For the past few days I have been digging through the Museum’s annual reports from the 19th-20th century. During my search one name kept cropping up: Miss Wigglesworth. She was in every report for a long period of time so I decided to look into her.
Grace Wigglesworth was a student at Owens College from 1900 (which became The Victoria University of Manchester in 1904 and would later become the University of Manchester). She graduated with a B.Sc (Hons) in Botany in 1903 and later gained a Master’s degree in palaeobotany.
In 1908 she was admitted as a fellow in the Linnean Society of London, which housed (and still does) the collection and personal library of the father of modern taxonomy Carl Linnaeus. In January 1911, Wigglesworth was appointed Assistant Keeper of botany at the Manchester Museum. Assistant Keepers were in charge of curating the collections. During her time as Keeper, Wigglesworth cared and organised the museum’s collections, worked on gallery displays and lectured at the University.
Wigglesworth was the second female within the Herbarium staff and held the post for 33 years. Even after she retired in 1944, Wigglesworth continued to help around the Herbarium until the 1950’s.
We had an enquiry from Australia this week about one of the specimens we have in the collection. It is one of the oldest we have and probably collected around 1793 by John White. He was the Surgeon-General at Port Jackson (now Sydney).
He sent his specimens to James Edward Smith, the first president of the Linnean Society of London. J. E. Smith gave away many of his duplicate specimens and eventually some of this duplicates came to Manchester Museum via an extraordinary character called The Prince of Mantua and Montferrat (he wasn’t a real prince but more of that later!)
You can see a more detailed image of this specimen at the Manchester Museum’s main website here