Biographical Dictionary of British Coleopterists

Michael Darby

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A doctor. Represented in a large collection of beetles given to Glasgow Museum in 1985. Exotic material mainly from E. Africa and Nigeria collected in the 1930s. (MD 8/03)

KEELEY, R.G. (1836 28 June 1874)

A brief obituary in the EMM, 11, 1874, p. 70 records that Keeley 'was known to many entomologists as a quiet and unassuming collector of British Coleoptera, of which he had a good general knowledge. We believe he was originally in the service of a well-known firm of natural history lithographers, which possibly brought out his taste for entomological pursuits, and for many years past he was an employee of a large East Indian Agency, and being transferred to the Southampton branch, he took up residence in that town. He seldom published notes, but his name appears occasionally in the various entomological periodicals.' He died in Southampton.

The articles referred to consisted of a note on duplicate Coleoptera which he wished to exchange in EWI, 89, 12 June 1858, p. 87; 'Captures of Donaciae' in Zool., 22, 1864, pp. 8972-73 and 'Note on Chrysomela distinguenda' in EMM, 8, 1871, p. 15.

A notebook belonging to Keeley is in the collection of North Hertfordshire Museums (I am grateful to Trevor James for this information). (MD 8/03)

KEEN, John Henry (1851 3 April 1950)

Born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire but spent much of his adult life as a missionary in British Columbia before returning to England to live at Tunbridge Wells, where he died. Published four articles on beetles in British Columbia and the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canadian Entomologist between 1891 and 1898.

There is an obituary in Coleopterists' Bulletin, 11, 1957, pp. 62-64 (by H. Melville Hatch) which I have not seen. (MD 8/03)


Of Moidart Cottage, Currie, Scotland. Gave 217 beetles from Australia and 14 from Egypt to the RSM in 1885 (1885-23). (MD 8/03)

KELLY, Richard J. Published 'Plague of beetles in Galway in 1688' in IN, 4, 1895, pp. 190-91. (MD 8/03)

KELSALL, Thomas (1825 - 23 November 1903)

Manchester entomologist who worked in the Geological Department of the Manchester Museum (Owens College) and collected Coleoptera. J.H. Bailey, writing his obituary in EMM, 40, 1904, pp. 18- 19, noted that he 'was one of the few remaining members of the older group of Manchester entomologists being contemporary and associated with Messers Prestcott, Broadhurst, Hall, John Bleakly, Joseph Chappell and John Hardy'. He also notes that Kelsall kept a short MS diary apparently covering the period 1857-1873, in which he recorded captures of beetles including Cicindela hybrida, Carabus nitens, and Saperda scalaris in the Manchester district.

Kelsall died in Blackpool. There is another short obituary in Ent., 57, 1904, p. 52. (MD 8/03)

KEVAN, Douglas Keely (4 February 1896 - 15 May 1968)

Born at Chelmsford, Essex and received little orthodox education. His father died when he was ten and he left school to join a firm of timber merchants, G.F. Neame & Co. (later Price & Pierce (Woodpulp) Ltd.) where he remained until his retirement in 1958. Served in France for a short time during the First World War before being invalided out in 1915 and transferred to the Army Service Corps. Subsequently rose to the rank of Captain. Following his marriage in 1919 he moved for two years to Finland as his firm's representative. In December 1921 he took a first in Accountancy and later became a Fellow of the Corporation of Registered Accountants. He went to work in Edinburgh in 1922 and remained there until his death.

Apart from reading widely Kevan was also interested in: supernatural phenomena and reincarnation, stamp collecting, Freemasonry, playing the piano and composing - his last fugue, no. 67, being composed the year before his death - but his main enthusiasms were shells and beetles, the latter evolving out of the former some time after 1935.

Kevan's first paper on Coleoptera was published in 1939 in the Scottish Naturalist and the first of the series of important papers on some of the more difficult genera of beetles, 'The aedeagi of the British species of the genus Catops', for which he is now well known, in 1945 (EMM, 81, pp. 69-72). Other papers in this series were: 'The aedeagi of the British species of the genera Ptomaphagus Ill., Nemadus, Th., Nargus, and Bathyscia Sch.' (ibid., 81, 1945, pp. 121-125); 'The sexual characters of the British species of the genus Choleva Lat., including C. cisteloides Frohl. new to the British list' (ibid., 82, 1946, pp. 122-130); 'A revision of the British species of the genus Colon Hbst.' (ibid., 83, 1947, pp. 249-267); 'The British species of the genus Sitona Germar' (ibid., 95, 1959, pp. 251-261); 'The British species of the genus Haltica Geoffrey' (ibid., 98, 1962, pp. 189-196); 'The British species of the genus Cyphon Paykull including three new to the British list' (ibid., 98, 1962, pp. 114-121. The new ones were hilaris, Nyholm, pubescens F. and phragmiteticola Nyholm); 'The British species of the genus Helophorus Illiger, subgenus Helophorus s.str.' (ibid., 101, 1965, pp. 254-268); and 'The British species of the genus Longitarsus Latreille' (ibid., 103, 1967, pp. 83-110). The dissections and drawings he produced for this series of articles were all made using a Victorian Crouch binocular microscope producing an inverted image.

