Alexander Henry Haliday

Alexander Henry Haliday

Alexander Henry Haliday, also known as Enrico Alessandro Haliday, Alexis Heinrich Haliday, or sometimes Halliday (1806–1870), was an Irish entomologist. He is primarily known for his work on Hymenoptera, Diptera and Thysanoptera, but worked on all insect orders and on many aspects of entomology.

Haliday was born in Holywood, County Down, Ireland. A boyhood friend of Robert Templeton, he divided his time between Ireland and Lucca, now part of Italy, where he was a co-founder with Camillo Rondani and Adolfo Targioni Tozzetti of the Italian Entomological Society. He was a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Belfast Natural History Society, a Member of the Microscopical Society of London, a Member of the Galileiana Academy of Arts and Science and a Fellow of the (now Royal) Entomological Society of London.

With Hermann Loew, Alexander Haliday was among the greatest dipterists of the 19th century and one of the most renowned British entomologists of the day. His achievements were in four main fields: description,[1] higher taxonomy, synonymy and biology. He erected many major taxa including the order Thysanoptera and the families Mymaridae and Ichneumonidae. Most of Haliday's correspondence with British and continental entomologists is in the library of the Royal Entomological Society, while other parts are in the Hope Department Library at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Haliday died in Lucca in 1870.

It was said of him:

He was our first entomologist. His ideas of classification and tabulation were so logical, his latinity so classical, and his knowledge of whatever he touched so masterly that I fear we shall be long before we look upon his like again
Westwood, Obituary (Proc. Ent. Soc. London 1870: xlvii



Alexander Henry Haliday was born in Clifden, Holywood, a small seaside town in County Down, Ireland on 21 November 1806. He was the eldest child of Dr William Haliday (1763-1836) and Marion Webster.[2][3][4] His father was the nephew and heir of Dr Alexander Henry Haliday,[5] one of Belfast’s best known physicians and political activists.[6][7]

The Haliday family was Protestant, though not religious, and clearly well-placed, holding 3,228 acres (13.06 km2) of farmland in County Antrim valued at £3,054.00 in 1820.[8] The family also owned properties in Holywood and in Dublin and had a cloth merchant business and shipping interests.[9] His relative, Charles Haliday, was an Irish historian and antiquary. Haliday's brother, William Robert (d 1878), was a lieutenant-colonel in the 36th Regiment of Foot quartered at Windsor, and later rose to the rank of lieutenant-general. Aside from a collection of parrots from Australia, Malacca and Malabar, collected in the 1840s, William Haliday, whose name on the army register is spelled Halliday, is not known as a naturalist. Haliday's sister was named Hortense. She was interested in botany. Little is known of Hortense except that she suffered from tuberculosis as did the rest of the family. She is charmingly enshrined in Curtis' folio 4569 of British Entomology - being illustrations and descriptions of the genera of insects found in Great Britain and Ireland May 1, 1836.[10]

For the beautiful drawing of Rosa hibernica (the Belfast Rose) I am indebted to Miss Haliday.

The Haliday family had relatives in Lucca, Italy. They were the Pisani's. – “I have been a long time about writing to you but the return of my sister and some other relatives from Italy who had not been home for many years has filled our house and occupied my thoughts mostly ie my cousin Mme Pisani, her husband and three nieces with myself" he wrote. The Pisani's were a prominent Lucca family and Haliday a frequent visitor to "Campagna bella e chiamate di Tuscanys a Firenze, a Lucca, a Pisa ed al Cinque Terre che la campagna della Toscana allunga dall'aria croccante e libera del Apennines ad alcune delle linee costiere più belle dell'Italia." The frequent presence of the Pisani family led to, according to Camillo Rondani, "Alessandro's" learning Italian "al suo ginocchio delle madri, come un nativo"[11] as a child.

