WILLUGHBY, FRANCIS (1635-1672), English ornithologist and ichthyologist, son of Sir Francis Willughby, was born at Middleton, Warwickshire, in 1 63 5. He is memorable as the pupil, friend and patron as well as the active and original co-worker of John Ray (q.v.), and hence to be reckoned as one of the most important precursors of Linnaeus. His connexion with Ray dated from his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge (1653-1659) ; and, after concluding his academic life by a brief sojourn at Oxford, and acquiring considerable experience of travel in England, he made an extensive Continental tour in his company. The specimens, figures and notes thus accumulated were in great part elaborated on his return into his Ornithologia, which, however, he did not live to publish, having injured a naturally delicate constitution by alternate exposure and over-study. This work was published in 1676, and translated by Ray as the Ornithology of Fr. Willughby (London, 1678, fol.) ; the same friend published his Historia Piscium (1686, fol.). Willughby died at Middleton Hall on the 3rd of July 1672.
In Ray's preface to the former work he gives Willughby much of the credit usually assigned to himself, both as critic and systematist. Thus, while founding on Gesner and Aldrovandus, he omitted their irrelevancies, being careful to exclude " hieroglyphics, emblems, morals, fables, presages or ought else pertaining to divinity, ethics, grammar, or any sort of humane learning, and present him [the reader] with what properly belongs only to natural history." Again, he not only devised artificial keys to his species and genera, but, " that he might clear up all these obscurities [of former writers] and render the knowledge and distinction of species facile to all that should come after, he bent his endeavours mainly to find out certain characteristic notes of each kind," while finally, in apologizing for his engravings, he yet not unjustly claims that " they are best and truest of any hitherto graven in brass." (See also ORNITHOLOGY.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)