Families of Towcester, Northamptonshire

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  • ID: I26004
  • Name: David Sharp
  • Given Name: David
  • Surname: Sharp
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 15 OCT 1840 in Towcester 1 2
  • Death: 27 AUG 1922 in Brockenhurst,Hants 1
  • Census: 1841 Market Place,Stony Stratford 3
  • Census: 1851 Park School,Totteridge,Herts 4
  • Census: 1861 14 Newcastle Street,Westminster,London 5
  • Event: University 1891 Cambridge 6
  • Note:
    Sharp, David (1840-1922), entomologist, was born on 15 October 1840 at Towcester, Northamptonshire, the only son (there were also three daughters) of William Sharp, currier, and his wife, Sarah Pepler. He spent his childhood in Stony Stratford and, from 1851, in London. After attending several preparatory schools, he entered St John's foundation school, Kilburn, before working for his father from the age of seventeen. During the next few years he took up entomology in earnest, his favourite haunts being Ken Wood, the Hammersmith marshes, and the shores of Deal and Dover. Fearing an inherited chronic melancholy, Sharp's father cultivated a lively household. Consequently, Malvern House, 13 Loudoun Road, St John's Wood, was also home to four boarders. Among the latter, in 1857–8, was Herbert Spencer (1820–1903). Spencer later speculated that his tenancy was terminated because William Sharp feared that his son was imbibing dangerous doctrines from Spencer.

    In 1862 Sharp began medical studies at St Bartholomew's Hospital and became a member of the Entomological Society of London. Two years later he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated as bachelor of medicine in 1866. By this time he had also amassed a collection of approximately 2000 named British species of Coleoptera. He returned to London to work under the Sharp family doctor, and to assume the secretaryship of the Entomological Society for 1867. By the end of the year, however, he again departed for Scotland to become a medical officer in the Crichton Asylum at Dumfries. Shortly thereafter, he took charge of a private patient at Thornhill, Dumfriesshire.

    On 1 February 1876, at Eccles, Dumfries, Sharp married 27-year-old housemaid Jessie Murdoch, daughter of James Murdoch, coachman, and his wife, Isabella Pagan; they had five daughters and two sons. In 1876, Sharp joined the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Scientific, Natural History, and Antiquarian Society. In January of the same year he had made an unsuccessful bid to become curator of the City of Glasgow Industrial Museum. Clearly desirous of quitting medicine, he made the leap after the death of his private patient about 1884. Sharp and his family moved to Southampton, relocating to Wilmington, near Dartford, Kent, in 1888. From 1884 Sharp rapidly became an active participant in London's scientific circles. In 1885 he became recorder of insects for the Zoological Record. The following year, he was elected a fellow of the Zoological Society (subsequently serving on its council from 1901 to 1905); elections to fellowship of the Linnean Society (1888) and the Royal Society (1890) followed. Nevertheless, he was most active in the Entomological Society, serving as president (1887–8), vice-president (1889, 1891–2, 1896, and 1902–3) and as a member of council (1893–5 and 1902–04). In 1921 he was made a special life fellow.

    In 1890, a year after moving to Cambridge, Sharp was appointed curator of the MacAndrew collection at the University Museum. ‘The arrival of so eminent an entomologist in Cambridge’, observed A. E. Shipley, ‘gave a great impetus to the Study of Insects’ (Shipley, 288). A special room in the museum was set aside as the ‘Entomological Department’, where Sharp held classes for the likes of A. D. Imms, H. M. Lefroy, and J. F. C. Fryer. He took on the additional burden of editor of the Zoological Record in 1891.

