John Butterworth, 1831 - 1900

by Brian Stevenson
last updated October, 2014

John Butterworth was an amateur naturalist and maker of very high quality microscope slides of thin-sectioned coal fossils. He was largely self-taught, using equipment he built by himself. He readily taught his skills to other naturalists - another highly regarded maker of coal fossil slides, James Spencer, learned how to make sections from Butterworth. He also provided specimens to noted paleobotanists such as W.C. Williamson and Edward Binney. Butterworth was a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, and member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, The Manchester Microscopical Society, and several other naturalists’ groups.

Considering those many connections to the scholarly and wealthy classes, it is striking that John Butterworth was self-educated and was relatively poor for most of his life. He labored in the fabric mills near Manchester as a cotton carder, preparing raw cotton for spinning into thread. A 1900 history of the Oldham Field Naturalists’ Society wrote, “South-East Lancashire has earned for itself a distinction during the last hundred years or so which more favoured spots in this country, as far as social and natural advantages are concerned, have failed to win, by reason of the appearance within its borders of two indigenous growths of self-taught men characterised by more than ordinary intellectual vigour, namely, a school of mathematicians and a school of field-naturalists. The men belonging to these two schools have all been made very much after one pattern. Nearly all of them have been poor and have had to work hard for a daily pittance; yet they have managed to rise superior to their circumstances, each having discovered for himself a potent virtue in learning by means of which he has half forgotten his poverty, and has discovered a way by which to transmute his lowly social position into something that brought contentment and solace to his soul. Such were … John Butterworth, known as ‘Jack o' Ben's’, who as original thinkers and mathematicians were on a level with high-classed wranglers of Cambridge”.

Figure 1. Examples of microscope slides prepared by John Butterworth. The vast majority of his preparations are thin-sections of coal samples that bear botanical or other fossils. He did, however, mount other objects, such as the insect trachea and diatoms shown on the right. Most of his slides bear labels with his name set in type. Occasionally, slides are encountered with Butterworth's handwritten initials, such as the example shown second from the right.


Figure 2. Magnified view of the “Section of fern stem, Coal Measures, Lancashire” shown in Figure 1. Butterworth was adept at grinding fragile coal fossils down to remarkable thinness, permitting clear views of details.


Figure 3. Left, late 1800s view of cotton mills of Crompton, among the places where John Butterworth lived and worked. Right, undated photograph of workers in an Oldham cotton mill. Images reproduced for educational, nonprofit purposes from (left) (public domain) and (right)


Probably born in early 1831, John Butterworth was baptized on May 1 of that year, at Shaw Chapel, near Oldham, Lancashire. His father, George, was a carder in a cotton mill, although, by 1851, he had risen to be a “manager over cotton spinning”. As would be expected of children from his social class, the 1841 census recorded that 11 year-old John was already working in the mills, as a “cotton piecer”. His 14 year-old sister, Sarah, had the same job. The 1851 census listed John as “carder of cotton”, while Sarah and their 14 year-old brother were both “winders of cotton”.

John married Hannah Bromiley in 1858. W.C. Williamson wrote that Butterworth was an “overlooker in a large cotton mill” in the late 1860s, and he appears to have moved up the ranks to moderately well-paid positions. Butterworth frequently changed his address, likely indicating movement between several different cotton companies. Following the Butterworth family through the English censuses, held every ten years, shows a gradually improving financial status. The 1871 census lists 11 year-old daughter Emma as being a “cardroom hand in cotton mill”. In 1881, neither 19 year-old daughter Lizzie nor 11 year-old daughter Annie were recorded as being employed, and 17 year-old son George was an “apprentice carder” (Emma had married and moved away). Lizzie and Annie were still unmarried in 1891, yet neither had a job. The family evidently continued to live frugally, living alongside other millworkers, and never having domestic servants. By the time of his death, Butterworth had accumulated the sizeable estate of nearly £3500, presumably acquired through mill employment, although it is possible he sold fossil specimens.

Butterworth became an expert on cotton, and on occasion lectured or wrote on the subject. These included an 1875 talk that was reprinted in the USA by the New England Cotton Manufacturers' Association, and the 1881 book Cotton and Its Treatment in the Various Processes of Opening, Carding, and Spinning.

