A social and biographical history of British and Irish field bryologists

Robert Braithwaite was a leading British bryologist in the 19th century. He wrote Sphagnaceae or Peat-mosses of Europe and North America (1880), but his lasting contribution to British bryology is his three volumes of The British Moss-flora (1887-1905), illustrated by himself.

“Field-bryology, like most enterprises, began obscurely. Although more than 1,000 species of moss and liverwort are now known from Britain, herbalists of the Middle Ages knew only of ‘moss’, and referred to thalloid liverworts as ‘lichen’. Indeed, lichens themselves were classified as types of moss until Tournefort recognised them as a distinct group in 1694. Since then, fitfully but without long breaks, bryologists have continued to add species to the list of British bryophytes. So when, by whom, and in what circumstances were our other thousand-odd species of mosses and liverworts subsequently discovered? Who first found them in Britain, and who then found them new to different parts of the country?

“What ambitions did bygone bryologists harbour as they set out to explore the world around them? How did their family backgrounds, upbringings, social worlds, and occupations influence what they found and failed to find? And how did popular interests and contemporary knowledge (such as knowledge or ignorance of species, of their life-cycles and variability in features, and the quality and comprehensiveness of bryofloras) influence what these bryologists saw and overlooked?”

For a fascinating walk through bryological history, introducing some of the key players and their work, and discussing some of the questions posed above, read the full article by Mark Lawley.

Mark Lawley's History of British Bryology

Artisan Botany

Many people – including BBS members Mark Lawley and Tom Blockeel (see below) – have been fascinated by the uprising of working class botanists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly in northern England. Cambridge scholar Anne Secord has studied this subject extensively, focussing on popular science – especially working class naturalists – in early 19th century Britain.

In 1994 she published the acclaimed paper: ‘Science in the pub: artisan botanists in early nineteenth-century Lancashire’, in which she discussed the place of working class botanists within society and the scientific community, and the tensions between popular science and the scientific elite. This was followed in 1996 by an essay on ‘Artisan Botany’ in the following publication:

  • ‘Artisan Botany’, in N. Jardine, J. A. Secord, and E. Spary, eds, Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 378–93.

Other works by Anne Secord include:

  • ‘Specimens of observation: Edward Hobson’s Musci Britannici’ in Liba Taub, Joshua Nall, and Frances Willmoth, eds. The Whipple Museum of the History of Science: objects and investigations to celebrate the 75th anniversary of R. S. Whipple’s gift to the University of Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 101–18.
  • ‘Talbot’s first lens: botanical vision as an exact science’, in Chitra Ramalingam, Mirjam Brusius, and Katrina Dean, eds, William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography (New Haven: Yale University Press, series in ‘Studies in British Art’, 2013), pp. 41–66.

The influence of social background on the emergence of British field-botanists in the 17th – 19th centuries:

William Wilson, a case study

A fresh look at the old debate ‘Nature versus Nurture’:

“In trying to understand why a person becomes a naturalist, one inevitably wonders whether he or she was ‘born’ to natural history and merely applied inherited traits in order to achieve their ‘calling’, or whether alternatively (or additionally) that individual took up natural history because of ways in which their social and cultural environment influenced their personal interests and development of their personality.”

In this article Mark Lawley takes a critical look at the background and upbringing of William Wilson, Britain’s leading bryologist of the mid-19th century, considering how his circumstances may have influenced the development of his character and interests.

Mark Lawley's case study on William Wilson

The early bryologists of South-West Yorkshire

Tom Blockeel’s account of bryologists in South-West Yorkshire during the 18th and 19th centuries was published in 1981 and reveals the huge contribution of working-men botanists – often with no formal education – to British bryology.

Tom Blockeel's account of bryologists in Yorkshire

Bygone bryologists

Mark Lawley has written a series of articles about prominent British and Irish field-bryologists of bygone days and has kindly made them available for anyone to read here.

Also included below are some more recent biographies by other authors, notably Mark Hill’s account of Tony Smith written shortly after his death in 2012, and Brad Scott’s article on William Mitten.

Armitage, Eleonora (1865-1961)

Eleonora Armitage was a keen and accomplished field-bryologist, and the only female founding member of the Moss Exchange Club in 1896. After Augustin Ley died in 1911, Miss Armitage was indisputably the botanical matriarch of her home county of Herefordshire, and enjoyed contacts with many of the leading botanists of the day. She made numerous notable discoveries in Herefordshire, and wrote papers on the shire’s Sphagnum mosses in 1923 and liverworts in 1925.

Miss Armitage became President of the British Bryological Society in 1939.

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Bagnall, James Eustace (1830-1918)

Bagnall took up the study of botany in his mid-thirties, about 1865, and in 1872 discovered Grimmia crinita new to Britain in Warwickshire. In 1874 he published an article ‘The Moss Flora of Warwickshire’ in the Journal of Botany. He joined the Botanical Locality Record Club (forerunner of the Botanical Exchange Club) in 1876. In 1886 his popular guide Handbook of Mosses appeared, followed in 1891 by Flora of

Bagnall was elected an honorary member of the Moss Exchange Club in 1909, and died in Birmingham on September 3rd 1918.

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Barker, Thomas (1838-1907)

Barker joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1896 and remained a member until his death. He found Grimmia arenaria in Wales in 1898, and also studied microscopic forms of freshwater algae, particularly during his visits to Scotland.

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Bellerby, William (1852-1936)

William Bellerby’s collection of mosses and his drawings are at the Natural History Museum in London. The National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff has 149 of his bryological gatherings, collected between 1904 and 1933.

Bellerby also studied fungi, and was a member of the British Mycological Society.

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Benson, Richard de Gylpyn (1856-1904)

Following a suggestion by Sir William Gower, Benson took up the study of mosses (and afterwards botany in general) to occupy himself in retirement, and found many mosses (but no liverworts) new to the district around his home in mid-Shropshire.

He wrote a paper entitled ‘Shropshire Mosses’ for the Journal of Botany (1893), which contains an annotated check-list of all mosses then known to occur in the county. At about the same time he compiled a two-volume List of Mosses collected in Shropshire which is now in the Shropshire Records and Research Centre at Shrewsbury (ref: 6001/6745-6).

Benson joined the Moss Exchange Club before 1899, and remained a member until his death.

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Binstead, Charles Herbert (1862-1941)

Herbert Binstead joined the Moss Exchange Club at its inception in 1896, becoming President of the British Bryological Society in 1926-8.

