October 2012: Edward Smith-Stanley

Published on 1st October 2012

Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby and second President of the Linnean Society (1775-1851)

letter of 21 April 1809 to James Edward Smith (1759-1828)

On 27th September the Linnean Society and the Society for the History of Natural History held a joint meeting on Edward Lear (1812-1888).

One of Lear’s earliest patrons was Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, known as Lord Stanley until 1832. Lord Stanley was a keen naturalist, and became a leader in the science of zoological classifications, particularly the taxonomy of birds. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1807. In a letter of 21 April 1809 to James Edward Smith (1759-1828), first Linnean President, he apologised for being a "lazy and unprofitable associate” of the Society. 

Zoological Society

However, he soon rectified this, becoming a member of Council from 1810, playing a central role in the Society gaining  the royal patronage of the Prince Regent in 1811, and was a Vice-President from 1816. Following Smith’s death he became the second Linnean President, a position he held until 1834.

Lord Stanley was also President of the Zoological Society from 1831 to 1851, where his encouragement of collectors greatly contributed to his menagerie at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool. Between 1832 and 1837 Lear made several visits to Knowsley to draw Lord Stanley’s collections of rare birds and animals, some of which appeared in (1846). The image on the left shows one of Lear’s outstanding illustrations in this work – the Stanley Crane (Scops paradisea), named in honour of Lord Stanley. Lear’s  was published in the same year and also had its origins in Knowsley Hall, where he would entertain the younger members of the large household, including with The Owl and the Pussycat.