In addition to cotton mills, Lancashire in Butterworth’s time had many coal mines. Butterworth explored many of these, probably from childhood, and learned to recognize fossil-bearing deposits. He wrote, in 1866, “The lower group of the Lancashire coal formation gives character to the whole country round the borders of the basin, rising up in long low ranges of green hills that flank the slopes of the Pennine chain; ‘and as they crop out’ on the hill-sides, or in the valleys, they are reached by a perpendicular shaft of a few yards in depth only, or by horizontal openings, locally called ‘Breast hees’. In the whole of this series there is, perhaps, no seam so easily recognized as the ‘upper footmine’. Sharing, as it does, to some extent, the family likeness common to the whole group - mineralogical composition and identity of fossil remains, - it is yet quite unique in some of its features. Most of the seams possess some peculiarity which distinguishes them from the rest, and which serves the practical miner as a finger-post to guide him in his labours. On none is the inscription more legibly written than on the foot-mine. The feature that gives it its peculiarity is the great number of concretionary masses, locally known as ‘bullions’, which are invariably associated with it. Nodules are to be met with in greater or less abundance throughout the entire formation, interspersed irregularly in the shale above the coal, while the bullions in the seam of which we speak, thickly stud the roof, and in many cases press in and through the coal, to the great detriment of the miner, turning him aside in his work of excavation, and in some instances rendering his labour unremunerative. Indeed so serious a barrier do they sometimes present, that he is often compelled to abandon the attempt to recover the grimy treasure, and to leave it locked in the unyielding folds of the ‘safe’ where Nature had hoarded it untold ages ago. These nodules are of clay iron-stone with a slight admixture of lime, and are so hard as to yield only to repeated blows from a geological hammer of four or five pounds in weight. The fossils they contain are Goniatites, Orthoceratites, Pectens, Mytilli, a few Ferns, Calamites, fragments of fossil wood, &c. These stony remnants of extinct organisms are in a good state of preservation, well defined in outline, full and round in form as when they swarmed the estuaries or clothed the verdant slopes and dense jungles of the Carboniferous period, in the full enjoyment of that life which was meted to them by the great Creator”.

The earliest published record to be located on Butterworth’s naturalist investigations is an 1863 letter from Edward Binney to the Manchester Geological Society, “It is likely that I shall not be able to attend the Meeting of the Geological Society to-morrow, therefore I beg to forward you a box of remains of fossil fishes, consisting of Megalichthys, Helodus, &c, from the roof of the Spanish Juice or Half-yard Mine at Carr Knol, near Oldham, presented to the Society by Mr. John Butterworth, of Moorside, Oldham”.

At that time, Butterworth was actively making microscope slides. The Intellectual Observer, in 1864, printed, “Lead Rings For Microscope Slides - Mr. John Butterworth, of Moorside, near Oldham, writes to us that he cuts rings from lead tubes with a tenon Saw, and finds them answer very well. Any inequality left by the saw can be removed by a file. Similar rings could easily be punched out of sheet lead of various thicknesses, but they would not be adapted for fluids, most of which would corrode them”.

He also joined with several neighbors to form a microscopy club. He described this in an 1865 letter to Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, “Circulating Cabinet Of Objects - About six months ago some microscopists in Oldham and its neighbourhood formed a circulating cabinet of objects. Not knowing that there is anything of the sort in other towns, I will endeavour to describe it. In the first place we have as many trays as there are members, upon which each member puts six objects, in a horizontal position, held down by an elastic band. To prevent one tray from touching the objects on another, a bead runs all round each, about a quarter of an inch deep: the whole are enclosed in a box made for the purpose. Each member changes the objects on his own tray every time the cabinet comes round to him, and he retains it one week to examine the objects on the other trays. A small memorandum-book, in which are written a few short rules, the remaining space being left for remarks and suggestions, together with a stamp-case, to receive the contributions of the members, which goes along with the cabinet. The expenses of carriage, &c, are taken out of this stamp-case. We find this arrangement to work very well, and have not had an object broken yet. - John Butterworth”.