He added Cheilothela chloropus and Pseudocalliergon turgescens to the British list, discovered Eurhynchium meridionale at Wells, Somerset in 1886, Rhynchostegium rotundifolium near Wells in 1887, Bartramia stricta in Radnorshire, and wrote papers on the mosses of the English Lake District, French Riviera, and Herefordshire.

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Boswell, Henry (1835-1897)

Boswell lived most of his life in Oxford, and published papers on the mosses of Oxfordshire as well as contributing to other floras. He acted as referee of mosses for the Botanical Exchange Club.

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Braithwaite, Robert (1824-1917)

Robert Braithwaite was a leading British bryologist in the 19th century. He wrote Sphagnaceae or Peat-mosses of Europe and North America (1880), but his lasting contribution to British bryology is his three volumes of The British Moss-flora (1887-1905), illustrated by himself.

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Brewer, Samuel (c.1669-1743/48)

Brewer’s bryological reputation rests on a tour of North Wales which he made with Dillenius in the summer of 1726, and collections he made when he stayed on in Wales until the following year. He sent bryophytes he collected to Dillenius, who wrote them up for his Historia Muscorum (1741). In this way, Brewer very substantially increased contemporary knowledge of the British bryoflora.

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Brown, Littleton (1698-1749)

Nothing is known of Brown’s bryological discoveries. Not only did he live long ago, but his herbarium (if such he had) is unknown today, and he left no papers. Nor do any bryological discoveries he made adorn published literature. Rather, his eligibility for consideration as a bryologist rests on his reputation with his contemporaries. In 1725-6, William Sherard of Oxford wrote to Richard Richardson of Bierley, Bradford, Yorkshire that “Mr Brown… is the keenest botanist I have met with, and knows most of the plants in the Synopsis. Dr Dillenius has been a moss-cropping with him: he has an excellent eye.” In 1726 Brown accompanied Dillenius and Samuel Brewer on a tour of North Wales, an excursion which brought a number of bryophytes to first public notice when Dillenius’s Historia Muscorum appeared in 1741. However, Brown left his companions after they explored Cader Idris and before Dillenius and Brewer went into North Wales, and it is not clear how many of the bryophytes they found were attributable to Brown.

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Buddle, Adam (1662-1715)

Adam Buddle was one of the first Englishmen to study mosses and liverworts as bryology began to be taken seriously in England during the late 17th century…

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Burrell, William Holmes (1865-1945)

Burrell discovered Leiocolea rutheana at Flordon, Norfolk in 1909, and was instrumental in helping to distinguish Orthodontium lineare from O. gracile.

He joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1907, and by 1911 was serving as Distributor of the packets.

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Carrington, Benjamin (1827-1893)

Carrington was mainly interested in liverworts, having encountered them in the Scottish hills while a student at Edinburgh.

He wrote the section on cryptogams for the Flora of the West Riding of Yorkshire (with L.C. Miall) in 1862, compiled British Hepaticae (1874-5), and issued exsiccatae as Hepaticae Britannicae (1878-80).

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Cleminshaw, Edward (1849-1922)

Cleminshaw assisted the Moss Exchange Club from 1901, and remained a member until 1918. He arranged the moss collection at Birmingham  University. He died in Epsom, Surrey on March 25th 1922. His plants are at Warwick Museum, with additional plants at Birmingham University. The National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff has 448 of his specimens, mainly bryophytes, dated 1889-1916.

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Crouch, James Frederick (1809-1888)

Crouch studied bryophytes, lichens and vascular plants, as well as geology. He was the first to explore and evaluate the flora of north Herefordshire, and added many species to the known bryoflora of Herefordshire, thus considerably assisting Augustin Ley, as he compiled records for his Flora of Herefordshire (1889).

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Crundwell, Alan Cyril (1923-2000)

Crundwell joined the BBS in 1945, and bryologised with Eustace Jones. During the 1950s he became friendly with Warburg, whom he met at BBS meetings. He was also friendly with the Swedish bryologist, Elsa Nyholm, and became very knowledgeable about the genus Bryum, about which he later collaborated with Whitehouse…

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Davies, Hugh (Rev.) (1739-1821)

Davies’s most important publication is Welsh Botanology (1813), the first part of which is the first detailed flora of a Welsh county (Anglesey), listing 166 mosses and 28 liverworts for Anglesey. Davies was in the bryological vanguard of contemporary botanists, and seems to have taken interest in bryophytes from about 1790 onwards. He found, for example, the moss Glyphomitrium daviesii (which is named after him) at Carreg Onnan and Llanfihangel Dinsylwi near Bwrdd Arthur in 1790 and on Snowdon a few years later.

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Dickson, James (1738-1822)

Dickson began to study mosses in 1781, and collected material during several visits to Scotland between 1785 and 1791. For example, in 1789 he botanised with his 18-year old brother-in-law Mungo Park on Ben Lawers and in the Hebrides.

In 1785 he published the first of four parts of Fascicularis plantarum cryptogamicarum Britanniae (1785-1801), with 400 species described in Latin, and with illustrations in water-colour by James Sowerby. Many of the bryophytes were described as new to Britain. Dickson did not have the benefit of a Latin education, and John Ziers, a Polish apothecary in London, wrote the descriptions for the first three fascicles.

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Dixon, Hugh Neville (1861-1944)

Dixon was a leading British authority on mosses before the Second World War. His Student’s Handbook of British Mosses went through three editions between 1896 and 1924, and remained an indispensable guide for many decades after that. He was a founding member of the Moss Exchange Club in 1896, and became the British Bryological Society’s first president in 1923.

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Don, George (1764-1814)

George Don (senior) was the first botanist to extensively and repeatedly explore the Scottish Highlands. He lived in Angus for much of his life, but explored far and wide in the Caledonian hills, reaching as far north and west as Skye and Knoydart. As a youth, he discovered Seligeria donniana in Dupplin Den near Perth in the early 1780s. In 1804 he found Encalypta alpina on Ben Lawers. He seems to have collected mainly between 1780 and 1806, and in his native county of Angus he found – among others – the following liverworts: Anastrophyllum donianum, Haplomitrium hookeri, Herbertus stramineus and Targionia hypophylla, while his mosses from Angus include Amblyodon dealbatus, Amphidium lapponicum, Bartramia halleriana

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Doody, Samuel (1656-1706)

Doody’s particular botanical interests lay in mosses, fungi, and other non-flowering plants, and he advised John Ray about them for Ray’s Historia Plantarum (Volume 2, 1686). The appendix to the second edition of Ray’s Synopsis (1696) also contains a long list of plants that Doody had found. Doody also knew and assisted Buddle, Plukenet, Petiver and Sloane, and was a member of the Temple Coffee House Botanical Club.

