Francis Willughby (1635-72)

Naturalist (Wikipedia)

It was also during his time at Montpellier that Lister met John Ray’s pupil, the wealthy Francis Willughby of Trinity College, Cambridge, who was undertaking his own Grand Tour.

Ray served as an escort and botany tutor for Willughby and his Cambridge companions Philip Skippon and Nathaniel Bacon during their peregrinations throughout the continent from 1663-66. Before their tour, Willughby and Ray were part of a nucleus of scholars at Trinity College, including mathematicians Isaac Barrow and Francis Jessop, as well as anatomist Walter Needham, who were interested in the new science and conducted experiments in chemistry, anatomy, and botany. As part of this group, Ray and Willughby had taken two different journeys throughout the greater part of Great Britain to botanize.

Willughby’s observations would later result in the first scientific work of ornithology which organized species according to their physical characteristics, the Ornithologia libri tres (1676). Lister, Ray, and Willughby would also work together upon experiments about plant sap and plant circulation which were published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.  As a virtuoso with broad interests, Willughby also worked upon a “Book of Games”.

Sadly, Willughby was very valetudinary, dying of pleurisy on 3 July 1672, leaving behind a widow and three young children. Willughby’s manorial home, Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire, is still extant and houses, appropriately enough, a fine natural history collection. The University of Nottingham Archives has Willughby’s personal papers and notes in the Middleton Collection.

Back to top

Comments are closed.