Butterworth dispersed specimens and slides throughout the country. For examples, he published these exchange offers in Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: in 1867, “Fossil Wood in sections from Ashby de-la-Zouch - Stamped envelope to J. Butterworth, 5, Bridgewater-street, Oldham”, in 1876, “Mounted sections of fossil vegetable tissues from the Lancashire coal-measures in exchange for good mounted objects. - J. Butterworth, Goats Shaw, Oldham”, in 1879, “Transparent sections from the coal formation showing macrospores, microspores, and other fossil vegetable tissues, in exchange for well-mounted recent vegetable tissues, sections of leaves stained or otherwise. - John Butterworth, Goats, Shaw, near Oldham”, and 1880, “I have the first vol. of ‘Grevillea’ in numbers that I wish to exchange for a copy of ‘Rust, Smut, Mildew, and Mould’, by Cook. I have also a large number of selected specimens of fossil plants, showing internal structure, illustrating the memoirs of Brongniart, Binney, Williamson, Carruthers, and others, which I am wishful to exchange for small cabinets of about three or four trays to hold about two or three dozen microscopic slides, or I would take cash. - John Butterworth, Goat's Shaw, near Oldham”. He also mounted other types of specimen, as indicated by this 1880 exchange offer, “Foraminifera from the west coast of Ireland (several species) clean and beautifully mounted in balsam, for interesting mounted objects. - John Butterworth, Goat's Shaw, Oldham”.

Minutes of the Oldham Microscopical Society include this, from 1869, “On Tuesday evening, October 12th, the quarterly meeting of this Society was held. There was a good attendance of members and friends. A paper ‘On the Microscope in Geology’ was read by Mr. John Butterworth. After referring to the usefulness of the microscope to students generally, Mr. Butterworth proceeded to state that by its aid the geologist was enabled to trace the various phases of animal and plant life existing through the different geologic ages, from the lowest Silurian up to the present, and that the important discoveries made through its agency have given a great impetus to, and interest in, the study of fossil remains. Its use in ascertaining the characteristics of the crystalline, stratified, and fossiliferous varieties of rock, was described at considerable length, and illustrated by numerous beautifully-prepared specimens. The most interesting part of the paper was that which treated of the fossiliferous rocks, sections of which, from the Dudley limestone and from the Yoredale rocks in the Hebden Valley, were exhibited, showing the internal structure of the corals, zoophytes, goniatites, sponges, &c, of which they are composed. Special attention was called to the fact that the coal-fields of Lancashire and Yorkshire are remarkably rich in fossil plants and fish remains, and that in no part perhaps were more interesting specimens to be met with than in and around the town; some of which, gathered and prepared by various members, including teeth and scales of fishes, coprolites, and fossil wood, were shown under the microscope, by which the details of structure were brought out with remarkable distinctness. Mr. Butterworth fully described the method by which sections for the microscope may be cut and prepared by the amateur at but little cost beyond time and patience. At the close of the paper, an interesting discussion took place on the merits and peculiarities of the various objects exhibited, which added greatly to the information and interest of the meeting”.

Williamson noted that Butterworth was “eminently skilled in matters relating to machinery”, as a consequence of his work in the cotton mills. Butterworth prepared fossil sections using a section cutter/grinder of his own devising (Figure 4). He described this for Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip in 1869, “Having been asked by several readers of Science-gossip how I cut and grind my sections of fossil wood, &c., I will, with your permission, give my method. First, I will begin with the cutting. To the framework of an ordinary foot-lathe I attach an upright spindle (see the accompanying sketch); on this upright spindle I drive, by a band passing over carry pulleys from the wheel below. On the top of this spindle I fix my cutting disc, which is made from a very thin piece of sheet iron, and is about six inches in diameter; the edge of this saw I charge with diamond powder; to the edge of the saw I hold my specimen, and as it cuts I lubricate the edge with a small brush dipped in turpentine. With this method I have cut sections of fossil wood so thin that all its structure has been well defined and required nothing but mounting in balsam: this has been silicated fossil wood; in cutting calcareous fossil wood, I have to cut the sections thicker, and grind them down. My grinding apparatus is composed of leaden laps, which I make to revolve in a horizontal position on the same upright spindle on which I fix my cutting saw; I use two laps, one for rough grinding, and the other for smoothing. I use No. 1 emery and a little water with the first lap, and flour of emery with plenty of water on the second lap. In preparing a specimen, I first grind a smooth surface on one side, and then fix it to a plate of glass (of such a size as will suit my specimen) with Canada balsam; I then reduce it in thickness on the rough lap, till I begin to see the light through it; then I begin with the smoothing lap, and reduce it with flour of emery until every part of its structure is distinct. If I choose to polish the specimen, I do so on a lap made of plush cloth, or cotton velvet, and putty powder; I then float them off the slide on which they have been ground, and fix them on another with Canada balsam. I prefer, were it practicable, to mount them in balsam under a thin cover in the usual way, as I am satisfied that the structure is better brought out. If any of the readers of the Gossip are similarly engaged, I shall be glad to correspond with them on this subject.— John Butterworth, Mount Pleasant, High Crompton, near Oldham”.

