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 the eldest son of J. Jeffreys of Fynone, Glamorgan.[1] Jeffreys was educated in Swansea at the Bishop Gore School (Swansea Grammar School), before going to London, where he qualified as a barrister.[2]

Jeffreys worked as a solicitor in Swansea until 1856, when he was called to the bar in London.[3] 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.[4] They would have a son[1] 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.[5] He served as Justice of the Peace for Glamorgan, Brecon and Hertfordshire, and was appointed High Sheriff of the latter in 1877.[1] He was Treasurer of the Linnean Society of London and Geological Society of London for many years.[3] Jeffreys was also a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.[6]

After the death of his wife, Jeffreys moved to Kensington,[1] and he died there 24 January 1885.[5]

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].


  1. ^ a b c d Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed & Official Classes. Kelly and Company. 1882. pp. 357–358. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  2. ^ "Masters in Chancery". The Jurist. S. Sweet: 957. 1839. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Charles Darwin; Frederick Burkhardt (16 September 1999). The Correspondence of Charles Darwin:. Cambridge University Press. pp. 833–. ISBN 978-0-521-59033-4. 
  4. ^ "Marriages". The Gentleman's Magazine. E. Cave: 646. June 1840. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Obituary-John Gwyn Jeffreys, LL.D., F.R.S. & c". Journal of Conchology. Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland: 283–284. 1885. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  6. ^ "Officers of Sectional Committees Present at the Belfast Meeting". Report of the ... Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Volume 44. J. Murray: xlvi. 1875. Retrieved 10 April 2016. 
  • Parts of this article were translated from the French Wikipedia

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