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Drummond, Thomas (1793-1835)

Drummond found many uncommon or rare bryophytes in his native county of Angus (Forfarshire), supplementing the discoveries of George Don (1764-1814) who had preceded him.

Drummond produced exsiccatae of mosses as Musci Scotici (1824-5). Ulster Museum, Belfast has three volumes of Musci Scotici, which include specimens from the north of Ireland. Drummond prepared this collection for the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society.
Drummond also contributed information for William Jackson Hooker’s Flora Scotica (1821).

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Duncan, John Bishop (1869-1953)

Duncan very likely acquired botanical interests from both parents, for his father was a schoolmaster, and John Bishop (1861-1935), a cousin on his mother’s side of the family was also a keen naturalist.

Duncan was collecting mosses by 1885. He joined the Moss Exchange Club (the forerunner of the British Bryological Society) in 1901, and was Treasurer of the BBS from 1925 to 1945 and President in 1937-38. He edited the second edition of the Moss Census Catalogue in 1926, and added Fissidens fontanum (Octodiceras fontanum) from the River Severn at Bewdley, Worcestershire to the British list in 1901, and Plagiothecium piliferum from Ben Lawers, Perthshire in 1902.

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Duncan, Ursula Katharine (1910-1985)

Ursula Duncan’s botanical interests began at the age of ten, when her father (who had recently retired) encouraged her. As a teenager she wanted to identify the mosses around her home, and in 1929 her father gave her a copy of Dixon’s Handbook and a dissecting microscope for her 19th birthday.

The Second World War disrupted the BBS’s activities, and Ursula served in the Censorship Department at Inverness for a time, dealing with forces’ mail. She had joined the British Bryological Society in 1938, and after the war, Ursula’s contact with other accomplished field-bryologists such as John Bishop Duncan (1869-1953) accelerated development of her own expertise. John Duncan, who was not related to Ursula, had retired to live in Berwick-on-Tweed. Ursula became referee for the Orthotrichaceae, Ptychomitricaceae and Sphagnum, and she produced an illustrated key to in 1961. She also wrote bryofloras for Wigtownshire in 1956, a more comprehensive bryoflora for Angus in 1966, and for vascular plants A Flora of East Ross-shire (1980).

Duncan was accomplished in identifying vascular plants and bryophytes, but her greatest botanical influence was in lichenology, a subject to which Walter Watson (1872-1960) of Taunton helped introduce her. She was one of very few Britons who were interested in and studied lichens during the middle years of the 20th century, and she wrote the highly respected A Guide to the study of Lichens (1959), supplemented by illustrations published in 1963, and Introduction to British Lichens (1970).

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Ewing, Peter (1849-1913)

Ewing took up botany as a pastime at evening classes in Glasgow, and studied all plants except fungi, taking particular interest in sedges and liverworts. He shared his father’s interest in photography, and often photographed plants. He joined the Glasgow Naturalists’ Society and became president of the Natural History Society of Glasgow.

Ewing also studied the sedges in detail, and had an intimate knowledge of the floras of the Scottish hills, especially Breadalbane and Clova, which he frequently explored in company with Frances Buchanan White and James Fergusson. He was also a friend of James Stirton, and Robert Braithwaite often stayed with him.

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Fergusson, John (1834-1907)

John Fergusson’s obituary in the Forfar Herald (August 9th, 1907) relates that he first became interested in botany in 1863, when the Reverend Robert Whitaker McAll spent a holiday in Clova, and inspired Fergusson with his love of plants as they roamed the hills together.

By 1866 Fergusson had acquainted himself with most of Scotland’s flowering plants, and took up bryology. After he had discovered a number of rarities, William Wilson (see Field Bryology 96: 39-43) visited him in the late 1860s and stayed for several weeks. A little later, Fergusson made the acquaintance of the Reverend Mark Lowden Anderson (born 1831), minister at Menmuir, Angus in the 1860s and ‘70s, who had also taken up bryology, and the two men made frequent excursions together in search of mosses.

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Gardiner, William (1808-1852)

Gardiner discovered Barbilophozia lycopodioides new to Britain in Glen Doll, Angus in 1843, and Buxbaumia aphylla. He compiled Flora of Forfarshire (1848), and Twenty Lessons on British Mosses (1846), with a second series with specimens in 1849. This was one of the earliest attempts to popularise field-bryology. He also wrote short volumes describing some of his explorations in localities such as Glen Esk, Loch Lee, the Sidlaw Hills, Schiehallion, Ben Macdui, Loch Aven, Lochnagar and Braemar.

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Greville, Robert Kaye (1794-1866)

Much of Greville’s time in the field was spent in the Scottish Highlands, and his huge collection of plants today forms a core of the herbarium at the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

Together with W.J. Hooker and G.A. Walker Arnott, Greville found a number of mosses new to Britain as they jointly explored the Scottish Highlands.

Greville’s most important contribution to bryological literature was his illustrated Scottish Cryptogamic Flora (1822-28).

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Hamilton, William Phillips (1840-1910)

Hamilton very likely found his interest in natural history kindled by his maternal uncle William, who had taken up botany in the 1860s. While Phillips moved on to concentrate on fungi, Hamilton made bryophytes his particular interest, and contributed many records to Richard de Gylpyn Benson’s article on Shropshire mosses in the 1893 edition of Journal of Botany. Hamilton was also senior author of the botanical account of Shropshire in volume 1 of the Victoria County History (1908).

With Armitage, Benson, Binstead and Weyman, Hamilton was one of five of the 23 founding members of the Moss Exchange Club in 1896 who lived in the Welsh Marches.

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Holmes, Edward Morell (1843-1930)

Holmes specialized in lichens and marine algae, but was also a keen bryologist. He found Acaulon triquetrum on the Isle of Portland, Dorset in 1890, and Didymodon cordatus new to Britain at Saunton, Devon in 1903.

His first published paper was about the lichens of Devon and Cornwall in 1872. He contributed accurate and detailed accounts of cryptogams to several Victoria County Histories (Surrey, 1902; Bedfordshire, 1904; Cornwall, 1906; Devon, 1906; Somerset, 1906; and Kent, 1908), as well as the accounts of lichens for the volumes on Buckinghamshire (1905) and Berkshire (1906), and his unpublished manuscript describing the lichens of Dorset (written in about 1906) is at the Natural History Museum in London.