His additions to the British list also included Catops nigriclavis which he took near Pentaitland, E. Lothian (ibid., 82, 1946, pp. 155-57); and Sitona brevirostris Solari (ibid., 99, 1963, pp. 39-41).

Apart from his revisionary work Kevan also undertook the re-arrangement of the general collection of the RSM in 240 cabinet drawers (in the process writing new det. labels for each of the more than 100,000 specimens). This collection includes some of his own specimens. He also appears to have worked on the Balfour Browne collection in the Museum many of the specimens of Helophorus, for example, bear his det. labels. Kevan's main collection is also housed in the RSM in an 18 drawer cabinet (home made?) and is accompanied by eight drawers of correspondence.

FRES from 1950. There is an obituary by E.C. Pelham-Clinton in EMM, 105, 1969, pp.7 3-74 and another by A.R. Waterston in Journal of Conchology, London, 26, 1971, pp. 419-421. (MD 8/03)

KEYS, James H. (18 October 1855 14 January 1941)

Born in Plymouth. Showed an early interest in natural history and wanted to pursue this professionally but was persuaded by his father to join the printing and bookselling business which he had established in 1830. In this he remained until his retirement in 1933. He married in 1884 Eliza Mary Bloye who died in 1926 leaving a son and daughter.

Malcolm Cameron in an obituary of Keys in EMM, 77, 1941, pp. 60-61, recorded that he first met him in 1898 'and on that occasion and many others I look back with great pleasure on numerous excursions over Dartmoor. He was very versatile, and apart from his great skill as a microscopist and micro photographer he not only invented various ingenious gadgets to facilitate his work, but made them himself. He had a broad outlook on life and was of extremely modest temperament...'. In a postscript to the same obituary R.W. Lloyd recorded that he used to meet him on journeys to Plymouth when staying with his friend F.C. Lemann and that they enjoyed 'talking about our beetle captures'. There is a third interesting and amusing account of him in Sir John Squire's The Honeysuckle and the Bee, 1937 in which Sir John describes how he started collecting beetles as a youth and went into Keys' shop to buy an exercise book in which to record his captures not knowing that Keys was an enthusiast. He described him as 'a lively little man with spectacles and a big black moustache'.

Keys' first article on entomology was on the Hemipteran Aepophilus bonnairii found when he was looking for Aepus marinus and A. robinii about which he published his first Coleoptera note in EMM, 24, 1888, pp. 275-76. Many articles on the Plymouth fauna then followed leading up to his pamphlet Northern and Hill Country Coleoptera of South Devon (1920). He described three beetles as new to science: Plagiarthrina forhamiana (EMM, 56, 1920, pp. 131-33), Atheta cambricina (ibid., 69, 1933, pp. 77-78) and Atheta oloriphila (ibid., pp. 270-71), all now synonymised with existing species, and three species new to Britain: Anchonidium unguiculare (ibid., 52, 1916, pp. 112-13), Cathormiocerus attaphilus (ibid., 57, 1921, pp. 100-02), and Atheta spissata (ibid., 62, 1926, pp. 159-61). He also published a 'List of the maritime, sub-maritime and coast-frequenting Coleoptera of South Devon and South Cornwall with especial reference to the Plymouth district' (Journal of the Marine Biological Association, 11(4), 1918, pp. 497-513). Through his business he published a number of entomological books including Claude Morley's volume on the Ichneumons of Great Britain.

Keys' collection amounting to some 25,700 specimens along with his original catalogue is in the Plymouth City Museum (bequeathed, but only appears to cover the period from 1880-1910), and there are also specimens in the Marlborough College Collection (on permanent loan to the writer).

FRES 1900-1941. (MD 8/03)


Published 'Capture of Coleopterous insects in Leicestershire' in Zool., 1845, p. 1094.

KIRBY, William (September 1759 4 July 1850)

Born in Witnesham Hall, Suffolk, the son of a solicitor. Educated at Ipswich Grammar School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1781. He became Rector of Barham, close to his family home, in 1782, and remained there throughout his life.

