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Jonathan Couch (1789-1870), surgeon apothecary of Polperro, was one of the pioneering natural historians of his day, paving the way for others such as Darwin and Huxley to follow. His own county of Cornwall was every bit as much a place of discovery as the Galapagos Islands and his reputation is secured by his great works, notably his four-volume Fishes of the British Islands which remains a standard work of reference today. But his lively mind also turned to the migration of birds and the habits of bats; he wrote about fossils and flowing plants, sharks and shooting stars, crabs and carpenter bees, porpoises and potato disease.
This account of his life and work, drawing on much previously unpublished material, tells the story of a remarkable man who, born in humble circumstances, rose to become one of the leading natural scientists of the 19th century.