John Stevens was born in St Erth in Cornwall in 1850 and died at home in Exeter on 22 March 1914. He was a draper by trade, but in his spare time he was a keen biologist.
Around 1894 Stevens started using a microscope. His new interest led him to study rotifera. They are fresh water organisms, sometimes called ‘wheel animals’. Stevens dedicated much time to recording the rotifer found in Devon and spent many hours collecting field samples. He kept meticulous notes and drawings of where and when he found particular species. He was described as an “ardent lover of nature, ready to help his fellow naturalists and had a sunny, hospitable and unselfish nature”.
A learned man
John Stevens was an active member of the Royal Albert Memorial University College Field Club and Natural History Society, where he presented talks and gave microscope demonstrations to the group. He published a list of Devon’s Rotifera in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association (1912) which he updated the following year. He was also a member of the Quekett Club from 1899. In 1904 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society.
Legacy of John Stevens
After he died his wife donated his collection of microscope slides and lantern slides to the museum. She also donated three bound volumes containing his notes and drawings for use by the University College’s students. Today this collection forms an important record of marine biology in the county.