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Hooker, William Jackson (1785-1865)

Hooker’s pivotal importance in the history of British and Irish bryology lies in his influence on other botanists, rather than in the bryophytes that he discovered himself. Nevertheless, he was a good field-bryologist, and found, for example, Buxbaumia aphylla new to Britain in 1805, Andreaea nivalis on Ben Nevis in 1808, and Grimmia unicolor in Glen Clova, Angus in the early 19th century.

He wrote British Jungermanniae (1812-16) and Muscologia Britannica with Thomas Taylor (1818), as well as the account of bryophytes in the fifth volume of Sir James Edward Smith’s The English Flora which was published after Smith’s death.

Hooker also stimulated the botanical interests of many of his students at Glasgow University, where he was regius professor of botany from 1820 until 1841, after which he became director of Kew Gardens in London.

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Horrell, Ernest Charles (1870-1944)

Horrell played an important administrative role in the early years of the Moss Exchange Club (the forerunner of the British Bryological Society). He joined the MEC in 1898, however left the Club in 1904. His known bryological career was therefore short but influential. Having forsaken bryology, Horrell took up the study of beetles.

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Hutchins, Ellen (1785-1815)

Ellen Hutchins was an early Irish botanist who specialised in seaweeds, lichens, mosses and liverworts. She is known for finding many plants new to science, identifying hundreds of species, and for her botanical illustrations in contemporary publications.

Ellen went to Dublin to complete her education, but fell ill, and a family friend – the physician and bryologist Whitley Stokes (1755-1831, who contributed mosses to Smith and Sowerby’s English Botany) – treated her and enthused her with a passion for botany. After returning home to Ballylickey, Hutchins began to collect algae, lichens and bryophytes, and began corresponding with Dawson Turner, who helped her by identifying her plants and sending her books.

Her bryological discoveries were published in the later volumes of Smith and Sowerby’s English Botany (1790-1814), and in Hooker and Taylor’s British Jungermanniae (1816). Around Bantry Bay she found nearly half of the species featured in British Jungermanniae. For example, the first species in the monograph is Jungermannia (Jubula) hutchinsiae, which Hutchins added to the British and Irish list.

The Ellen Hutchins Festival

Each year, the Ellen Hutchins Festival team organise a festival celebrating botany, botanical art and the beauty of Bantry Bay in West Cork. They also manage a website dedicated to Ellen Hutchins and to botany in the Bantry Bay area.

Read Mark Lawley's account Check out the Ellen Hutchins website

Ingham, William (1854-1923)

Ingham was an excellent field-bryologist, and succeeded Cosslett Herbert Waddell as secretary for the Moss Exchange Club, in which capacity he served from 1903 until 1922.

He compiled a Handbook of the Cryptogamous Flora of the Yorkshire District (1906), and edited the Census Catalogue of British Mosses (1907) and the Census Catalogue of British Liverworts (1913).

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Jameson, Hampden Gurney (1852-1939)

Jameson’s most important contribution to field-bryology was as an accomplished artist. He illustrated both of the two pocket-guides which were widely used during the first half of the 20th century – Dixon’s Student’s Handbook of British Mosses (1896, 3rd ed. 1924) and MacVicar’s Student’s Handbook of British Hepatics (1912, 2nd ed. 1926). Before these books appeared, Jameson had also written a ‘Key to Genera and Species of British Mosses’ (Journal of Botany 1891), and in 1893 brought out his Illustrated Guide to British Mosses. Many of these drawings were subsequently incorporated into Dixon’s Handbook. His herbarium and original drawings are preserved at the Natural History Museum in London.

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Jones, Daniel Angell (1861-1936)

Like many botanists, Jones first took an interest in flowering plants and ferns, and by 1898 had written A Handbook of the Botany of Merioneth, an unpublished manuscript which is now preserved in the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff. He also published lists of bryophytes for Denbighshire and Anglesey.

Around that time, a teaching colleague and friend, Silvanus Jones Owen (1859-1912) of Croesor, Caernarvonshire stimulated D.A.’s interest in bryophytes, and the two men made numerous botanical excursions to the local countryside. D.A. began collecting bryophytes in Merioneth and Snowdonia in about 1900, and joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1901 or 1902. By 1906 he was sufficiently keen and well thought of to be distributing the packets of mosses and liverworts which were annually exchanged between MEC members.

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Jones, Eustace Wilkinson (1909-1992)

Eustace Jones was born on June 6th 1909, son of Oscar Jones (1877-1938, a civil engineer for the railways in 1901, and a draughtsman in 1933) and Alice (née Wilkinson, 1879-1953). His grandfather, Thomas William Jones, was a keen botanist, who may have first kindled Eustace’s interest in natural history, and showed his young grandson the iridescent moss Schistostega pennata.

Oxford County Museum at Woodstock has about 800 plants that Jones collected between 1939 and 1991.

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Knight, Henry Herbert (1862-1944)

Knight was eminent among an unprecedentedly large cohort of field-bryologists born early in the second half of the 19th century and achieving adulthood by the end of that century. They were sufficiently numerous and enthusiastic to make foundation of the Moss Exchange Club feasible in 1896.

Knight’s expertise in identifying bryophytes attracted such respect from his peers that he became the club’s distributor of mosses in 1909-10. In 1911 he became referee for hepatics, and held that position until 1933, when deteriorating eye-sight obliged him to resign. In addition, he acted as excursion secretary for the British Bryological Society (founded in 1923 to succeed the MEC) in 1927, 1930 and 1936 (Graham, 2002), and became President in 1933.

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Lees, Frederick Arnold (1847-1921)

Lees became interested in botany about 1865, while at Leeds Grammar School, where the Reverend Frederick Gard Fleay, literary scholar and later a schoolmaster at Skipton Grammar School (see Dictionary of National Biography) first aroused Lees’s interest in botany.

Lees founded the Botanical Locality Record Club and edited its journal from 1873 until 1886. He compiled several local Floras, and edited the second edition of the London Catalogue of British Mosses (1881).

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Lett, Henry William (1838-1920)

Lett studied bryophytes from about 1860. He is credited with encouraging and assisting the Reverend Cosslett Herbert Waddell to establish the Moss Exchange Club in 1896, and published Hepatics of the British Isles (1902), as well as ‘A Census Report on the Mosses of Ireland’ (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 32(B): 165-6) in 1915.

He was a referee for the Moss Exchange Club in 1909.

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Ley, Augustin (1842-1911)

Ley discovered innumerable species of bryophytes new to his home county of Herefordshire and neighbouring shires and added Oxyrrhynchium schleicheri to the British list, this moss having been hitherto confused with O. hians.

