oxford University, and endowed a chair of invertebrate zoology, he nominated Westwood to the post. On his appointment as first Hope professor in 1861, Westwood removed from Hammersmith to Oxford. He was made an M.A. by decree on 7 Feb. 1861, and joined Magdalen College, of which he became a fellow in 1880. In common with many others of his day, he was unable to accept the doctrine of evolution, though he lived to see it taught in the university. He had been elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 1 May 1827, and was on the honorary list of nearly every entomological society of his period; he was also on the staff of the ‘Gardeners' Chronicle’ for nearly half a century as entomological referee. His work on the classification of insects gained him the Royal Society's medal in 1855; but he declined, though frequently urged, to become a candidate for fellowship to that society.

He died at Oxford on 2 Jan. 1893. In 1839 he married Eliza Richardson (d. 1882), who accompanied him on all his archæological tours, and who assisted in making sketches and rubbings of the inscribed stones for his ‘Lapidarium Walliæ.’

A lithographed portrait of Westwood in the Ipswich series by J. H. Maguire is preserved in the Linnean Society's library.

Besides some three hundred and fifty or four hundred papers, chiefly on entomological and archæological subjects, contributed from 1827 onwards to various journals, Westwood was author of:

  1. ‘The Entomologist's Textbook,’ London, 1838, 8vo.
  2. ‘An Introduction to the Modern Classification of Insects,’ London, 1839–40, 2 vols. 8vo.
  3. ‘British Butterflies and their Transformations’ (with plates by H. N. Humphreys), London, 1841, 4to; new ed. [1857–]1858.
  4. ‘Arcana Entomologica,’ London [1841–]1845, 2 vols. 8vo.
  5. ‘British Moths and their Transformations’ (with plates by H. N. Humphreys), London, 1843–45, 2 vols. 4to; new eds. in 1851 and 1857–8.
  6. ‘Palæographia Sacra Pictoria,’ London, 1843–5, 4to.
  7. ‘Illuminated Illustrations of the Bible,’ London, 1846, 4to.
  8. With Edward Doubleday [q. v.], ‘The Genera of Diurnal Lepidoptera,’ London, 1846–52, 2 vols. fol.
  9. ‘The Cabinet of Oriental Entomology,’ London [1847–]1848, 4to.
  10. ‘On the Distinctive Character of the … Ornamentation employed by the early British, Anglo-Saxon, and Irish Artists,’ London, 1854, 8vo.
  11. ‘The Butterflies of Great Britain,’ London, 1855, 4to.
  12. ‘Catalogue of Orthopterous Insects in the … British Museum. Pt. I. Pharmidæ,’ London, 1859, 4to.
  13. With Charles Spence Bate, ‘A History of the British Sessile-eyed Crustacea,’ London, 1863–8, 2 vols. 8vo.
  14. ‘Wood Carvings—Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the causes of Decay in Wood Carvings,’ London, 1864, 8vo.
  15. ‘Facsimiles of the Miniatures and Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts,’ London, 1868, fol.
  16. ‘The Utrecht Psalter,’ London, 1874, fol.
  17. ‘Thesaurus Entomologicus Oxoniensis,’ Oxford, 1874, 4to.
  18. ‘The Bible of the Monastery of St. Paul, near Rome,’ Oxford and London, 1876, 4to.
  19. ‘Catalogue of the Fictile Ivories in the South Kensington Museum,’ London, 1876, 8vo.
  20. ‘Lapidarium Walliæ: the early Inscribed and Sculptured Stones of Wales’ (Cambrian Archæological Association), London, 4to, 1876–9.
  21. ‘The Book of Kells: a Lecture,’ Dublin, 1887, 4to. 22. ‘Revisio Insectorum familiæ Mantidarum,’ London, 1889, fol.

He further contributed entomological notes to Royle's ‘Illustrations of the … Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains’ (vol. i. 1839); Kollar's ‘Treatise on Insects injurious to Gardeners’ (1840); Hope's ‘Catalogue of Hemiptera,’ pt. ii. (1842); Brodie's ‘History of the Fossil Insects’ (1845); Ayres and Moore's ‘Florist's Guide’ (1850); and Oates's ‘Matabele Land’ (1881). He also edited and contributed notes to a new edition of Drury's ‘Illustrations of Exotic Entomology,’ 1837, 3 vols.; Harris's ‘Aurelian,’ 1840; articulated animals in an English edition of Cuvier's ‘Animal Kingdom,’ 1840; and contributed further to the edition of 1849, which was frequently reissued; Donovan's ‘Natural History of the Insects of China,’ and ‘Natural History of the Insects of India,’ 1842; Wood's ‘Index Entomologicus,’ 1854; and Richardson's ‘The Hive and the Honey Bee,’ [1858].

The name ‘Westwoodia’ was bestowed in his honour by Brullé in 1846 on a genus of Hymenoptera, and his name was similarly employed by Spence Bate in 1857 for Crustacea, and by Kaufs in 1866 and Castelnau in 1873 for Coleoptera; possibly, too, Robineau-Desvoidy had a like intention when in 1863 he named a genus of Diptera ‘Westwodia.’

Entom. Monthly Mag. xxix. 49; Zoologist, 3rd ser. xvii. 99; Archæol. Cambr. 5th ser. x. 179; Natural Science, ii. 151; information kindly furnished by his niece, Miss Swann; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Nat. Hist. Mus. Cat.; Cat. Art. Libr. South Kensington.]

B. B. W.