Thomas Pennant : biography
Thomas Pennant (14 June O.S. 1726 – 16 December 1798) was a Welsh naturalist, traveller, writer and antiquarian. He was born and lived his whole life at his family estate, Downing Hall near Whitford, Flintshire in Wales.
As a naturalist he had a great curiosity, observing the geography, geology, plants, animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish around him and recording what he saw and heard about. He wrote acclaimed books including British Zoology, the History of Quadrupeds, Arctic Zoology and Indian Zoology although he never travelled further afield than continental Europe. He knew and maintained correspondence with many of the scientific figures of his day. His books influenced the writings of Samuel Johnson. As an antiquarian, he amassed a considerable collection of art and other works, largely selected for their scientific interest. Many of these works are now housed at the National Library of Wales.
As a traveller he visited Scotland and many other parts of Britain and wrote about them. Many of his travels took him to places that were little known to the British public and the travelogues he produced, accompanied by painted and engraved colour plates, were much appreciated. Each tour started at his home and related in detail the route, the scenery, the habits and activities of the people he met, their customs and superstitions and the wildlife he saw or heard about. He travelled on horseback accompanied by his servant, Moses Griffiths, who sketched the things they encountered, later to work these up into illustrations for the books. He was an amiable man with a large circle of friends and was still busily following his interests into his sixties. He enjoyed good health throughout his life and died at Downing at the age of seventy two.
Works by Pennant
- A Tour in Scotland 1769. John Monk, 1771.
- A Synopsis of Quadrupeds. John Monk, 1771.
- A Tour in Scotland, and Voyage to the Hebrides 1772. John Monk, 1774.
- Genera of Birds. Balfour and Smellie, 1773.
- British Zoology. Benjamin White, 1776-1777.
- A History of Quadrupeds. John Monk, 1781.
- Free Thoughts on the Militia Laws. Benjamin White, 1781.
- The Journey to Snowdon. Henry Hughs, 1781.
- The Journey from Chester to London. Benjamin White, 1782.
- Arctic Zoology. Henry Hughs, 1784-1787.
- Of the Patagonians. George Allan (private press), 1788.
- Of London. Robert Faulder, 1790.
- Indian Zoology. Robert Faulder, 1790.
- A Letter to a Member of Parliament: On Mail-Coaches. R. Faulder, 1792.
- The Literary Life of the Late Thomas Pennant. Benjamin and J. White, 1793.
- A Tour in Wales 1770. H.D. Symonds, 1795.
- The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell. Benjamin and J. White, 1796.
- The View of Hindoostan. Henry Hughs, 1798-1800.
- Western Hindoostan. Henry Hughs, 1798.
- The View of India extra Gangem, China, and Japan. L. Hansard, 1800.
- The View of the Malayan Isles, New Holland, and the Spicy Isles. John White, 1800.
- A Journey from London to the Isle of Wight. E. Harding, 1801.
- From Dover to the Isle of Wight. Wilson, 1801.
- A Tour from Downing to Alston-Moor. E. Harding, 1801.
- A Tour from Alston-Moor to Harrowgate, and Brimham Crags. J. Scott, 1804.
Pennant received his early education at Wrexham grammar school, before moving to Thomas Croft's school in Fulham in 1740. At the age of twelve, Pennant later recalled, he had been inspired with a passion for natural history through being presented with Francis Willughby's Ornithology. In 1744 he entered Queen's College, Oxford, later moving to Oriel College. Like many students from a wealthy background, he left Oxford without taking a degree, although in 1771 his work as a zoologist was recognised with an honorary degree.
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