by Roger F.Vaughan B.A., B.Sc.
Dr Thomas Wright (9th November 1809 - November 1884) was born at Paisley in Scotland. He studied at the Royal college of Surgeons in Dublin, where he soon gained an extensive knowledge of anatomy and pathology. A dissecting wound halted for a time his anatomical career. In 1832 he went to the College of Surgeons in London. He graduated as M.D. from St.Andrew's University in 1846, soon after this he went to live in Cheltenham, where he became Surgeon to the Cheltenham Dispensary and Surgeon to the General Hospital. He was a supporter of the teaching of Natural Science in colleges and schools and was always ready to help in the cause of popular education. In 1846 he became one of the first members of the Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club.
During his years of study he spent too many years using a microscope this threatened to damage his eyes, so he gave it up and took up palaeontology as a hobby in his spare time. He made a large collection of fossil echinoderms from the local Oolitic Limestones and was to have published a monograph on them with Edward Forbes, but Forbes died before the work was properly underway. Wright took on the task by himself, publishing monographs in the Palaeontographical Society on Fossil Oolitic Echinodermata (1855-80), Fossil Cretaceous Echinodermata (1864-82) and Liassic Ammonitidae (1878-84). He published some 32 papers in journals as diverse as "The Annals and Magazine of Natural History" in 1851, 1852, 1854 and 1855, it was these articles that made Forbes aware of Wright's work. He also published in the "Reports of the British Association" in 1856, 1860 and 1864. The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society in 1856, 1858, 1860, 1864, 1870 and 1873. He was awarded the Wollaston Medal in 1878. He also wrote for The Geological Magazine in 1864, 1865 and 1870, the Woolhope Field Club Transactions in 1870 as well as papers in the Cotteswold Naturalist's Field Club Proceedings in 1853, 1860, 1865, 1868 and 1872. Some of his early papers for the Cotteswold Field Club had already been published elsewhere especially those of 1853, which had previously had appeared in the Annals and Magazine of Natural history.
Wright's monograph on the "Lias Ammonites of the British Isles" used fossils collected from the Cotswold Hills and show the remarkable morphological changes through which Ammonites pass in the process of their evolution. It is a little surprising given all the evidence before him, that he didn't accepted Charles Darwin's theory of "Natural Selection" and evolution, but spoke against it at meetings of the Field Club, in this opinion he was at that time supported by Edwin Witchell, though Witchell later took the opposite view. Wright was a great visitor of museums, searching out and examining and describing specimens from their collections, the results can be seen in his publications. He was still proof reading his works almost to the end, rousing himself from a lingering illness, determined that he would not leave his task unfinished.
After his death his collection was sold by the dealer F.H.Butler, the British Museum (NH) made selections and the rest was dispersed to other collectors including S.S.Buckman. Some of his collections are in the Natural History Museum, B.G.S. Keyworth and the National Museum of Victoria, Melborne.
Updated and corrected 20.6.1999
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