He co-authored A Flora of Herefordshire (1889), in which he was solely responsible for a detailed annotated list of mosses, and he also wrote papers for the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club of 1905, listing additions to Herefordshire’s known bryoflora since 1889…

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Lillie, David (1854-1940)

David Lillie explored north-east Scotland, searching for bryophytes far from his bryological contemporaries, and would have met other bryologists rarely if at all. He discovered Barbilophozia atlantica, Lophozia gillmanii, and Tayloria tenuis new to Britain, and Phaeoceros laevis new to Scotland.

Lillie joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1899, and acted as distributor of gatherings to members in 1914 and 1918.

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Lyell, Charles (1767-1849)

Lyell collected particularly from 1812 until 1816, when he was sending material to William Jackson Hooker for inclusion in Hooker’s British Jungermanniae (1812-16). His liverworts include Gymnomitrion concinnatum, Haplomitrium hookeri and Moerckia hibernica. Mosses include Bartramia ithyphylla, Dicranum spurium and Pseudobryum cinclidioides.

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Macvicar, Symers Douglas Macdonald (1857-1932)

S. M. Macvicar probably first became interested in natural history through the influence of his father, John Gibson Macvicar, who studied bryophytes to some extent. Then, as a young man, Symers’s medical studies at Edinburgh in the 1870s and early 1880s must have further stimulated his interest in field botany, for in those days medical students had to know their plants in order to qualify as doctors.

Macvicar had the botanical bug seriously by the late 1880s, when he married and settled to live on the west coast of Scotland at Invermoidart, on the island of Shona Bheag, Kinlochmoidart, West Inverness-shire. The mild, humid climate of the Atlantic seaboard is a mecca for liverworts, and Macvicar arrived there at a time when bryologists remained uncertain about how to distinguish many of the species. In taking up the challenge, he became accomplished at identifying liverworts, and was soon acknowledged as the leading British expert in hepatics.

Macvicar not only excelled at finding and identifying liverworts, he also took trouble to communicate the knowledge he had acquired in the form of a succession of publications, starting with ‘Hepaticae of Moidart, West Inverness’ in the Journal of Botany (1899). Then came ‘A Key to British Hepaticae’ in the 1901 issue of the same journal; this was revised and republished in 1906. In 1905 he prepared the first Census Catalogue of British Hepatics for the Moss Exchange Club, and in 1910 ‘The Distribution of Hepaticae in Scotland’ appeared in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh.
His writing career culminated in the publication of The Student’s Handbook of British Hepatics (1912), with a second edition appearing in 1926. This book is a model of organisation and clear presentation, with H.G. Jameson’s drawings accompanying Macvicar’s text describing how to recognise and where to look for each species.

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Manningham, Thomas (1683/4-1750)

Manningham was a friend of Dillenius, and sent mosses to Linnaeus. His plants are at Oxford.

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Marrat, Frederick Price (1820-1904)

Frederick Marrat was a mineralogist and conchologist at Liverpool Museum, but also took interest in cryptogams, and was the first to elucidate the bryoflora of the district around Liverpool. Marrat discovered Bryum marratii at Southport, added B. calophyllum to the British bryoflora, and was a friend of the bryologist Thomas Palgrave (1804-1891).

He wrote a paper on the bryophytes of Liverpool and Southport for the 1855 volume of the Proceedings of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, and his paper ‘On the hepatics and lichens of Liverpool and its vicinity.’ was published in the 1860 volume of the Proceedings of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool.

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Meldrum, Robert Hunt (1858-1933)

Meldrum was a keen mountaineer and linguist as well as bryologist, and published his bryological findings from expeditions to the hills of Perthshire in the Proceedings of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science. He found Ctenidium procerrimum on Ben Lawers in 1891, and Anomodon attenuatus at Elcho, Perthshire in 1900. He wrote ‘A Preliminary list of Perthshire Mosses’ (Transactions of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science, 1898, pages 227-239) and ‘Additions and Corrections to the Perthshire List of Mosses’ (Transactions, 1909, pages 13-17). He was a founding member of the Moss Exchange Club in 1896, a referee in 1899, and still served the Club in that capacity in 1914.

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Milsom, Francis Eric (1889-1945)

Milsom joined the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union in 1918 and soon became recorder for the bryological section. He joined the BBS in 1923, and developed a particular expertise for identifying liverworts. He became distributor of hepatics from 1925 until 1933, the Society’s referee for liverworts in 1934, and compiled a list of Yorkshire liverworts which was published posthumously in 1946. He was President-elect of the BBS at the time of his death.

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Mitten, William (1819-1906)

The lichenologist William Borrer (1781-1862) of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex guided Mitten’s early botanical career, allowing him access to his extensive library, gave him an excellent microscope, and probably introduced him to or put him in touch with William Jackson Hooker. By 1843 Mitten had begun to study bryophytes, and to specialize in them by the late 1840s, no doubt encouraged by his two elder mentors. And in his turn, just as Borrer and Hooker helped him, Mitten was able to guide the early bryological career of William Edward Nicholson (1866-1944) who lived nearby in Lewes.

Over the course of his life,  Mitten named hundreds of mosses and liverworts from every continent, and developed an extraordinary understanding of global bryophyte distributions. Writing of Mitten shortly after his death, Alfred Russel Wallace asserted that “for a long time [he] was the greatest British authority” on these small plants (quoted in Anon., 1907).

Read Brad Scott’s article from Field Bryology 122, November 2019, triggered by a BBS SE Group meeting to his village in May 2019, and check out Mark Lawley’s short biography – both linked below.

Read Brad Scott's article Read Mark Lawley's account

Needham, James (1849-1913)

Needham took up botany in 1885, in his mid-thirties, following a ramble to Hardcastle Crags with the Hebden Bridge Cooperative Society. In 1889 he met Charles Crossland (1844-1916), a master-butcher of Bull Green, Halifax, who introduced him to mosses and fungi, and the two men often accompanied each other on excursions. Needham became an accomplished mycologist, and contributed many records to W.B. Crump and C. Crossland’s Flora of the Parish of Halifax (1904). Needham also discovered the liverwort Jubula hutchinsiae in Hebden Valley near Hardcastle Crags in 1896.

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Nicholson, William Edward (1866-1945)

Liverworts were Nicholson’s principle botanical interest, and he added numerous species to the British list: Anastrophyllum joergensenii (with H.H. Knight) from Sutherland in 1921, several rare Cephaloziellas (C. baumgartneri, C. integerrima and C. spinigera from Sussex in 1906; C. nicholsonii (with H.H. Knight), C. calyculata, and C. dentata from Cornwall in 1907, 1916 and 1926 respectively), Fossombronia maritima (as F. loitlesbergeri) and F. crozalsii from Cornwall in 1916…

Nicholson was President of the British Bryological Society in 1929-30.

