Francis Willoughby, FRS

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Francis Willoughby, FRS

Birthplace: Middleton Hall, Warwickshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: March 07, 1672 (36)
Middleton, Warwickshire, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Francis Willoughby-Eresby, Sir and Cassandra Willoughby
Husband of Emma Child
Father of Cassandra Brydges, Duchess of Chandos; Sir Francis Willoughby 1st Bt of Wollaton and Thomas Willoughby, 1st Baron Middleton

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About Francis Willoughby, FRS

Francis Willoughby or Willughby was born at Middleton Hall, Warwickshire, England on 22 November 1635 and died 3 July 1672. He was an English ornithologist and ichthyologist; student, friend and colleague of the naturalist John Ray at Cambridge University, and shared some of his expeditions and interests. Ray saw Willoughby's Ornithologia libri tres through the press after Willoughby's sudden death.

Parents: Sir Francis Willoughby and Cassandra Ridgway


  1. In 1667 to Emma Barnard d. 16 October 1725, daughter of Sir Henry Barnard of Bridgnorth and London, as her first marriage. She married secondly to Sir Josiah Child, 1st Bt., son of Richard Child and Elizabeth Roycroft.

3 children of Sir Francis & Emma include:

  1. Francis, died at the age of nineteen
  2. Cassandra Willoughby d. 18 Jul 1735 married James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, son of James Brydges, 8th Baron Chandos of Sudeley and Elizabeth Barnard, who was a patron of Mark Catesby.
  3. Thomas Willoughby, 1st Baron Middleton of Middleton+1 b. c 1670, d. 2 Apr 1729 who became Baron Middleton, one of ten peers created by Queen Anne.[3]

Life and work

Willoughby studied at Bishop Vesey's Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2] At Cambridge Francis Willoughby was taught by the naturalist John Ray. In 1662 they travelled to the west coast of England to study the breeding seabirds. Between 1663 and 1666 they toured Europe together, travelling through the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. They separated at Naples and Willoughby returned home via Spain. On returning to England they made plans to publish the results of their studies. Willoughby died from pleurisy during the preparation of this work, but Ray published Willoughby's Ornithologia libri tres in 1676, with an English edition two years later. This is considered the beginning of scientific ornithology in Europe, revolutionizing ornithological taxonomy by organizing species according to their physical characteristics. Willoughby and Ray were among the first to dismiss the older inaccuracies of Aristotle. Aristotle had claimed that swallows hibernated but Willoughby and Ray (1678:212, quoted in Raven 1942:328) wrote: “To us it seems more probable that they fly away into hot countries, viz. Egypt, Ethiopia etc.” Ray also published Willoughby's De Historia piscium (1686).

The Willoughby family seat, Wollaton Hall, now owned by the City of Nottingham, houses Willoughby and Ray's natural history collection of stuffed animals and birds. The Willoughby papers are amongst the Middleton collection held at the Nottingham University Library.


  1. Spelling variation of Willoughby University of Nottingham Accessed May 20, 2007
  2. Willughby, Francis in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. Allen, Elsa G. (1951). "The History of American Ornithology before Audubon". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser. 41 (3): 387–591. doi:10.2307/1005629.


  1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume VIII, page 697. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  2. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 92.
  3. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 130.
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Francis Willoughby, FRS's Timeline

November 22, 1635
Warwickshire, England
March 7, 1672
Age 36
Middleton, Warwickshire, UK
April 9, 1672