- Also known as
primary name: Pennant, Thomas
- individual; scientist/engineer; British; Male
- Life dates
- Antiquarian and naturalist; his interest in the latter stemmed from the gift of Francis Willoughby's 'Ornithology' (1678) at the age of twelve. Pennant later wrote: '[this] ‘first gave me a taste for that study, and incidentally a love for that of natural history in general'. (Pennant, Literary Life, p. 1) His first publications were in the Royal Society's journal 'Philosophical Transactions'. In the early 1750s he took part in varios mineralogical journeys in Wales and Ireland. Over 800 of Pennant's specimens collected on these travels can be found in the British Museum collections.
The first volume of 'British Zoology' was published in 1766 though he had begun writing it as early as 1761; familial tragedy and obligations prevented him from completing it sooner. He spent six months travelling in Europe in 1765, going through France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. In this time he became acquainted with other naturalists, such as Voltaire and the German Peter Pallas.
Five editions of British Zoology were published between 1766 and 1812. Thanks to its popularity, Pennant was made a member of the Royal Society in 1767. He went on to write 'Indian Geology' (1769), 'Synopsis of Quadrupeds' (1771) - republished in a revised and enlarged edition as 'A History of Quadrupeds' (1781), 'Genera of Birds' (1773), 'Arctic Zoology' (3 vols, 1784-1787). For his contribution to American zoology, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1791.
In 1769, Pennant made a tour of the Scottish Highlands, from which enused his book 'A Tour in Scotland' (1771). He undertook a second tour in 1772 that included the Hebridies; this became 'Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides' (1774). Both were very well received by the public. Pennant made several other tours around Britain: of northern England in 1773, of Northamptonshire and of the Isle of Man in 1774, of Warwickshire in 1776, of Kent in 1776, and of Cornwall in 1787. He also went on sereval Welsh tours in the 1770s. His many journeys to London provided him with the material for 'A Journey from Chester to London' (1782), and his son David posthumously edited and published 'An Account of London', which was very well reviewed by the critics and became a popular publication for grangerising.
- T. Pennant, The Literary Life of the late Thomas Pennant esq., by himself, 1793.
R. P. Evans, ‘A sketch of the life of Thomas Pennant, the literary squire of Downing’, in T. Pennant, The history of the parishes of Whiteford and Holywell (1988).
M.-A. Constantine & N. Leask (eds.), Enlightenment Travel and British Identities: Thomas Pennant's Tours in Scotland and Wales, Anthem Press, 2017.