    Sharp was eulogized by The Times as ‘the most learned of British entomologists’. By the time of his death he had produced some 300 publications. The majority of his published papers dealt with insect nomenclature and classification, with a special emphasis on Coleoptera, or beetles. A devoted collector throughout his life, he accompanied friends on excursions throughout Britain, France, and Spain, and, through correspondence networks, he cast his net wider still. However, although extraordinarily assiduous and productive, he was not a rigorous thinker and often ended up muddying waters when his intent was clarification. In late 1866, for instance, he became embroiled with J. O. Westwood, H. W. Bates, and A. R. Wallace in a minor discussion about Darwinian explanations of insect mimicry. Sharp concluded that Darwinism could not explain similarities because it was principally about differentiation. His Object and Method of Zoological Nomenclature (1873) attempted to separate nomenclature from classification, by declaring that the first published binomial for each specimen should be its permanent species name. His adherence to this nomenclature, immediately rejected by his colleagues, meant that his Coleoptera part of the Entomological Society's Catalogue of British Insects (1870–73) was never published. Undoubtedly emboldened by the extent of his scientific reputation, he published his timely Scheme for a National System of Rest-Funds (or Pensions) for Working People in 1892. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a curious mixture of old and new Liberalism. He proposed a contributory scheme in order to reduce demands on poor-law funds, and to dissuade the working classes from falling into anarchism and socialism. But his magnum opus was his two-volume Insects, contributed to the Cambridge Natural History series in 1895 and 1899. These volumes passed through four reprintings by 1922 and a Russian translation in 1910; they constituted the standard text on the subject at the turn of the century, and earned Sharp an enduring place in the history of entomology.

    After a productive career at Cambridge, Sharp retired to Brockenhurst, in the New Forest, in 1909, where he built a house, Lawnside, facing the heath of Black Knowl. Here he remained until his death at home on 27 August 1922. Described as a ‘slight and delicate-looking man’ (The Times, 31 Aug 1922, 9, col. c), only several months before his death, ‘he might be recognised by his rapid stride, slight stoop, and long white beard, as he took his almost daily walk into the Forest he loved so well’ (The Entomologist, 55, 1922, 221). He was buried at the Brockenhurst parish churchyard, overlooking the forest, on 31 August 1922

  • Change Date: 5 FEB 2007 at 21:46:54

    Father: William Sharp b: 3 APR 1814 in Towcester c: 3 APR 1814 in Towcester Methodist Church
    Mother: Sarah Pepler c: 8 MAR 1812 in Whittlebury

    Marriage 1 Jessie Murdoch b: ABT 1849
    • Married: 1 FEB 1876 in Eccles,Dumfries,Scotland 7

    1. Title: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
      Abbrev: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
    2. Title: Free BMD
      Publication: http://freebmd.rootsweb.com
      Abbrev: Free BMD
      While every effort is made to correctly correlate people with certificate numbers, some of these entries are based on "best guess". You are advised to check before ordering certificates.
      Text: Births Dec 1840 Sharp David Towcester 15 373
    3. Title: 1841 Census
      Abbrev: 1841 Census
      Text: David Sharp 8m N
    4. Repository:
        Name: Northants Record Office

      Title: 1851 Census
      Abbrev: 1851 Census
      Text: Park School, Totteridge
      David Sharp Pupil 10 Scholar Towcester
    5. Title: 1861 Census
      Abbrev: 1861 Census
      Text: David Sharp S U 20 Towcester
    6. Repository:
        Name: Cambridge Central Library

      Title: Alumni Cantabrigienses, 1291 - 1900
      Abbrev: Alumni Cantabrigienses, 1291 - 1900
      Text: Name: David. Sharp
      Born: Aug. 15, 1840
      Died: Aug. 27, 1922
      More Information: M.A. 1891. University Curator in Zoology, 1890-1909. [S. of William. B. Aug. 15, 1840, at Towcester, Northants. School, St John's, Kilburn.] At St Bartholomew's Hospital and Edinburgh. M.B. and C.M., Edin., 1866. F.R.S., 1890; F.Z.S.; F.L.S. Medical Officer, Crichton Institute, Dumfries, 1867. President of the entomological society of London, 1887-8. Did much to develop the entomological collections in the Department of Zoology. Editor of the Zoological Record, 1892-1922. Author, Aquatic Carnivorous Coleoptera; and of articles upon ?Insects? and ?Termites? in the Cambridge Natural History. Subsequently of Brockenhurst, where he died Aug. 27, 1922. (Medical Directories; Who was Who.)
    7. Title: Scotland's People
      Publication: http://scotlandspeople.gov.uk
      Abbrev: Scotland's People
      1 Feb 1876 at Eccles House, Penpont, after Banns
      Church of Scotland
      David Sharp, Medical Practitioner, bach, aged 35, of Eccles father William Sharp, Leather Merchant, mother Sarah Sharp nee Pepler
      Jessie Murdoch, House maid, spinster aged 27, of Eccles father James Murdoch, Coachman, mother Isabella Murdoch nee Pagan
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