In 1858, Haliday obtained a confirmation of a coat of arms from the Ulster King of Arms. The confirmation was for himself and other descendants of his father.[6]


Haliday and his lifelong friend Robert Templeton, (though they were to see nothing of each other after 1833) began their education at the Belfast Academical Institution. Opened in 1814, the school had strong leanings towards natural history. Haliday, aged twelve, studied Classics first, then two years later took up Arithmetic and then two years after that, Mathematics. Both boys were taught drawing by an Italian master whose talents evidently lay in teaching as much as skill. Both boys became skilled illustrators. The natural history lessons from George Crawford Hyndman, were not a part of the curriculum but formal. Hyndman was an avid insect collector and one of the founding members of the Belfast Natural History Society which had a Museum and Library.[12] He made much use of The naturalist's pocket-book by George Graves, a text deployed by both Haliday and Templeton. Haliday left the Belfast Academical Institution and the family home in nearby Holywood, at fifteen, moving to Dublin where he entered Trinity College in 1822. He graduated in 1827. Haliday was awarded a gold medal in classics. After graduating, Haliday then aged twenty, went to Paris in late 1827, staying for almost a year.[10]

A trio of entomologists

In the years from 1832 to 1840, Haliday collected insects in many parts of England, most often with Francis Walker and John Curtis[13] at Darent, Southgate and other parts of Southern England. With one or both of these lifelong friends who shared his passion for picturesque scenery, he made collecting excursions to the Western Isles, Skye the Isle of Bute and other parts of Scotland (1834), South and West Ireland (1835), the Lake district (1836), and North Wales (1837).[14] Correspondence between the three reveals close personal as well as entomological ties. I have some idea of publishing the whole in 8 vol with a couple of plates, if I can secure myself from being a loan by it and Mr. Walker has kindly undertaken the Diptera so that we shall I trust make an interesting volume out of it. I hope your brother will arrive safe from abroad and that he may surprise you with a pretty collection of Hymenops, and if you have any duplicates I shall be most thankful for them. I often wish you were my neighbour that I might have the pleasure of looking over with you some of the wonders that delight me so much from the tropical climates, as well as to look over new works and have the benefit of your opinion on many subjects, you may therefore guess how disappointed I am to learn that you have no prospect of visiting London at present. Curtis to Haliday 13 February 1833

I ought to be very grateful for the trouble you have taken to illustrate my monograph and in accepting your services I hold myself to be under great obligation to you. I am much pleased with your plate – it illustrates all the most remarkable forms of Platygaster and I agree with you that typical species and those which recede furthest from them make the most useful figures …. I will have your plate engraved very shortly for I wish to publish the Platygaster before the end of July. FW to AHH letter May 20, 1835

In 1835, he joined William Thompson on a tour of England and Wales which began in London at the British Museum and the Zoological Gardens and included visits to Matlock, the Lake District (Vale of Newlands, Crummock Water, all of the lakes of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, except Lowes-Water, Ennerdale, and Wast-wate), Llangollen and Snowdon.

Metropolitan Dublin

In the years 1825 to 1840, Haliday spent most of his time in Dublin and from 1833, living at No. 3, North Cumberland Street (in later years his Dublin address was No. 8, Harcourt Street). He returned frequently to Clifden, however, and also spent much time in London and more than occasionally visited Lucca, staying with the Pisani's. Aside from its modern, metropolitan pleasures, Dublin had competing attractions for Haliday: the Dublin Society housing the Leske Collection, the Marsh Library and that of Trinity College, the Linnaean Garden (a garden presenting the 24 classes of Carl Linnaeus' Systema Naturae and now part of the National Botanic Gardens), the Opera and the Theatre Royal.[10]

Times of strife

Anfiteatro Lucca

Between the years of 1841 and 1848, Haliday seemed to have spent most, if not all, of his time away from Ireland, mainly in the Pisani family home in Lucca. In these years, Europe was riven by conflict culminating in the Revolutions of 1848. In 1842, he was appointed High Sheriff of Antrim and he resided at his residence in the townland of Ballyhowne in the parish of Carnmoney .[15] Prior to this, the Irish Potato Famine, beginning in 1845, took as many as one million lives from hunger and disease by 1849.[10]

