Swainson, William, 1789-1855

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Epithet: naturalist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000679.0x0001a6

Swainson, a notable naturalist, was also a skilled botanical draughtsman and a competent water color artist.

From the guide to the Birds of North America, Circa 1822-1824, (American Philosophical Society)

William Swainson (1789-1855) was born in Liverpool. He joined H.M. Customs in 1803 and transferred to the Commissariat of the Mediterranean Army in 1806. This gave him the opportunity to travel and study natural history in Malta, Italy and Sicily. He retired at half pay in 1815 when he was 26 years old.

In the next year he went to Brazil on an expedition to collect plants and animals, especially birds, returning in 1818. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society (1820) and a Fellow of the Linnean Society. After 1818, he learned lithography and produced many drawings of animals. He was engaged as a professional writer and wrote many populat books and papers on shells, birds and other animals. He was one of the chief exponents advocating a peculiar sustem of classification called the Quinary System.

In 1840 he emigrated to New Zealand, disillusioned by the lack of acceptance of his theories of systematics, the failure to obtain a post at the British Museum and saddened by the death of his first wife (Mary Parkes) in 1835. He left with his second wife Ann Grasby and four of his five children. He purchased 1100 acres of land in the Hutt Valley from the New Zealand Company.

From the guide to the Papers of William Swainson, [1810-1840], (University of Cambridge: Museum of Zoology)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Audubon, John James, 1785-1851. John James Audubon letters 1828-1846. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Papers of William Swainson, [1810-1840] University of Cambridge: Museum of Zoology
creatorOf Birds of North America, Circa 1822-1824 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820. Sir Joseph Banks papers, 1763-1830 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Banks, Joseph, 1743-1820. Sir Joseph Banks papers, 1763-1830 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Linnean Society of London correspondence of American scientists, 1738-1865, 1738-1865 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Papers of Stephen Elliot 1808-1828 Gray Herbarium Library
referencedIn C. S. (Constantine Samuel ) Rafinesque correspondence, 1809-1840, with William Swainson, 1809-1840 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Swainson, William, 1789-1855. Swainsoniana / William Swainson. Natural History Museum
creatorOf Rafinesque, C. S. (Constantine Samuel), 1783-1840. Correspondence, 1809-1840, with William Swainson. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Papers of William Swainson, [1810-1840] University of Cambridge: Museum of Zoology
referencedIn (IV. ff. 191). 9 Feb.-17 Nov. 1739.Thomas Osborne, 4th Duke of Leeds: Suit v. Broadhead: 1739.includes:f. 4 John Gugulman: Suit v. Duport: 1739. f. 5 b Thomas Watson-Wentworth, Baron Malton (1728); Earl of Malton (1733), 1st Marquis of Rockingham (1... British Library
referencedIn C. S. (Constantine Samuel) Rafinesque correspondence and writings, 1808-1840, 1808-1840 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Library. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. 1668-1983. American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Vol. V. (ff. 520). July, 1831-June, 1832.includes:ff. 1, 3, 88, 253, 299, 301, 330 Decimus Burton, architect: Correspondence with C. Babbage: 1831-1834. ff. 5, 8, 14, 59, 63, 67, 76, 101, 104, 273, 310, 401,402, 449 Hon James Henry Keith Stewart, A... British Library
referencedIn Linnean Society of London. Correspondence of American scientists, 1738-1865. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Sir Joseph Banks papers, 1763-1830 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn John Edward Gray papers, 1783-1884, 1783-1884 American Philosophical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith Audubon, John James, 1785-1851. person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, 1743-1820. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Gray, John Edward person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Linnean Society of London. corporateBody
associatedWith McMillan, Nora Fisher, 1908-2003 person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Rafinesque, C. S. (Constantine Samuel), 1783-1840. person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Swainson, John Timothy, d.1825. person
associatedWith Swainson William 1789-1855 person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Stamford, Lincolnshire
Clifton-on-Teme, Worcestershire
Long Melford, Suffolk
London, England
Natural history
Science and technology


Birth 1789-10-08

Death 1855-12-06




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