Figure 4. Butterworth’s diagram of his section cutter/grinder, which accompanied his 1869 article in ‘Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip’.


Figure 5. Drawing of coal fossils, by John Butterworth, 1866. He wrote that this “sketch represents one of the more humble forms, simple in structure and decidedly endogenous. It is therefore possible, that, not only as to species but as to genus, they have become quite extinct, and have left no legitimate heirs to their wide estates. It is tolerably certain, however, that they are allied to the more humble organisms of our present flora, - our reeds, equisetums, ferns, lycopodiums, palms, and pines”.


Butterworth made use of his cutting device to prepare thin sections of other materials. In 1865, Thomas Parry exhibited to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, “some sections of fossil wood and Echinus spines, most beautifully cut by Mr. John Butterworth, of Oldham, and presented some of the slides to the Section”. In 1874, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip carried this exchange offer, “For beautiful Transparent Spines of Echinus sphaera, send stamped envelope and any Microscopic object of interest to John Butterworth, Goats, Shaw, near Oldham”.

In a similar vein, although Butterworth is best known for his work with botanical fossils in coal, he prepared and studied other fossil types. For example, in 1869, he wrote, “In some coal shale I have got from Bradford, near Manchester, I find … Entomostraca in great abundance. A small portion of this shale, viewed under a low power as an opaque object, shows what was once the horny case of these creatures in almost their original form. If a section of this shale is ground very thin and mounted for the microscope, the cases of the Entomostraca are shown almost as transparent as glass. The same shale in which these Entomostraca occur at Bradford is also very full of fish remains, for the most part in a very fragmentary state; and the fact of fish remains being found in this state generally is held by several geologists to be caused by the presence of these Entomostraca. In the shale above a small seam of coal in this locality, locally known as the Little Mine, but better known to geologists as the Lower Foot Coal-mine in the Ganister series, are found fish remains identical with some of those found in Northumberland. I have cut transparent sections of Coprolites from this Lower Foot coal, and they show long and cross sections of Ganacrodus hastulii (Owen), showing the beautiful point, which seems to be the only part tipped with enamel. Cross sections of teeth that are scarcely visible to the naked eye are also shown in these Coprolites. The dentine of the tooth, with the pulp cavity in the centre is shown as distinct as if the section was from one of the large Sauroid-fishes (of course it requires the higher power of the microscope to see this). In the same Coprolite are also shown sections of scales cut in various directions, as well as fragments of bones, &c. Another Coprolite I have found in the shale above this little coal-seam shows in a transparent section almost an entire mass of very small scales, cut in almost every direction they show the markings on the scales most splendidly”.

As noted above, Butterworth supplied specimens to Binney, Williamson and other scholars, and often featured prominently in their writings and lectures. Williamson wrote, “I soon had the advantage of an introduction to Mr. J. Butterworth of Shaw, near Oldham, who had not only collected plants from the localities which had supplied Mr. Binney with his, but had fitted up an excellent lapidary's lathe and prepared some sections of the fossil plants, of which he showed me a small but beautiful series. He also supplied me with a number of the hard calcareous nodules dug out of the coal, from which these plants, the internal tissues of which were so beautifully preserved, were obtained. .. Mr. Butterworth gave me a section from a specimen which he had picked up, and which I at once saw had a great interest; but his kindness did not stop here. On examining the fragment not yet cut up, we determined upon the direction in which further sections could advantageously be made, and which he undertook to make for me”.

Butterworth’s specimens were also in demand from museums: W. Carruthers read the following before the Royal Microscopical Society in 1872, “The beautiful series of specimens illustrating the structure of this Lepidodendron have been recently obtained for the British Museum from the valuable collection of Mr. John Butterworth, of Shaw, near Oldham. Like my friend Professor Williamson, I have also to express my great obligations to Mr. Butterworth for the singularly instructive specimens which he has submitted to my examination. Living as he does on the spot where the calcareous concretions, which have supplied such valuable materials to recent workers, occur, imbued with a love for the study of these ancient vegetable forms, and having an extensive and accurate knowledge of their structure, and a quick eye for the parts in their structure which are yet only obscurely known, Mr. Butterworth makes sections with his own hands of carefully-selected materials, in a manner which renders them highly instructive, and greatly facilitates the labour of interpretation and description. The truth of these observations will be apparent by the series of drawings accompanying this paper, made by Mr. Hollick from four slides representing transverse and longitudinal sections of the stem and transverse sections of the leaves close to and at a little distance from the stem. Of the numerous figures that have been given by Witham, Lindley and Hutton, Brongniart, Binney, and myself, none have shown the structure of the leaf bases, and their relation to the stem, except that which I figured in my first communication to this Society; but in that figure the single leaf was exhibited in one direction only, and not with that completeness which, by the help of Mr. Butterworth's specimens, I am now able to give”.