More settled times

In the 1850s, Haliday, once more a resident in Dublin, was employed as a lecturer in Invertebrate Zoology at the University of Dublin from 1854 to 1860. During these years, he also edited parts of the Natural History Review, gave lectures at meetings of the Dublin University Zoological Association (Trinity College) and curated the insect collections at the same University. Here, he renewed his interest in geology (Haliday, as did most educated people, had a well read copy of Charles Lyell's 3 volume book, Principles of Geology, in published between 1830 and 1833). He became a member of the Dublin University Geological Society on its foundation, not only attending meetings but the reading papers of geologists unable to attend in person. Presumably, his language skills were also useful. A manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy proves that Haliday gave a series of talks on fossil insects to the Dublin geologists illustrating this with specimens some from his own and the Universities collections. In these years, he made regular visits to London, usually staying with Henry Tibbats Stainton. The visits coincided with the more important meetings of the Entomological Society of London. Visits to the continent included two trips to Switzerland, staying near Monte Rosa with entomological friends.[10]


In February 1862, Haliday took up residence in Villa San Cordeo in Lucca, staying in Paris en route, to study the important Johann Wilhelm Meigen collection. Changes of address in Lucca became the rule in March, Casa Pelosi, May, Monte Bonelli and in 1863 Villa Buia and Casa Massoni. Following a trip to Sicily, he moved into Villa Pisani with his cousin, Mme. Pisani and her family (husband and three nieces). Visits to see entomologists and expeditions became much more frequent. He collected insects over much of northern Italy in these years.[10]

Travels in Italy

From 1862 until his death, Haliday travelled widely in Italy, mainly in the North - Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Aosta Valley and in Tuscany although he made two trips to Sicily. Various trips to Switzerland, France and Bavaria followed, and in 1865, with Edward Perceval Wright, he made an entomological expedition to Portugal. In May and June 1868, he toured Sicily with Wright.

I am back but a few days from an excursion in the Apennines cut short by unfavourable weather. I took a horse and man from baths of Lucca and found myself at Abetone the pass between Tuscany and Modena — ascending Giovo the highest point of the central Apennines which lies a little detached from the chain so commanding a more extensive view including both seas Adriatic and Tyrrhenian but I saw on the top only fog, rain and rock. Rondinago the next highest (in the main chain) was little better as to view and in the mist my guide who had never been at the summit took me up the most precipitous side really a perilous climb in fog — I had intended going on to some of the Apuan Alps (or Carrara range) but this experience discouraged me — also I found that the season was too far advanced in respect to vegetation and consequently insects

The second tour of Sicily with Wright in 1870, was his last. He died in Lucca.[10]

Some of his collection localities included Emilia-Romagna, Comacchio and Tuscany.


Haliday was a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, the Microscopical Society of London the Entomological Society of London, the Linnean Society of London, the Dublin University Zoological Association, the Dublin University Geological Society the Stettin Entomological Society and La Società Entomologica Italiana or,in English, the Italian Entomological Society, of which he was a cofounder a Member of the Entomological Society of Stettin and a Member of the Galileiana Academy of Arts and Science.

Haliday the man

A cultured man Haliday was quite at home at the opera and was an avid concert and theatre-goer in both Dublin and Lucca and, occasionally Rome. Occasional literary references point to the novel and, naturally the classics and we know of family visits especially with Madame Pisani (of whom he appears to have been extraordinarily fond) "to view the paintings" He was, presumably, culturally no different from any other highly educated European gentleman.Invitations are to be found among the papers in the Royal Irish Academy- to M. Gounod's "Sappho", first performed in Paris in 1851, Verdi's "Rigoletto", "Il trovatore", "La traviata" and "Les vêpres siciliennes", Schumann's "Manfred"; Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Berlioz' "L'enfance du Christ". Such advanced musical tastes and opportunities usually come early in life and by were presumably instilled in Hortense and Henry by the Pisani's rather than by Haliday's provincial and decidedly dour family.It is worth noting, but no more, that Giacomo Puccini, the Italian opera composer,was born in Lucca, Haliday's other home town in 1859. Business, or rather lack of it did not occupy Haliday.There is no reference in his will to other than minor amounts. He died without leaving property or significant sums of money.As to personality,there is much humour in Haliday's writing all of it good natured and he was very tolerant of others failings though not always. Modesty was not a virtue; Haliday was by no mean self-effacing. Far from it -

