John Gwyn Jeffreys

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For the schoolteacher, see J. G. Jeffreys.
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John Gwyn Jeffreys FRS (18 January 1809–21 January 1885) was a British conchologist and malacologist.


John Gwyn Jeffreys was born in Britain on 18 January 1809, at Swansea, Wales. He was educated in Swansea at the Bishop Gore School (Swansea Grammar School), before going to London, where he qualified as a barrister.

Jeffreys worked as a lawyer until 1856, but his greater passion was for conchology. He was not satisfied simply to form a collection, but was interested in all aspects of the biology of molluscs.

In 1840 on 2 April he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In the same year he married Ann Nevill at Llanelli. They would have a son and four daughters; and were the grandparents of the physicist, Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley.

In 1856 Jeffreys retired from the law, and began a series of dredging operations aboard his yacht, Osprey, purchased from his brother-in-law. Accompanied by other specialists in marine life such as Edward Forbes (1815–1854), Charles William Peach (1800-1886), the Reverend Alfred Merle Norman (1831-1918), George Barlee (1794-1861), Edward Waller (1803-1873) and William Thompson (1805–1852), he dredged the seas around the Shetland Islands, the west of Scotland, the English Channel, the Irish Sea and Greenland. A dredging expedition of the coast of France discovered ten new species of mollusc. He also went on expeditions to America and Norway.

He went on to take part in several deepsea expeditions as scientific leader - the Porcupine expeditions in 1869 and 1870, the Valorous expedition to Greenland in 1875, and the French Travailleur expedition in 1880.

He bought the Greyfriars Priory at Ware in Hertfordshire, and made it a meeting-place for many British and foreign artists. He was J.P. for Hertford and High Sheriff of Herefordshire for 1877.

After the death of his wife, Jeffreys moved to Kensington, and he died there in 1885.

His collection of shells and specimens was bought by William Healey Dall (1845-1927) for the Smithsonian Institution in the United States of America, and was partly donated to the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.


Jeffreys was the author of a number of books and articles on conchology and the mechanics of sea dredging. Of particular note was British Conchology, or an account of the Mollusca which now inhabit the British Isles and the surrounding seas (five volumes, 1862 - 1865).A complete list of scientific papers by John Gwyn Jeffreys including reviews is online here [1].


  • Parts of this article were translated from the French Wikipedia

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