William Darwin Fox
|William Darwin Fox|
23 April 1805|
Derbyshire, United Kingdom
|Died||8 April 1880
Sandown, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
|Fields||Natural history, geology, entomology|
|Alma mater||Christ's College, University of Cambridge|
|Known for||Cousin of Charles Darwin|
Fox was born in 1805 and initially raised at Thurleston Grange near Elvaston, Derbyshire and from 1814 at Osmaston Hall, Osmaston about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Derby. Fox was the son of Samuel Fox (1765–1851) and his second wife, Ann Darwin (1777–1859). Ann was the daughter of William Alvey Darwin (1726–1783) and Jane Brown (1746–1835), and niece of Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802). He attended Repton School.
Fox attended Repton School from 1816 to 1823, when the headmaster was William Boultbee Sleath. Like his second cousin Charles Darwin, Fox prepared for the church at Christ's College, Cambridge. He was also a naturalist and entomologist, particularly collecting beetles. At Cambridge, Fox and Darwin became friends, and Fox tutored his younger cousin on natural history. Darwin noted in his autobiography:
I was introduced to entomology by my second cousin W. Darwin Fox, a clever and most pleasant man, who was then at Christ's College, and with whom I became extremely intimate.
It was also Fox who introduced Darwin to John Stevens Henslow who held a weekly open house which undergraduates and some older members of the University, who were attached to science attended in the evenings.
Darwin spent three weeks with Fox at Osmaston Hall in the summer of 1829. The Hall and its associated 4,000 acre (16 km²) estate was owned by the Wilmot-Horten family and leased to the Fox family from 1814 to 1887 and sold subsequently in 1888 to the Midland Railway. In 1938 the Hall was demolished and the area is now industrial, more noted for the manufacture of Rolls Royce turbo-fan engines.
Throughout his life, Fox remained in regular contact with Charles Darwin, and many of the letters exchanged contained comments relating to Darwin's work as well as family matters (Larkum, 2009).
Fox graduated from Cambridge in the winter of 1829 and took up a curacy at Epperstone, near Nottingham. He was forced to take sick leave in 1833 and convalesced at Sandown on the Isle of Wight. It was here that he met his first wife Harriet Fletcher and they were married in 1834. Fox returned to Epperstone for a short time but finally gained the living at Delamere where he remained the incumbent until 1873
A notice in the London Gazette for Friday 6 April 1838 states:
Fox was very active in the local community At Delamere, especially the local school where he taught. The school is still referred to as Fox's school. He retired through ill health in 1873.
Man of letters
The letters that Charles Darwin sent of Fox were recognised as an important primary source of information on the life of Charles Darwin by his son Francis Darwin, and by many biographers since. Some are published in "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin" (Edited by F. Darwin, 1887). Most of these letters are at Christ's College, Cambridge. Some of the letters of Fox to CD are extant. Darwin used much information given by Fox in his books. Fox also kept a diary from the age of 18 to 1878. Only one year is missing: for 1828, when he resided at Christ's College, Cambridge with Charles Darwin. A microfiche copy of the diaries are in the University Library, Cambridge. Fox never fully accepted Darwin's explanation of evolution.
Fox in his own non-scientific but reasoned way contributed to the understanding of the geology of the Solent and how the Isle of Wight became separated from the mainland when he gave a very informative opinion on this matter in a reply to a correspondent to the Geologist (Fox 1862).
When Fox retired as Rector of Delamere in 1873, he returned to the Isle of Wight to live at "Broadlands", Sandown, until his death in 1880 and is buried on the Isle of Wight.
Marriages and children
Fox married twice and had 17 children. His first wife was Harriet Fletcher, (1799–1842), daughter of Sir Richard Fletcher and Elizabeth Mudge, whom he married in 1834 and they issued: stillborn girl, 1834; Eliza Ann (Sanders),1836–1874; Harriet Emma (Overton), 1837–?; Agnes Jane, 1839–1906; Julia Mary Anne (Woods), 1840–?; Samuel William Darwin, 1841–?.
His second wife was Ellen Sophia (1820–1887), daughter of Basil George Woodd and Mary Mitton of Hillfield, Hampstead, and they were married in 1846. They issued: Charles Woodd, 1847–1908; Frances Maria (Pearce), 1848–1921; Robert Gerard, 1849–1909; Louisa Mary, 1851–1853; Ellen Elizabeth (Baron Dickinson Webster, 1st cousins once removed), 1852–?; Theodora, 1853–1878; Gertrude Mary (Bosanquet), 1854–1900; Frederick William, 1855–1931; Edith Darwin, 1857–?; Erasmus Pullien, 1859–1939; Reginald Henry, 1860–1933; Gilbert Basil, 1865–1941.
Following the birth of the Foxs' 10th child, Charles Darwin made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the size of the Fox family and the trouble boys created compared with girls; in a letter to Fox in 1852.
Confusion with William Fox the palaeontologist
There is considerable confusion between Fox and his less celebrated contemporary the synonymic Rev. William Fox (1813-1881) who was also an amateur scientist and lived and worked on the Isle of Wight at the same time. William Darwin Fox is sometimes ascribed the credit for early dinosaur discoveries. However William Darwin Fox was noted for his geological work, and entomology, but is not recorded as having any particular interest in dinosaurs.
- Anthony W. D. Larkum (2009). A Natural Calling: Life, Letters and Diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox. シュプリンガー・ジャパン株式会社. p. 41. ISBN 1-4020-9232-6.
- "Fox, William Darwin (FS824WD)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Darwin, C.R. (1852) Comment in letter to W.D. Fox regarding the increasing size of the Fox family. Cambridge University.
- Fox, W.D. (1862). When and how was the Isle of Wight separated from the mainland? Geologist, 5, 452.
- Larkum, A.W. D. 2009. A Natural Calling: Life, Letters and Diaries of Charles Darwin and William Darwin Fox. Springer Verlag, Berlin.