For a full account of Kirby the reader is referred to J. Freeman's Life, 1852 (pp. 506) which includes a bibliography and portrait. This mentions that Kirby's interest in insects was stimulated as a child by watching a ladybird on a window. Subsequently he became known as the 'father' of entomology in England largely on the basis of his Monographia Apum Angliae (1802) and the four volume Introduction to Entomology (1815-1826) which he wrote with William Spence. The latter contains numerous references to beetles and is remarkable for the large amount of new information it contains particularly about the lives and habits of insects, as well as the different methods of catching them. In addition to these volumes Kirby also published A Century of Insects, including several New Genera described from his Cabinet which included 94 beetles, and more than 30 articles many of which also described further new genera and species of Coleoptera, many foreign. These included 'Strepsiptera a new order of insects proposed; and the characters of the order, with those of its genera laid down' in Trans. LSL, 1813, pp. 86-123 (subsequently followed by an addendum in 1815, pp. 233-34). His last major publication was On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as manifested in the Creation of Animals and in their History, Habits and Instincts, being one of the Bridgewater Treatises, 2 volumes, 1835.

Freeman includes an interesting account of Kirby's day to day working gleaned in part from a detailed Journal, the whereabouts of which is now unknown, which Kirby kept throughout most of his life: 'The time before breakfast was devoted to reading portions of the scriptures in Greek or Hebrew. After breakfast one of the [Christian] Fathers until noon, with a classical author on alternate days, and this was followed by exercise until an early dinner. The afternoon was devoted to natural history, and the evening to miscellaneous reading, correspondence, etc. Wednesday and Friday were devoted to systematic visitation in his parish. These rules were observed with great accuracy for a very long period of his life: latterly his custom was to read the New Testament in Greek after breakfast (which he always did aloud) and it was rarely that this was neglected ... He would often rise early to ascertain, if he could, the proceedings of the insect world.'

Kirby's collection passed by gift to the ESL on 6 May 1835 (on this and its subsequent fate see Neave et al. (1933) chapter 8. Part subsequently passed to the NHM including, in 1863, the types of the species listed in the Century. A later collection (c.1858-60) is now in the HDO. His library was sold at auction by Garrod on 7-9 August 1850 and amounted to 548 lots (Chalmers-Hunt (1976) p. 91).

There are three MS notebooks compiled by Kirby in the NHM titled British Staphylinidae. (The Museum also holds a MS catalogue entitled Museum Entomologicum Barhamaense prima sistens insecta M. Britanniae indigenae and a MS book of notes made on a journey from Barham to Holkham Hall in Norfolk in 1789.) Smith (1986) p. 81 records the existence of letters to Hope and Westwood (1822-38) in the HDO together with further letters to J.C. Dale (1818-27) and a sheet of 'Sketches of dissections of parts of mouths of Dynastidae and Melolonthidae'.

A drawing by J.O. Westwood of the Stylopid Stylops kirbii named after Kirby by Leach in 1817 (now synonymised with S. melittae which Kirby himself described in 1802) is used by the RESL as its emblem.

Kirby became an Associate of the Linnean Society from 1791 and FLS from 1815. Because of his concern to keep entomology within the Society he did not originally support the foundation of the ESL and with the help of A.H. Haworth, J.F. Stephens and others set up a zoological club within the Society. Because many entomologists were not members they were excluded so that pressure for a separate Society grew. When the ESL was founded in 1833 Kirby was sufficiently convinced of the need for it that he accepted the position of Life President. (On this see Freeman who reproduces a long letter from Vigors to Kirby of 1 October 1822). He was elected FRS in 1818.

Apart from the Life mentioned above Gilbert (1977) lists fifteen other biographical accounts ranging in date from 1823 to 1932. To these may be added that in Salmon (2000) pp.124-127. (MD 8/03)

KIRBY, William Forsell (14 January 1844 20 November 1912)

Born in Leicester where his father was banker. Worked in the Museum at Dublin (1867-1879) and then, after Frederick Smith's death, at the NHM (1879-1909). Primarily known as a Lepidopterist but as a curator he was inevitably brought into contact with Coleoptera on which he did do some work. He published an Elementary Text Book of Entomology (1885, 1892) and Harvey et al. (1996) p. 121 record that there is a loose-leaf MS Bibliography of African Coleoptera (c.1890) in the NHM. (MD 8/03)

KIRBY, W. Egmont

Son of W.F. Kirby (see above) and his wife (nee Kappel). Published several entomological books including Beetles, Butterflies, Moths and Other Insects and Insects Foes and Friends, 1898, and wrote an introduction to E. Hofmann, The Young Beetle-Collector's Handbook, 1897. (MD 8/03)

KITCHEN, Thomas Basil (1906 - 8 June 1987)

A Reverend (Canon) who lived in Howden, Goole, Yorkshire and studied Coleoptera.

FRES 1950 1987. (MD 8/03)


Lived in Spalding, Lincolnshire and worked on insects of horticultural and agricultural importance, particularly Coleoptera.

FRES from 1948. (MD 8/03)

Last updated: 12 September 2003