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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.

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.


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.


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.


Grace Hickling

Grace Hickling (1908-1986) had a long association with the Farne Islands as a researcher and conservationist. She become the public face of the islands and played a key role in ensuring that they were recognised nationally for their importance as a habitat for seals and seabirds. 


Mary Jane Hancock

Mary Jane Hancock (1810-1896), the youngest sister of John and Albany Hancock, was an amateur botanist and enthusiastic watercolour painter. The Natural History Society of Northumbria holds over 60 of her paintings and more than 300 botany specimens from her personal collections.


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.


Margaret Rebecca Dickinson

Margaret Rebecca Dickinson (1821-1918) was a talented Victorian artist who assembled a collection of over one thousand British plant specimens in her unique herbarium. Her beautiful botanical painting taken from the prepared herbarium specimens are available to view on our online gallery.


Dr Marie Victoire Lebour

Thanks to the work of Northumbrian native Dr Marie Lebour (1876-1971), we now have an unprecedented view into the life of our seas. An expert on crustaceans, molluscs and microplankton, her books and research papers are still in use by scientists and students today. 


Catharine Hodgkin

Catharine Hodgkin (1864-1946) was, in 1936, the first woman to be elected to the Council of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne. She was an active member for over 40 years and was noted for her work ringing birds on the Farne Islands in Northumberland.


David Green

(1950-2004) Talented wildlife artist and herpetologist.


Evelyn Mary Lobley

Evelyn Lobley (1902-1977) was a self-taught expert in the identification of bog mosses and Sphagnum.


Kathleen Bever Blackburn

Kathleen Bever Blackburn (1892-1968) was a naturalist and academic botanist.


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.


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.


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.


Obituaries 2004-2018

The Natural History Society of Northumbria is indebted to the many members who have willingly given their time and expertise to help us further our work in the North East. Their commitment and friendship is highly valued. 


William Falla (1799-18360), Gateshead Nurseryman

Fred Grey (1911-1997), Inspirational English teacher and Ornithologist

Rev John Edward Hull (1863-1960), Expert on Spiders and local dialect.