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Thomas Horsefield

(1773-1859), Physician and naturalist

Sitter in 1 portrait

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Thomas Horsefield, by J. Erxleben, printed by  Day & Haghe - NPG D38021

Thomas Horsefield

by J. Erxleben, printed by Day & Haghe
lithograph, 1840s
NPG D38021

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Miranda Bruce-Mitford

12 June 2020, 17:22

Thomas Horsefield (1773-1859) was an American medical doctor and naturalist who, in 1800, took a post as a physician aboard an American ship, and subsequently spent the years 1801-1819 living and working in Indonesia, mostly in Java, where he practiced as a surgeon and pursued research into natural history. Originally working under Dutch sponsorship, he was taken up by Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Java between 1811-1816, when the British controlled Java during the Napoleonic Wars. He built up a large collection of specimens and played a important part in developing Raffles’s own interest in the subject. In 1819, due to Raffles's introductions, he took his collection to England where he met the great naturalist Sir Joseph Banks and was appointed Curator of the East India Company Museum (the India Museum). He remained in England for the rest of his life and published several works including Zoological Researches in Java, and the Neighbouring Islands, the principal illustrator for which was the artist William Daniell (1769-1837) who had also provided illustrations for Raffles’s A History of Java (1817). Horsefield became Director of the museum in 1836 and held the post until his death in 1859 . He died at his home 29 Chalcott Villas, Adelaide Road, Camden Town, London leaving a wife and two children. He was buried in the western section of the graveyard of the Moravian Church in Chelsea, where his grave apparently still survives. Sadly his natural history notes, diaries and papers were destroyed after his death according to his wishes.

Maxine Erich

01 February 2018, 10:45

Dear Sirs, I am Thomas Horsfield's 4xgr granddaughter. His son Samuel Charles, born (maybe) in Indonesia but baptised in Cambridgeshire England, had a son William who owned a jewellery Shop in London. His daughter Mary Isabel was my grandmother WHO lived in Greenford. Unfortunately T H had all his personal papers burnt at his death so its almost impossible to find out anything about his private life. I can remember as a child looking at a handpainted catalog of beautiful flowers - where the catalog is today I don't know. Also T.H exact portrait hung on my grandmothers dining room wall. I would of course be happy if this information is of any help to you and would love to get some more info myself on T H. Regards Maxine Erich

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