Swainson, William, 1789-1855 (naturalist and artist)
- Existence: 1789 - 1855
William Swainson (1789-1855), naturalist and artist, was born on 8 October 1789 at Newington Butts, London, the son of John Timothy Swainson (1757–1824), customs collector, and his second wife, Frances Stanway (1769–1792). His father, a keen amateur zoologist, was a founder member of the Linnean Society of London. Initially working as a clerk in the Port of London customs office, in 1808 Swainson was transferred to the office of the army’s commissary-general and was sent to the Mediterranean. He spent time in Sicily, Greece, Malta and Italy and was able to continue his botanical and zoological studies which he had begun in childhood, returning to England in 1815 with collections of flora and fauna. Swainson also spent time in Brazil between 1817 and 1818, recording his findings in coloured lithographs in his collection of plates Birds of Brazil. In 1823 Swainson married Mary Parkes and they had five children before Mary’s untimely death in 1835. During this time Swainson wrote a number of illustrated works on zoology, though his acceptance of William Sharpe Macleay's circular system of classification, which did not comply with the well-established Linnaean system and were not accepted by those engaged in biological work, meant that Swainson's encyclopaedic productions were somewhat overlooked. In 1841 Swainson emigrated to New Zealand with his second wife, Ann Grasby. His botanical pursuits were mainly curtailed by the harsh pioneer life at which he was only moderately successful. A brief sojourn in Australia, where he hoped to become a botanist, ended unsuccessfully and he returned to New Zealand where he died in 1855.
Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:
Letter to Allan Cunningham (1791-1839), botanist, evidently in Australia, 27 FEB 1829, listing Australian fauna specimens which Swainson seeks, in return for botanical specimens. Stamped with Alfred Newton's ownership stamp.
Two boxes containg four volumes of sketches, plates and other illustrations from Swainsons various ornithological projects, including his Illustrated Birds of Brazil.
In many cases the scientific names presented are no longer in use, where possible the name of the species and it's current scientific name have been presented, but in most cases the original nonclemature is left to stand alone.