Francis Willoughby

From Book Owners Online


Biographical Note

Of Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire, son of Sir Fracis Willughby, a member of a long-established gentry family there. BA Trinity College, Cambridge 1656, MA 1659. Willughby became a dedicated naturalist and associate of John Ray; the pair travelled across England, Wales and the continent together, studying local animals and plants and gathering specimens. He was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society in 1661. After Willughby's death in 1672 Ray issued the work they had done together. He published the Ornithology in Latin in 1676 and in English in 1678, and published Historia piscium, prepared from Willughby's papers, in 1686. Ray planned to complete Willughby's 'History of insects' but died before he could do so; it was later edited by William Derham and published on behalf of the Royal Society in 1710.


The Willoughby family library was continuously developed from the 14th century onwards (some of the medieval manuscripts survive and are today in Nottingham University Library). The library was reorganised and catalogued at Wollaton in the 1690s by Willoughby’s son, Thomas Willoughby).


  • Birkhead, T., The wonderful Mr Willughby, London, 2018.
  • Boulger, G. S., and Michael Hunter. '"Willughby, Francis (1635–1672), naturalist."' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Hanna, R. & T. Turville-Petre (eds), The Wollaton medieval manuscripts, 2010.
  • Poole, W., The Willughby library in the time of Francis the naturalist, in Birkhead, T. (ed), Virtuoso by nature: the scientific worlds of Francis Willughby, Leiden, 2016, 227-43.