Thomas Quiller Couch

Thomas Quiller Couch was Q’s father. Like his own father Jonathan and his brothers John and Richard, he studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London. Thomas worked as a doctor in Polperro and later in Bodmin. He is best known for his botanical studies, although he did not make as great a contribution as his father or his brother Richard. It is likely that his real interest was in art and he illustrated some of his father’s scientific work.

Some basic biographical information is given below. To learn more about Thomas and his influence on Q, see the study ‘The Scientific Thinking of Dr Thomas Quiller Couch’.


1826, 26 May: Born in Polperro as the fourth child and third son to Jonathan and Jane Couch (The Nonconformist Register). 28 May according to Bertha Couch.

28 September: Baptised at Polperro Wesleyan Chapel by Robert Mack.

1842, 1 March: Birth of Mary Ford, only child of Elias and Theophilia Ford of Newton Abbot, Devon. Later wife to Thomas Q Couch.

1848: First of 2 contributions to Reports of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

1849, Oct to 1852, Dec: Studying Medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London.

1851: Occupation given as Student of Medicine (Census).

1852, 1 April: L.S.A.

26 July: M.R.S.C. Eng.

1852, December: Leaves Guy’s for Polperro.

1853: First of 2 contributions to the Transactions of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society.

1854: First of 27 contributions to Notes and Queries.

1855: First of 3 contributions to Willis’s Current Notes.

1867, 6 September: Death of Jane Couch, mother.

1858, 23 October: Jonathan Couch (father) marries Sarah Roose.

1861: First and only contribution to The Reliquary.

(Census) Living with Elizabeth Wallis, domestic servant, in Pool St., Bodmin.

1863, 2 March: Marries Mary Ford, daughter of Elias and Theophilia Ford of Abbots Kerswell, Devon.

1863, 21 November: Birth of Arthur.

1864, 12 January: Arthur baptised in Bodmin parish church.

First of 24 contributions to the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall.

Birth of Florence Mabel.

1867: First and only contribution to Naturalist’s Note Book.

n.d.: First and only contribution to Clack.      

1870, 26 March: F.S.A.

13 April: Death of Jonathan Couch, father.

18 April: Thomas and Arthur, aged 6, attend burial of Jonathan Couch.

Edits Jonathan Couch’s The History of Polperro, with biographical details.

1871: (Census) General Practitioner, and Mary, 63 Fore St., Bodmin, with Arthur, and Florence Mabel, scholars.

1871: The History of Polperro published.

1873: P.O. Directory: East Cornwall Hospital, consulting surgeon, and surgeon to Cornwall Rangers Militia. Bodmin secretary for R.I.C.

1878: Harrod’s Devon and Cornwall Directory: East Cornwall Hospital and Dispensary, Mount Folly, Bodmin, consulting surgeon (est. 1844, i 5 in-patients, vol. funded).

1880: Courtney and Couch, Glossary of Words in Use in Cornwall.
September: Q goes to Clifton College.

1882, July: Q returns to Bodmin from Clifton College.
October: Q takes up residence at Trinity College, Oxford.

1883:  Kelly’s Directory: Duke of Cornwall’s 2nd Rifles, hon. assist. Surgeon-Major.

Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator, No. 5 District, Bodmin.

H.M. Prison, surgeon. Certifying factory surgeon.

1884 Late summer: stroke, Q called from Ferry Inn, Bodinnick to Bodmin.

October: Death, leaving considerable debts.