A seafog, beyond the headland of Piombino, obscured the Mediterranean with the islands Elba, Corsica etc. But on that side the wild serrated coast of the Apeninne Alps was distinctly drawn and before us, from the one extremity where it first rises out of the Lunigiana valley, to the other where it ends in the half detached group of the Pisan mountains whereby the Pisans cannot see Lucca

The quote, which, in full is, in English, "Hunting the wolf and whelps upon the mountain for which the Pisans cannot see Lucca" is from Dante's Inferno Canto 23. No matter what the context Haliday simply could not resist showing his literary and other prowess whenever the opportunity presented itself. Religion did not especially interest him, though he was a regular attender at the Protestant church in Lucca, the author of a curious anonymous work Sunday school rhymes and other metrical pieces by a teacher possibly written by Hortense and he was an opponent of Transcendentalism. His political views were less progressive, at least in respect of the American Civil War and the Risorgimento. Despite the disordered nature of much of Haliday's life and suggestions that he suffered from nervous dyspepsia (belied by much of his writing) by and large he was in robust health.[10]

Major achievements

In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister Goethe Natur und Kunst

Important works

The following are the more important works of Haliday


Haliday and the Linnean Collection

In the winter of 1847-8 Carl August Dohrn joined Haliday in London for a study of the Linnean collection later to be published in the Stettin Ent. Zeit for 1851 (Volume 12 131-145)under the German title Wissenschaftliche Mittheilungen Sendschreiben von Alexis H. Haliday an C. A. Dohrn über die Dipteren der in London befindlichen Linnéischen Sammlung Aus dem Englischen uberstez von Anna Dohrn but also. Über die Dipteren der in London befindlichen Linnéischen Sammlung .Dohrn, with his daughter Anna was staying with Henry Tibbats Stainton in Lewisham at the time. It was she, on a later visit to London who translated the account. Though Dohrn appears as author, he simply communicated the paper.In many bibliographies the paper is attributed to Haliday alone. This is the only known early account of the Diptera collection of Carl von Linné, examined 64 years after its acquisition by the Linnean Society.

Haliday and Darwin

"No branch of natural science has more fully felt the beneficial impulse and stimulus of Darwin's labors than entomology" Charles Valentine Riley 1883

In 1837 the results of Haliday's work on the Hymenoptera collected by the naturalists on two ships, H.M.S. 'Adventure' and H.M.S. 'Beagle' which had over three years explored the coasts of South America were published by Haliday as Descriptions etc., of the insects collected by Captain P.P. King, R.N., F.R.S. in the survey of the straits of Magellan. Descriptions etc. of the hymenoptera in the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 7: 316-331. This came about through John Curtis.

I know not if I ever told you that I had undertaken to describe the insects collected in Captain King's survey of the Straits of Magellan, but they occupy some of my leisure moments and I have now got them into order and have labelled the whole so that I know from what place each specimen cameo Mr. Walker has kindly undertaken to describe the Diptera and I wish to ask you if you would like to undertake the Hymenoptera, there are not so many species, Ichneumonidae, ants, wasps and bees. I am entitled to the 2nd specimens which I shall have great pleasure in awarding to you if the undertaking would afford you any satisfaction. I would figure one of two of the most curious or conspicuous and any time before Midsummer would do
Curtis to Haliday

As a consequence when the Beagle docked at Falmouth on a stormy night in 1836 the Diptera and Hymenoptera were progressively dispatched ( between 1837 and 1839), to Haliday in Dublin by Francis Walker who was to describe most of the "Chalcidites" and some of the Diptera. Although Haliday himself published nothing on these his notes and comments were published by Walker.