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Nowell, John (1802-1867)

John Nowell: photograph from a lantern-slide at St. Michael’s Mytholmroyd

Nowell began finding and identifying mosses around 1825-30, and discovered Cinclidium stygium new to Britain near Malham Tarn in 1836, Atrichum crispum near Rochdale in 1848, and Zygodon gracilis (also new) in the same district in 1856. Like many mid-19th century bryologists, Nowell did not study liverworts.

Abraham Stansfield (1802-1880) and John Hanwood were two bryological companions in Nowell’s youth. Stansfield and Nowell were the same age, born within a mile and a half of each other in a rather remote part of the Cliviger valley, and often botanised together. In later years, as Nowell’s botanical interests developed, he came to know many other botanists who lived further afield, such as the Manchester physician and bryologist John Bland Wood (1813-1890). By the 1850s, Nowell’s reputation as a bryologist had become international, and he corresponded with Professor Wilhelm Schimper of Strasbourg. When Schimper visited Britain in the early 1860s, he called on Nowell, and botanised with him. Nowell was also invited but declined an offer to be privately employed as a herbarium assistant to Kew Gardens in London.

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Painter, William Hunt (1835-1910)

Painter took up interest in botany in the 1860s through the influence of the Reverend Robert Wood (1796-1883) of Westward, Cumbria, participated in the Botanical Exchange club’s annual exchange of vascular plants in the 1880s and 1890s, and contributed substantially to corporate understanding of Derbyshire’s flora. He took up the study of mosses in 1898, whereafter bryology occupied most of his botanical interest.

He published articles on the bryofloras of Falmouth, Derbyshire, Breconshire and Cardiganshire in the Journal of Botany in 1900, 1902, 1904 and 1906 respectively.

He joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1903 and remained a member until his death. Painter found no rare bryophytes, but contributed significantly to our understanding of Shropshire’s bryoflora, recording species such as Campylophyllum calcareum and Sphagnum teres.

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Palgrave, Thomas (1804-1891)

Palgrave began to study mosses while a schoolboy in 1818, doubtless influenced by his relatives, two of whom were Dawson Turner and William Jackson Hooker. He was also bryologically active between 1856 and 1869, during which period he corresponded with William Wilson (1799-1871) of Warrington and knew Frederick Price Marrat (1820-1904), who also lived in Liverpool.

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Pearson, William Henry (1849-1923)

Pearson was stimulated in his early bryological career by Benjamin Carrington (1827-1893), who specialized in liverworts, and Pearson followed his mentor’s lead. Richard Spruce also maintained a helpful correspondence with Pearson.

Carrington and Pearson issued the first of their Hepaticae Britannicae Exsiccatae in 1878, and Pearson continued to issue sets after Carrington died in 1893. Pearson also wrote numerous articles about liverworts for botanical journals, beginning with Harpanthus flotovianus in 1879, and continuing to the 1920s.

He discovered Cephalozia hibernica in Killarney in 1894, and wrote Hepaticae of the British Isles (2 volumes, 1899 and 1902).

He joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1908, and was elected an honorary member in the same year. He was elected vice-President of the newly formed British Bryological Society in 1923.

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Plues, Margaret Mary (1828-1901)

Margaret Plues wrote several popular books on natural history, including Rambles in Search of Mosses (1861), Geology for the Million (1863), Rambles in Search of Wild Flowers (1863, 4th edition 1892), Rambles in Search of Flowerless Plants (1864), British Ferns (1866), A Selection of Eatable Funguses of Great Britain (1866), and British Grasses (1867).

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Richards, Paul Westmacott (1908-1995)

Paul Richards’s lifelong interest in botany (including bryophytes and lichens) began to develop during boyhood in Cardiff, probably in response to his mother’s interest in plants and natural history. In 1920 the eleven-year-old Richards arranged to visit D.A. Jones in Harlech, and in consequence of that encounter joined the beginner’s section of the Moss Exchange Club.

Richards’s membership of the MEC ran seamlessly into one for the British Bryological Society in 1923, and he remained a BBS member for the rest of his life. Immediately after the Second World War, he was a pivotal figure in transforming the BBS from its pre-war persona of a club solely for amateurs into a learned society that also served the interests of younger, academic members with scientific interests.

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Richardson, Richard (1663-1741)

Richard Richardson was a member of the first generation of Englishmen to take informed interest in bryophytes. He was a contemporary of Adam Buddle, Samuel Brewer (who came to live near Richardson), Samuel Doody and William Vernon. These men corresponded with the older naturalist, John Ray, supplying information for his publications on natural history.

Very little is known of Richardson’s own bryological career and discoveries. However, he corresponded with Dillenius, Gronovius, Petiver, Sir Hans Sloane, and many other naturalists – a correspondence fortunately preserved and published by his great grand daughter and revealing that Richardson occupied an important – even pivotal – role in sustaining interest in botany among contemporary naturalists.

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Sherrin, William Robert (1871-1955)

Sherrin’s importance to bryology lay “not so much in his taxonomic work, for his determinations tended to be impulsive rather than critical, but in the immense help and encouragement that he gave to beginners, and the interest that he aroused amongst amateurs in the London district.” (Bulletin of the British Bryological Society, 42: 25). Numerous younger people met him through his work at the South London Botanical Institute, including Paul Richards and Ted Wallace, both of whom were to seminally influence the British Bryological Society’s development after the Second World War.

Sherrin was a general naturalist, and particularly interested in mammals, birds, molluscs, butterflies and moths, beetles, bryophytes and vascular plants. He first became interested in mosses through examining those which had been used to stuff mammals for despatch to the British Museum in London, and he had begun to collect them himself by 1900. He joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1905/6, was elected to honorary membership in 1908, and became President of the British Bryological Society from 1945 until 1947.

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Sim, John (1824-1901)

John Sim was a highly accomplished but little remembered botanist, with a particular interest in liverworts. He collected especially in north-eastern Scotland, and added Cephalozia leucantha, Cephaloziella massalongi, Frullania fragilifolia, Kurzia trichoclados, Lophozia longidens, Marsupella adusta and M. sparsifolia to the known Scottish flora.

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Spruce, Richard (1817-1893)

Spruce had taken up botany by the 1830s, and in 1834 produced a list of 403 species that he had found around Ganthorpe. In 1837 he drew up a list of 485 species of flowering plants of the Malton district. Spruce was an accomplished bryologist by the early 1840s, being assisted in his early bryological career by Samuel Gibson (1789/90-1849) of Hebden Bridge.

