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SOWERBY, JAMES (1757-1822), English natural-history artist, was born in London on the 21st of March 1757. He became a student at the Royal Academy, and subsequently taught drawing, but soon applied his art to the illustration of botanical and conchological works, and became distinguished by the publication of his English Botany (36 vols., 1790-1814), and British Mineralogy (5 vols., 1804-1817). He likewise planned and carried out for a number of years the classic geological work intended to describe and illustrate the British fossils, and entitled The Mineral Conchology of Great Britain (7 vols., 1812-1846). This was issued in parts, with the assistance first of his elder son, J. de C. Sowerby, and, after J. Sowerby's death (Oct. 25, 1822), of his second son, G. B. Sowerby, both the sons being themselves expert palaeontologists. The Sowerby collection, consisting of about 5000 fossils, was purchased by the British Museum in 1860.

The elder son, James de Carle Sowerby (1787-1871), was in 1838 one of the founders of the Royal Botanic Society, and was its secretary for thirty years. He supplied the plates and part of the text to the Supplement to English Botany (4 vols., 1831-1849); but his most important work related to palaeontology, as he identified and in many cases described the invertebrate fossils for papers by Buckland, Sedgwick, Fitton, Murchison and others in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London.

The younger son, George Brettingham Sowerby (1788-1854) was author of The Genera of Recent and Fossil Shells (1820-1825), and one of the editors of the Zoological Journal (1825-1826). His son, G. B. Sowerby (1812-1884), author of the Conchological Manual (1839; 4th ed., 1852), and grandson G. B. Sowerby (b. 1843), a distinguished student of the Mollusca, inherited the family talent for natural history.