The Darwin insects retained by Haliday are in the National Museum of Ireland, they, and the circumstances are detailed by Smith.[17]

Coleoptera and Lepidoptera

The standard works on the Coleoptera of the northern parts of Europe were in Haliday's time in mostly in French, Latin, and German and these were indispensable for monographic study. Haliday possessed copies of Gyllenhal's Insecta Suecica : Coleoptera sive Eleuterata (1808–27), Erichson's Die Kafer der Mark Brandenburg 1837 and later works by Schaum, Kraatz, von Kiesenwetter, Redtenbacher, Fairmaire and Laboulbene.He had a comprehensive collection of Coleoptera and sought authoritatively named specimens from English and continental authorities. However he wrote very little on this group. The British Isles literature for this popular group was very confused by problems of synonymy recalled as The Fifth Labour of Heracles since the largely unacademic entomologists elsewhere in the British Isles lacked language skills. This problem also arose in Lepidoptera which Haliday largely ignored also, although maintaining lists and collections. In Lepidoptera he lacked the essential continental literature. In Ireland also the microscopic Hymenoptera and Diptera are more readily collected, especially in the North, and the macrofauna diversity is very limited by geography so that Ireland the Hymenoptera and Diptera offer more scope for taxonomic study especially of higher taxa.


Haliday worked mainly with very small insects. Study of the tiny parts required dissection, glass slide mounting and a very high quality microscope. The equipment was obtained from the London microscopist Andrew Pritchard. Whole specimens were mounted on card using gum, the card being transfixed by an entomological pin of German manufacture.

The minute Hymenoptera are best collected by beating into, and sweeping with, a net made of fine gauze, and Mr. Haliday recommends me to collect them into quills (shaft of a bird feather with the ends sealed by tiny corks), and afterwards to empty their contents into hot water, by which means their wings are naturally expanded ; then by introducing a card under them to take them out of the water, arranging the legs and wings when necessary with a camel's hair pencil, and leaving them upon the card till they are dry, they may afterwards be taken off with a penknife, and gummed upon the points of small pieces of drawing- or card-paper of a long triangular form - Curtis British Entomology July 1st 1830

Since the descriptions were necessarily based on more than one specimen they may sometimes be ambiguous (based on more than one species).Collecting and general methodology followed the instructions given by George Samouelle in The entomologist's useful compendium; or, An introduction to the knowledge of British insects, comprising the best means of obtaining and preserving them, and a description of the apparatus generally used and Abel Ingpen's manual Instructions for collecting, rearing, and preserving British & foreign insects : also for collecting and preserving crustacea and shells.On collecting trips he used a Coddington lens.


Haliday's collection comprising 78 boxes was presented by Trinity of Ireland College to the Museum of Science and Art (now the National Museum of Ireland) in 1882, twelve years after Haliday's death. The dating of the parts of the collection is confusing but the bulk was put together before 1860. Although the collection was damaged, and substantial portions lost, by removal to Italy and by insect attack, it remains a very large insect collection. The bulk of the material collected by Haliday himself is in the orders Hymenoptera and Diptera. In the Hymenoptera where the material is in its original state it is laid out in numbered blocks of systematised taxa, usually disparate groups (representing species) disposed below the appropriate generic name. Most of Haliday’s own material is from Ireland but there are also many Haliday specimens from England, Scotland, Italy and Sicily. In addition to the specialist collections of Hymenoptera and Diptera there is Haliday’s own general collection (mainly Coleoptera) and a large body of material given by other entomologists. The largest single source of such gifts was evidently Francis Walker, the London entomologist with whom Haliday had a career-long association. The Walker insects are, in the main, Hymenoptera and Diptera but insects of most other orders occur in it especially Coleoptera and Thysanoptera. The next largest gift is from John Curtis. Other collectors represented are James Charles Dale (British, Coleoptera); Jean Antoine Dours (Europe, Hymenoptera and important since Dours own collection was burned in a fire in the U.S.A.) ; Arnold Förster or Foerster (Europe, Hymenoptera); Hermann Loew (Europe, Diptera); Fernandino Maria Piccioli (Italy, Apidae, Tenthredinidae and Homoptera); G.T.Rudd (British, general); William Wilson Saunders (Corfu and Albania, Aculeata); JamesFrancis Stephens (British, general) and Thomas Vernon Wollaston (British, general). There is in addition a considerable material taken by Charles Darwin on the Beagle Voyage.[18]


Haliday was a very influential figure in entomology as his contacts and correspondence show[19] . They included:

Taxa erected by Haliday

Superfamilies of Hymenoptera include Proctotrupoidea. Families of Hymenoptera include Mymaridae, Platygastridae, Scelionidae, Trichogrammatidae and along with Francis Walker, the families Agaonidae, Encyrtidae, Eupelmidae, Eurytomidae and Torymidae. Subfamilies include Pireninae, Spalangiinae, Bethylinae fr:Bethylinae, Agriotypinae.He also erected the family Japygidae. Unranked taxa (circumscriptional names)include Terebrantia (bis lectum)[20] Families of Diptera include Sarcophagidae


Based on Hagen Hagen, H.A., 1862-1863[21] and[22]

Missing Literature Hymenopterorum Synopsis and Methodum Fallenii ut plurimum accommodata (Belfast) 4pg. s.titulo.was privately printed in Belfast and dated only by contemporary reference (1839). Haliday,s name appears nowhere. It is very likely that Haliday had printed many such works, wishing to avoid typographical and editorial errors, but these remain untraced, since anonymous and therefore uncatalogued.

Publications listing Haliday type specimens


Institutions (manuscripts, letters)

Source Publications

Source Obituaries

See also


  1. "NomenclatorZoologicus". Zoological Society of London.
  2. Anon., 1837 The Bible Christian designed to advocate the sufficiency of scripture and the right of private judgement, in matters of faith. New Series 1: 252 (mentions the death of Haliday’s father at Clifden).
  3. Anon., 1870 The Law Times: The Journal and Record of The law and the Lawyers from May to October 1870. 49: 277 (This obituary was written because Haliday was a member of the Irish Bar although he never practiced. His father and mother mentioned above are included)
  4. Foster, J. W. and Chesney, H. C. G, 1977 Nature in Ireland: A Scientific and Cultural History. Dublin, Lilliput Press.
  5. 1 2 National Library of Ireland
  6. National Dictionary of Biography Vol 24
  7. = Wills and Admons. 1871 Dublin
  8. = Halliday, A.H., Holywood, Co. Down. 1838. T.1053(2) PRONI Minutes and records of the Presbytery of Antrim. Vols.4. 1834-1839. D.O.D.509(3075-713080 PRONI Fee farm grants for Co. Antrim.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Nash, R. and O'Connor, J.P. , 2011 Notes on the Irish entomologist Alexander Henry Haliday (1806-1870) Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society 35:64-112 7 plates ISSN 0332-1185
  10. = Letters in Bibliotek Eberswalde-Finow BEF DDR
  11. ' Nash, R. and Ross, H.C.G., 1985 The development of natural history in early 19th century Ireland in From Linnaeus to Darwin: commentaries on the history of biology and geology Society for the bibliography of Natural History 13:27
  12. Ordish, G., 1974 John Curtis and the Pioneering of Pest Control. Reading: Osprey
  13. Curtis, J. , 1824-1840 British Entomology, being illustrations and descriptions of the genera of insects found in Great Britain and Ireland; containing coloured figures from nature of the most rare and beautiful species, and in many instances of the plants upon which they are found London, the Author
  14. Francis Joseph Bigger, ed. (1905). Ulster Journal of Archaeology. vol. XI. Belfast: The Linenhall Press. pp. 78–83.
  15. Osten Sacken. C.R., 1903. Record of my life work in entomology Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  16. Smith, K. G. V. 1987. Darwin's insects: Charles Darwin's entomological notes, with an introduction and comments by Kenneth G. V. Smith. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series. Vol. 14(1): 1-143.scanned reference
  17. Nash, R, and O'Connor, J.P , 1982 Notes on the entomological collection of A. H. Haliday (1806–1870) in the National Museum of Ireland with a recommendation for type designations. Proc.R.Ir.Acad. 82(B):169-174, 4 plates
  18. Pedersen, B., 2002 A Guide to the Archives of the Royal Entomological Society. London Ashgate Publishing Company for the Royal Entomological Society of London
  19. "EOL".
  20. Hagen, H.A., 1862-1863 Bibliotheca entomologica. 2 vols, xii, 566 + 512 pp. Engelmann, Leipzig.
  21. Anon. , 1864-1870 The Record of Zoological Literature (from 1870 Zoological Record )

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