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Smith, Anthony John Edwin (1935-2012)

Tony Smith, who has died in north Wales at the age of 77 was one the leading British bryologists in the second half of the 20th century. He is best known for his comprehensive and well-loved Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland (1978, 2nd edition 2004).

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Smith, James Edward (1759-1828)

Smith wrote the text – including that for bryophytes – in Smith and Sowerby’s 36 volumes of English Botany (1790-1814), but the account of bryophytes in the fifth volume of his The English Flora was written by William Jackson Hooker and published after Smith’s death. He also wrote a three-volume Flora Britannica (1800-04), The Introduction to Physiological and Systematic Botany (1807), and many articles for Abraham Rees’s Cyclopaedia (1819), including numerous biographies of eminent botanists.

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Stabler, George (1839-1910)

George Stabler, c.1873, with pupils from his school

Stabler botanised on occasions with Richard Spruce, Robert Braithwaite, William Henry Pearson, and Charles Herbert Binstead, and provided Pearson and Braithwaite with specimens for illustration in their publications. He corresponded with Richard Spruce, Benjamin Carrington, William Wilson, Robert Braithwaite, Matthew Slater, William Henry Pearson, Sextus Otto Lindberg and Carl Warnstorf. Some of his letters are in the William Wilson correspondence at the Natural History Museum in London, and the museum at Manchester University’s Department of Botany has three letters from Stabler in the Carrington correspondence.

Like his friend Richard Spruce, Stabler was particularly interested in liverworts; he added Marsupella stableri and Plagiochila exigua to the British bryoflora.

After training at St. John’s College, York, George became a schoolmaster at Levens in
Westmorland from 1860 until 1899, and where he also passed his retirement.

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Stark, Robert Mackenzie (1815-1873)

Stark wrote an article ‘Muscology of Cirencester’ (Annals of Natural History (1841), Marine Aquarium (1857), A Popular History of British Mosses (1854; 2nd edition 1860), and articles in the Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh (1866 and 1873).

He added Lepidozia cupressina to the known Scottish flora. His herbarium is at Bristol Museum.

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Stirton, James (c.1833-1917)

Stirton was studying bryophytes and lichens by the 1850s and ‘60s, and spent many holidays exploring the Scottish Highlands and western coast. He did much to elucidate the remarkable flora of Ben Lawers, and discovered Tortella limosella near Arisaig in 1906, the only occasion on which this species has ever been found.

He contributed an account of mosses and lichens to ‘Notes on the Fauna and Flora of the west of Scotland’ (edited by E.R. Alston, 1876), records of about 50 species of lichen that were new to Britain for W.A. Leighton’s Lichen Flora of Great Britain (3rd edition, 1879), and numerous articles to Glasgow Naturalist, Grevillea, Scottish Naturalist, Annals of Scottish Natural History and other periodicals.

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Sutcliffe, William Mitchell (1816-1885)

Sutcliffe was one of several bryologists active around Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and the Craven district of west Yorkshire in the early and middle parts of the 19th century; John Nowell (1802-1867) preceded him, James Needham (1849-1913) came later, and several other working men were also keen cryptogamists.

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Taylor, Thomas (1786-1848)

Taylor was particularly interested in bryophytes and lichens, and with William Jackson Hooker he prepared Muscologia Britannica (1818). Taylor also wrote ‘Lichenes’ for James Townsend Mackay’s Flora Hibernica (1836).

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Thompson, Arnold (1876-1959)

Arnold Thompson joined the British Bryological Society in 1931, was secretary from 1936 until 1947, president in 1948-9, and was elected an honorary member in 1952.

He was particularly interested in Sphagnum, acted as the BBS’s joint referee for the genus at one time, and helped to revise the Census Catalogue of British Sphagna (edited by W. R. Sherrin, 1937 and 1946)…

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Tripp, Frances Elizabeth (1832-1890)

Fanny Tripp wrote British Mosses, their homes, aspects, structure and uses (1868; 2nd edition 1874; 3rd edition 1888). It was a popular book of two volumes, delightfully illustrated, and which deservedly fetches high prices when bought and sold nowadays.

Fanny etched each of the 108 illustrations on copper, drawing from living specimens, the plates then being coloured by hand at Benjamin Fawcett’s, the printer.

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Turner, Dawson (1775-1858)

Turner introduced himself in 1802 to reading botanists with a two-volume Synopsis of British Fuci, followed in 1804 by an Irish Moss Flora (Muscologia Hibernicae Spicilegium, the original drawings for which are at the Natural History Museum in London), and the two-volume Botanist’s Guide through England and Wales (with Lewis Weston Dillwyn) in 1805. He also contributed to Smith and Sowerby’s English Botany (1790-1814, 36 volumes), and wrote nine articles for Annals of Botany and the Transactions of the Linnaean Society between 1800 and 1808.

Further publications followed, but the first few years of the 19th century were Turner’s golden botanical period. Indeed, he had lost interest in botany altogether by about 1820, when he donated his herbarium to his son-in-law William Jackson Hooker.

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Vernon, William (1666/7-c.1715)

Vernon became interested in mosses and Lepidoptera while at Cambridge in the late 17th century, and became friendly with John Ray in 1694. He assisted Ray with his account of cryptogams in Historia Plantarum (three volumes, 1686, 1688 and 1704).

He was a member of a botanical club that met at the Temple Coffee House in London between 1689 and 1706, whose other members included Adam Buddle, Nehemiah Grew, Martin Lister and Hans Sloane.

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Waddell, Cosslett Herbert (1858-1919)

Waddell’s most influential contribution to bryology was his role in launching the Moss Exchange Club in 1896, after advertising his proposal in the Journal of Botany, Irish Naturalist and the magazine Science Gossip. The MEC was the precursor of the British Bryological Society, which came into existence in 1923. Waddell acted as secretary of the MEC from 1896 until 1903, and compiled a Catalogue of British Hepaticae (1897). He was also at one time president of the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club.

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Wallace, Edward Charles (1909-1986)

Wallace botanised a great deal in the Home Counties around London. He also spent many holidays in Scotland, and planned to write a bryoflora of Scotland; many packets in his herbarium were marked “Flora Scotica”. He prepared ‘An Annotated List of British Mosses’ with Paul Richards (Transactions of the British Bryological Society, 1950).

He joined the British Bryological Society in 1926, became distributor in 1939, served as secretary from 1948 until 1969, and was elected president for 1972-73, and an honorary member in 1974.

