Wollaston, Thomas Vernon (DNB00)

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WOLLASTON, THOMAS VERNON (1822–1878), entomologist and conchologist, born at Scotter, Lincolnshire, on 9 March 1822, was the tenth son and fifteenth child of Henry John Wollaston (d. 27 Oct. 1833), rector of Scotter, and his wife Louisa (1783–1833), youngest daughter of William Symons of Bury St. Edmund's, Suffolk. He was educated chiefly at the grammar school, Bury St. Edmund's, and in 1842 entered at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1845, and proceeding M.A. in July 1849. He resided at Cambridge until symptoms of weakness in the lungs compelled him to pass the winter of 1847–8 in Madeira. On his return he lived for a few years in London, first at Thurloe Square and later in Hereford Street, Park Lane, till his health compelled his removal to Kings Kerswell, near Torquay, and afterwards to Teignmouth. He passed many winters in Madeira, visiting, with his friend Mr. John Gray, the Cape Verde islands in 1866 and St. Helena in 1875–6.

He became a fellow of the Linnean Society of London on 2 March 1847, and was also a fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. From his Cambridge days he was devoted to entomology, especially the study of coleoptera, and his first paper, on ‘Coleoptera observed at Launceston,’ appeared in the ‘Zoologist’ in 1843; and between that date and 1877 he contributed upwards of sixty papers on insects, chiefly coleoptera, to various scientific journals. He applied himself so assiduously to collecting on his winter visits that he was able to publish a most exhaustive account of the beetles of Madeira. His collections having been purchased by the trustees of the British Museum, he produced more complete accounts in the form of museum catalogues in 1857 and 1864. An ‘Account of the Land Shells of Madeira,’ which he had just completed, was brought out shortly after his death. He died at 1 Barnepark Terrace, Teignmouth, on 4 Jan. 1878. He married, on 12 Jan. 1869, Edith, youngest daughter of Joseph Shepherd of Teignmouth.

Wollaston was a friend of Darwin, who was well acquainted with his work. Wollaston's book ‘On the Variation of Species,’ which was published in 1856, three years before Darwin's paper on the ‘Origin of Species’ was read, anticipated dimly some of Darwin's theories. Wollaston was too timid and too orthodox to take a decided position. His separate works are:

  1. ‘Insecta Maderensia,’ London, 1854, 4to.
  2. ‘On the Variation of Species,’ London, 1856, 8vo.
  3. ‘Catalogue of the Coleopterous Insects of Madeira in the Collection of the British Museum,’ London, 1857, 8vo.
  4. ‘Catalogue of the Coleopterous Insects of the Canaries in the Collection of the British Museum,’ London, 1864, 8vo.
  5. ‘Coleoptera Atlantidum,’ London, 1865, 8vo.
  6. ‘Coleoptera Hesperidum,’ London, 1867, 8vo.
  7. ‘Lyra Devoniensis,’ London, 1868, 8vo.
  8. ‘Coleoptera Sanctæ Helenæ,’ London, 1877, 8vo.
  9. ‘Testacea Atlantica,’ London, 1878, 8vo.

[Entomologist, xi. 43; Entom. Monthly Mag. xvi. 213; Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist., February 1878, p. 178; Darwin's Life of Charles Darwin; information kindly supplied by his widow; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Nat. Hist. Mus. Cat.; Roy. Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.