Sowerby family

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Sowerby family
Painting of James Sowerby
Painting of James Sowerby (1816)
CountryUnited Kingdom
FounderJames Sowerby

The Sowerby family was a British family of several generations of naturalists, illustrators, botanists, and zoologists active from the late 18th century to the mid twentieth century.[1][2]

The three George Sowerbys produced major works on molluscs and their systematics. Together, they introduced numerous (sometimes the number 5000 is mentioned) taxonomic names. Because all three of the G.B Sowerbys published extensively on the subject of conchology, it is not easy even for professional taxonomists to unravel which of the three "G.B. Sowerbys" is meant in a particular citation when the numbering system G.B. Sowerby I, II, or III is not used. Even when a date is provided, this kind of attribution is not obvious: e.g. "Sowerby, 1870" can refer to either G.B. Sowerby II or G.B. Sowerby III.[3]

The scientific and artistic contributions of the family extended well into the 20th century. Arthur de Carle Sowerby (1885–1954), James Sowerby's great-great-grandson, explored the geography and natural history of China. One of James' grandsons, John George Sowerby (1850–1914), was an illustrator and glass-worker whose work was exhibited in the British Royal Academy, and who directed Ellison Glass Works Ltd, which during the 1880s was the world's largest producer of pressed glass. John G. Sowerby's daughter Katherine Githa (1876–1970) became a noted playwright, and Millicent Sowerby (1878–1967) was a painter and illustrator known for her children's book illustrations.[4]


  1. ^ David M. Damkaer (2002). The Copepodologist's Cabinet: A Biographical and Bibliographical History. American Philosophical Society. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-87169-240-5.
  2. ^ Wilfrid Blunt; William Thomas Stearn (1950). "Kilburn, Sowerby, and Sydenham Edwards". The Art of Botanical Illustration: An Illustrated History. Courier Corporation. pp. 189–194. ISBN 978-0-486-27265-8.
  3. ^ Petit, Richard E (2009). "George Brettingham Sowerby, I, II & III: their conchological publications and Molluscan taxa". Zootaxa. 2189: 1–218.
  4. ^ Sara Gray (2009). "Sowerby, Amy Millicent". The Dictionary of British Women Artists. Casemate Publishers. pp. 246–. ISBN 978-0-7188-3084-7.
  • Who were the Sowerbys? by Katherine V. W. Palmer, Internet Hawaiian Shell News, January 2002, pp. 17 – 24. Reprint of Hawaiian Shell News, Nov. 1965, pp. 4ff. Available on a CD of back issues of HSN, ISSN 1543-6039.
  • Papers on the Sowerby Family. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History. 6 (6):380-559. 1974.
  • Sowerby, Arthur de Carle (1952). The Sowerby saga, being a brief account of the origin and genealogy of the Sowerby family and of its history from earliest times down to the present; based upon recent research into available extant literature. Washington, D.C. OCLC 38667537.
  • Collins, John (1973). A note on the history of the Sowerby family archive: together with a short title catalogue of natural history works written or illustrated by members of the family. London: J.S. Seaton. OCLC 22696413.

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