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Warburg, Edmund Fredric (1908-1966)

Warburg first became interested in botany as a result of his parents’ interest in plants, and was further stimulated by T. G. Tutin and fellow students at Cambridge, including Paul Richards and Eustace Jones.

He joined the British Bryological Society in 1945, and was elected president for 1962-3. He edited the third edition of the Census Catalogue of British Mosses (1963), and planned but did not produce a new British Moss Flora with A. C. Crundwell.

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Watson, Eric Vernon (1914-1999)

Watson’s British Mosses and Liverworts (1955, with subsequent editions in 1968 and 1981) was by far the most useful introductory guide to identifying mosses and liverworts in Britain during the mid and late 20th century. His consequent influence in developing the identification skills of bryologists during the second half of the 20th century was incalculably great. Watson’s own clear and accurate drawings liberally illustrated the text, testimony both to his artistic talent and to an aesthetic appreciation that underpinned his interest in bryophytes. In his words “ it is the beauty and intricacy of form which first of all fascinates in moss or liverwort ” (1985).

His second book, Structure and Life of Bryophytes was published in 1964 with further editions in 1967 and 1971. This volume reviewed much of what was then known about the morphology as well as the ecology, physiology and phytogeography of mosses and liverworts.

Watson joined the British Bryological Society in 1946, was the Society’s bibliographer for more than 25 years (1946 -1972) and acted as referee for the Bryaceae and Philonotis until his death. He was elected president in 1964-5 and was subsequently made an honorary member.

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Weyman, Arthur William (1860-1935)

Weyman was a founding member of the Moss Exchange Club in 1896, and remained a member until 1908. Ludlow Museum and Resource Centre holds specimens that he acquired and preserved on microscope slides.

He is particularly remembered for his discovery of the rare aquatic moss Cinclidotus riparius, new to Britain in the River Teme at Ludlow, where it grows to this day in some abundance.

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Wheldon, James Alfred (1862-1924)

James Alfred Wheldon was a chemist and an accomplished field-bryologist, with a family background in trading textiles. An environment in which either medicines or textiles are important appears to favour an amateur interest in botany, and both medicine and textiles figured large in Wheldon’s life. His father James was a good botanist and ornithologist, and father and son explored together, looking for flowers and birds (and collecting their eggs), and afterwards writing a diary of what they had seen.

Wheldon took up bryology (along with flowering plants, insects, and snails) in his youth. He joined the Moss Exchange Club at its foundation in 1896, and became a referee for the Club in 1914. He took great interest in difficult groups of mosses, particularly Sphagnum and falcate pleurocarps (called ‘Harpidioid Hypna’ in Wheldon’s day).

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Whitehouse, Harold Leslie Keer (1917-2000)

Whitehouse became interested in natural history from an early age, stimulated by his father’s knowledge and interests. At Cambridge University he met Paul Richards and others interested in field-bryology, and in 1938 joined the first excursion of the Cambridge bryological group. His
bryological interests were further stimulated when he joined Edmund Warburg at the Royal Air Force photographic unit in Medmenham, Buckinghamshire during the early part of the Second World War.

He joined the British Bryological Society in 1946, edited the Transactions of the British Bryological Society (which subsequently became the Journal of Bryology) from 1968 until 1977, and was elected president for 1982-3. He became an honorary member of the Society in 1988.

With his wife Patricia, Whitehouse also became an accomplished stereo-photographer of bryophytes, and built up a very large collection of stereo-photographs of approximately 80% of British species. You can read more about this and download many of his images on the HLK Whitehouse stereo image photography page.

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Williams, Edward (1762-1833)

Williams was an accomplished antiquarian and botanist who knew Shropshire and its flora well. He spent much time travelling round the county, recording and drawing architectural and archaeological artefacts, and doubtless botanised as he went. He discovered Six-stamened Waterwort (Elatine hexandra) new to Britain at Bomere Pool in 1798, and prepared a manuscript catalogue of Salopian plants, which passed into the hands of Lord Berwick at Attingham Hall after Williams’s death. In 1839, Lord Berwick permitted William Allport Leighton (1805-1889) to make a copy of the catalogue, but unfortunately this happened a little too late for Leighton to be able to fully assimilate Williams’s records into his own Flora of Shropshire (1841).

Leighton’s copy of Williams’s catalogue now resides at the Record Office at Shrewsbury (ref: 6001/6743), and in addition to vascular plants, also mentions 117 mosses and 23 liverworts. Williams’s bryological discoveries include Ricciocarpos natans from Eaton Pool at Eaton Mascott in 1802.

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Wilson, Albert (1862-1949)

Albert Wilson first became interested in cryptogams after meeting James Alfred Wheldon (both men were chemists as well as keen amateur botanists) in 1898, and joined the Moss Exchange Club in 1908. Wilson distributed mosses for the newly formed British Bryological Society in 1923-4, and for some years kept the Society’s account of vice-county records, as well as contributing over 2,500 packets of his own to the annual exchanges…

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Wilson, William (1799-1871)

William Wilson was Britain’s leading bryologist in the mid-19th century. Like most bryologists of that period, he paid more attention to mosses than liverworts, and discovered sixty or more mosses new to Britain, Ireland or science.

In 1846 he agreed to produce a third edition of W.J. Hooker and Thomas Taylor’s Muscologia Britannica, and his revision assumed a sufficiently new identity to be published under his own name as Bryologia Britannica in 1855. Wilson planned but did not live to complete a second edition, which would have included an additional 100 species discovered in Britain between 1855 and 1870.

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Wood, John Bland (1813-1890)

Wood is particularly interesting for his known and possible connections in the world of 19th century bryology. He employed Richard Buxton (1786-1865) to collect bryophytes for him, and knew Buxton’s friend, John Nowell (1802-1867). Furthermore, Thomas Stansfield (1826/7-1879), eldest son of Nowell’s lifelong friend Abraham Stansfield (1802-1880) had a nursery at Pontefract, and Abraham Stansfield (born 1837, younger
son of Abraham Stansfield senior) had a nursery at Kersall Moor, Broughton, not far from Wood’s home.

Wood compiled Flora Mancuniensis (1840), and contributed to Joseph Dickinson’s Flora of Liverpool (1851) and Supplement (1855).

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Photographic archive

This is a collection of pictures of bryologists, living and deceased, set up by Professor Mark Seaward and now held on behalf of the BBS by the librarian, Dr. Ken Adams. Ken has scanned many of these images, and created a PDF which is available on request (email:

You will find some of these photos on this page, and some on the History of the BBS page.