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Naturalists of the North East

The North East has a fascinating legacy of men and women, who have made a contribution to our knowledge of the natural world and our appreciation of it. Find out about them here.

This includes scientists, naturalists and artists. We are very fortunate to have the personal material of these people, much of which has been donated to us by their families, friends and colleagues. This includes items such as artwork, letters, notebooks and photographs.

You can follow the links below for biographies and stories about some of these people and their archive material.

Kathleen Bever Blackburn

Kathleen Bever Blackburn (1892-1968) was a naturalist and academic botanist. She gained her degrees from the University of London, coming to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1918 when she was appointed as lecturer in botany at Armstrong College, Durham University.

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Joshua Alder

(1792-1867) Born in Newcastle, Joshua was one of the founder members of the Natural History Society and he gained international recognition for his work on nudibranchs (sea slugs) and molluscs.

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Thomas Atthey

(1814-1880) Known for his interest in the fossil fish and fossil amphibians that he found in local coal-measures, many of which were new to science. His collection is one of the most important in the Great North Museum: Hancock.

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Thomas Bewick

(1753-1828) Acclaimed wood engraver, artist and naturalist who was a celebrity in his own time; he even has a bird named after him, 'Bewick's Swan'. We have an important archive of the North East's most famous and talented naturalist.

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George Bolam

(1859-1934) A highly regarded naturalist of the region who published books on the birds of Northumberland and co-founded the Northern Naturalist’s Union. We have a remarkable archive collection about his life and work.

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Margaret Rebecca Dickinson

Margaret Dickinson (c1820-1918) was a talented Victorian artist who collected and painted over a thousand British plants. You can view an online gallery of 400 of her beautiful botanical paintings.

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George Gibsone

(1762-1846) He was a talented artist famous for his amazingly lifelike paintings of shells. We have 4,408 of these paintings in our collection.

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David Green

(1950-2004) Darlington born naturalist, wildlife artist and herpetologist.

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Albany Hancock

(1806-1873) Albany Hancock, older brother of John Hancock, was a highly respected and skilled anatomist and artist with wide-ranging zoological interests. He published more than seventy scientific papers, mainly on lesser-known groups of invertebrates, and had a large circle of correspondents including Charles Darwin, Richard Owen and Thomas Henry Huxley.

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John Hancock

(1808-1890) John Hancock, the younger brother of Albany Hancock, was highly regarded as an expert in the study of ornithology and attained a national reputation as an accomplished taxidermist. He was a member of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne from its inception in 1829 and it is mostly due to his service to this distinguished Society and its Museum – the Hancock Museum – that he is remembered today.

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Mary Jane Hancock

(1810-1896) Sketches by Mary Jane Hancock

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Obituaries

The Society is indebted to the many members who give their time, money or expertise to help us in our work; their commitment and friendship is highly valued. The following obituaries are of those members who have passed away since 2012 and who have had a special connection with the Society.

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Sparkie the Budgerigar (1954-1962)

Became famous after winning a speaking bird contest in 1958. He appeared on TV, radio, and in the press and even made his own hit records! After his death he was preserved and mounted and is one of the Great North Museum: Hancock's most treasured items. The heart-warming story of Sparkie and his owner Mattie Williams continues to fascinate the public and inspire artists and writers.

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