Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shuttleworth, Robert James

SHUTTLEWORTH, ROBERT JAMES (1810–1874), botanist and conchologist, born at Dawlish, Devonshire, in February 1810, was eldest son of James Shuttleworth (d. 1846) of Barton Lodge, Preston, Lancashire, by his first wife, Anna Maria, daughter of the Hon. and Rev. Richard Henry Roper, dean of Clones. His mother died of consumption a few weeks after his birth. His father married again in 1815, and settled in Switzerland, subsequently (in 1834) selling the Barton property. Shuttleworth, who was chiefly brought up by his mother's relatives, was sent to school at Geneva, first under Herr Töpfer, and afterwards under the botanist Seringe, keeper of the De Candolle Herbarium, from whom he imbibed his love of natural history, especially of botany. He studied plants assiduously on the mountains near Geneva. In his eighteenth year he went to Germany, passing a winter at Saxe-Weimar, where he enjoyed the court life and came to know Goethe. He spent some time at Frankfurt and Heidelberg, whence his father recalled him to Soleure; there the family were then living, fearing he might become too ‘burschikos.’ Shuttleworth maintained his devotion to botany, and made a considerable collection in the Jura during the summer of 1830. From the autumn of that year until the end of 1832 he studied in the medical faculty of the university of Edinburgh, walking the hospital during the first outbreak of cholera, making a vacation tour in the highlands, and helping his elder stepbrother Blake on his estate at Renville in the west of Ireland during the famine of 1831 and 1832. On 11 Jan. 1833 he was appointed to a captaincy in the Duke of Lancaster's own regiment by the lord-lieutenant of the county (Whittle, Preston, 1837, ii. 235), but, returning to Soleure in the following winter, he married and settled at Berne. Here he collected on the Grimsel and the Oberland, and worked particularly at Red Snow and other freshwater algæ, until weakness of the eyes compelled him to abandon the microscope. In 1835 he purchased the extensive herbarium and library of Joseph August Schultes of Zurich, the botanical collaborator of Johan Jacob Roemer. Between 1840 and 1850 he became intimate with Jean de Charpentier of Bex, a zealous botanist who had taken to conchology. Charpentier temporarily inspired Shuttleworth with his own zeal for his new subject. Shuttleworth spent money freely on his researches, sending, at his expense, the collector Blauner of Berne to Corsica, the Canaries, and ultimately to Porto Rico, where he died of consumption. Rugel, a very active collector in North America, and other travellers in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil were also largely supported by Shuttleworth, who bought their collections of shells, plants, seeds, &c. The plants he partly worked out, thus forming a very extensive and valuable annotated herbarium. Shuttleworth usually wintered in the south, owing to his tendency to gout, and, despite frequent disablement, ransacked the rich botanical hunting-ground of Var and Alpes-Maritimes. This resulted in a herbarium, formed jointly by several friends, now in the possession of M. Edmond Huet at Pamiers (Ariège), and in a ‘Catalogue des Plantes de Provence,’ which was published by M. A. Huet at Pamiers in 1889. Many of his botanical discoveries were in part due to his constant comparison of French with Italian types, while his letters to his friends Meissner, Godet, Guthnick, and others, and the notes in his herbarium evince the critical caution which made him apt in botany, as in conchology, to insist on minute differences. In 1866 his only son Henry, a promising student of medicine at Cambridge and London, died, aged 22, at his summer residence, Frohberg, near Berne. Overwhelmed with grief, Shuttleworth removed to Hyères, and gave up scientific work. He died on 19 April 1874. Shuttleworth married, in 1833, Susette, daughter of the Count de Sury of Soleure, and had two children, his son Henry, and a daughter who died at the age of seven.

Shuttleworth joined the Botanical Society of Edinburgh as an original member in 1836, became a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1856, and was also an associate of the Zoological Society and of the Lyceum of New York. The university of Basle conferred a doctor's degree upon him for his services to science, and Meissner commemorated him in the genus Shuttleworthia, now merged in Verbena. His collection of shells, considered by Mousson (Journal de Conchyliologie, xxiii. 99) one of the most remarkable in Europe, was presented after his death to the State Museum at Berne, and his herbarium of more than 150,000 specimens of flowering plants and twenty thousand cryptogams was added to the British Museum collection. An account of the various collections comprised in this herbarium appears in the official report of the department of botany in the museum for 1877 (Journal of Botany, 1878, pp. 179–80).

Besides an ‘Account of a Botanical Excursion in the Alps of Valais’ in ‘Jardine's Magazine of Zoology and Botany for 1835’ (vol. ii.), the Royal Society's Catalogue enumerates eighteen papers by Shuttleworth, beginning with a description in German of some North American species of Valerianella in ‘Flora,’ vol. xx. (1837), including several contributions, mostly malacological, to the ‘Mittheilungen d. Naturf. Gesellschaft’ of Berne, and ending with an ‘Essai critique sur quelques espèces du genre Cyclostoma’ in the ‘Journal de Conchyliologie’ for 1856 (vol. i.). Some of these papers deal with the land and fresh-water shells of Corsica, the Canaries, and the West Indies; others with the formation of loess. He also published separately: 1. ‘Nouvelles observations sur la matière coloriante de la neige rouge,’ Geneva, 1840; and 2. ‘Notitiæ Malacologicæ,’ Heft i., Berne, 1856, dedicated to Jean de Charpentier, and consisting of an introduction on classification and nomenclature (pp. 1–29), and a monograph of five little known genera of land-shells (pp. 30–90), most of the species being described as new, with nine lithographic plates, eight of which are unsigned, and presumably by the author, the last by A. Hutter. The second part of this work, which is written in German, was issued in 1878, and consists of fifteen plates, coloured by Shuttleworth, put on stone by Hutter, with descriptions by Shuttleworth, edited with synonymy by Dr. Paul Fischer, with a preface by Professor T. Studer and a ‘Nekrolog von R. J. Shuttleworth,’ by Shuttleworth's friend Guthnick, director of the Berne Botanical Garden.

[Foster's Lancashire Pedigrees, 1873; Whittle's Account of Preston, 1837, ii. 235; obituary prefixed to Shuttleworth's Notitiæ Malacologicæ, Berne, 1878.]

G. S. B.