In addition to his contributions to the work of established investigators, Butterworth played a critical role in the scientific development of a younger coal fossil enthusiast, James Spencer. Today, Spencer’s microscope slides of coal fossils are in high demand and are often quite expensive. In an 1883 paper, Spencer reflected upon, “the first time that I met Mr. Butterworth. I was geologising at Southowram Bank Top Coal Pit, near Halifax, one Saturday afternoon, when the unusual sound of a fresh hammer attracted my attention. It proved to belong to Mr. Butterworth; mutual explanation took place, and among the ‘spoils’ which we won on that occasion was a good specimen of Lyginodendron Oldhamium. Since then many a pleasant ramble have I enjoyed with my Oldham friends, both in Yorkshire and Lancashire, in search of fossil plants”. A more complete story was provided in an 1899 memoriam of Spencer, “About 1871 Mr. Spencer became especially interested in the study of the structure of fossil plants which occur in nodules derived from the Halifax Hard Bed Coal. At first he found this kind of work very difficult to perform, as he had to break the petrified stems of plants out of the hard nodules, then chip thin pieces off with a chisel, then rub them down on the sink-stone until they were so thin light would shine through them. Then they had to be polished and mounted on glass with Canada balsam before the structure could be seen to advantage with a microscope. By this primitive and laborious method of preparing microscopic slides of fossil wood, Mr. Spencer worked disadvantageously for some time. At length he fortunately met with Mr. John Butterworth, of Shaw, near Oldham, who was an adept at this kind of work, having been for several years engaged in preparing and studying microscopic slides from the coal-balls of Lancashire. This gentleman kindly and unhesitatingly agreed to show him a more scientific and quicker method of preparing his slides, and he helped him to set up a machine for cutting and grinding. He also gave him instructions in the art of polishing, mounting and preparing specimens for scientific use. Thus equipped, Mr. Spencer set to work with a determination to do something in the comparatively new field of research”.

Butterworth and several colleagues formed The Lancashire and Yorkshire Palaeobotanical Society in September, 1893. Butterworth was the first President of the club, which also included James Lomax, George Wild, Thomas Hick, William Cash, Thomas Mitchell, and M.M. Buckley. James Spencer, John Binns and Isaac Earnshaw joined shortly afterward. The group met at various member's homes, exhibiting and exchanging samples, and presenting scientific discussions.

John Butterworth was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society on December 12, 1883. He made at least one trip to London in order to attend an RMS meeting. On October 21, 1896, he read a paper on his “Photomicrographic Camera, designed chiefly to facilitate the study of opaque objects, more especially in the study of palaeo-botany”:

In drawing the attention of the Society to this camera, I do not do so with any idea that any of its parts may be in any way original. My wish is to draw attention to its application to both opaque and transparent objects in photomicrography. It was, however, with a view to adapting the camera to photographing opaque objects that first led me to experiment in photomicrography, and I have long seen that a wide field is open to photography in this direction; in illustration of this I may instance my own study of 'The Fossilised Plants of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Coalfields.' Having been engaged in this study for nearly thirty-five years, most of which time I have been a colleague of the late Prof. W.C. Williamson, and as such I have seen not a little of the difficulty of sketching by hand the structure of these coal plants with a view to their description, and yet I can vouch for the great accuracy of the above gentleman's drawings, knowing as I did his method of procedure, which was by aid of the camera lucida, micrometer, and paper ruled to scale.
Up to the advent of isochromatic photographic dry plates and the use of colour screens it had always been a very great difficulty to get a good photograph from sections of coal plants, owing to the amber colour of the section, and, though the difficulty of the colour is to some extent removed by the use of the above plates, still the section has to be ground so thin to give it sufficient transparency that many important features of the plant structure are often destroyed. It will therefore be readily seen that if I cut a section of one of the calcareous nodules containing our coal plants, and cut the section say 1/8 in. thick (which is not too thick considering the nodules are calcareous), polishing both sides and fixing one side to a glass slip as I shall show you, I can grind down the section slowly; and at various stages, by my plan of photographing opaque objects, I can get at least six photographs, each perhaps exhibiting features different to the rest, besides leaving me a transparent section for microscopic examination. It will thus be seen that these coal plants can be more fully studied by this plan, even from very fragmentary material, which is often the condition in which many of the coal plants are found.
Of my camera I need to say very little; its construction will be readily understood from the appended plate
(Figure 6). It has been built up piecemeal, but has absorbed much of my leisure for several years. I can use a range of powers from a 5-in. rectilinear lens down to my 1-in. microscopic objective for opaque photography, and in photographing transparent objects I can use my microscopic objectives from 4 in. down to a 1/16. The view shows the light as transmitted to an opaque object when the argand or incandescent burner (which I now use) is raised to its proper height, and when the burner and condenser are lowered to throw the light direct through the object; it is then fixed for transparencies.
I thought it might be necessary to bring a few lantern slides and a few slides of sections in various stages of preparation to further illustrate our subject, and if any gentleman would like to ask any question on the slides or the camera I shall be most pleased to give further information.
P.S. - I may just add that the stage or object-holder to the camera is so constructed at the back as to receive or hold all the substage appliances that I have for my large Microscope, which I have often used as occasion has required.*
* I ought to have made the remark in my paper that in preparing sections of our coal plants each plane or surface intended to be photographed ought to be first ground to a smooth surface and then flooded with a few drops of dilute hydrochloric acid (1 part in 6 parts water), and when the effervescence ceases wash and dry the section, which is then ready to expose in the camera. This procedure is essential to show up the structure with the boldness that is shown by the view

Figure 6. Butterworth’s illustration of his camera. He described it thusly, “A is the base-board of camera. B, bellows of usual form and size. C is the foundation-plate, screwed to camera-front, carrying the lens-tube, horizontal bar, rack, &c. D is the carriage, carrying lamp E, object-stage F, concave reflector G, and small bull's-eye reflector H. I is the main lens-tube carrying adapters or other tubes to suit battery of lenses. J is a bracket carrying a double-forked lever K for fine focusing, which is actuated by the threaded pulley working on the long screw L, while said pulley is revolved by the small side-shaft M through the belt N. O is a support for the outer end of the horizontal bar. The dotted lines show the path the fight takes on its way from the bull's-eye condenser of lamp to the object”.


Figure 7. An 1896 photograph by John Butterworth that accompanied the description of his camera, described as “Transverse section of Astromyelon cut at the fork where the plant was branching; also a transverse section of Cardiocarpon is shown lying near; from the lower coal measures near Oldham, x about 15 diameters. Photographed opaque”.


John Butterworth died at his home, 122 Rochdale Road, Shaw, on June 12, 1900. The Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society reported, "Amongst those whom death has removed during the past year, mention may be made of the late Mr. John Butterworth, of Shaw. He was for many years an earnest worker on the microscopic structure of the fossil plants of the coal measures, and latterly devoted attention to the construction of apparatus connected with photo-micrography".



Many thanks to Howard Lynk for his continued generosity.



Baptism record of John Butterworth (1831) accessed through The Lancashire Open Parish Clerk Project,

Binney, E.W. (1871) “Fig. 1 is a fragment of a Cone, one and eight tenths of an inch in length, one and one tenth of an inch across its major, and one inch across its minor axis. This Cone is somewhat compressed out of its original cylindrical form, but not so much as is the Specimen No. 17. The fossil has lost the upper portions of the scales or bracts, in shelling out of its matrix, but it shows the rhomboidal scars of Lepidostrobus. They are not so broad as those of the last-described specimen. It also came from the Upper Foot Coal, near Oldham, and was found by Mr. John Butterworth, who has liberally allowed me to slice and describe it”, Observations on the Structure of Fossil Plants Found in the Carboniferous Strata, Part 2, Palaeontographical Society, London, page 49

Bracegirdle, Brian (1998) Microscopical Mounts and Mounters, Quekett Microscopical Club, pages 19 and 118, plate 7-N and 7-O

Butterworth, John (1865) Circulating cabinet of objects, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 1, page 237

Butterworth, John (1866) Fossil wood, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 2, pages 250-251

Butterworth, John (1866) Sections of fossil wood, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 5, page 18

Butterworth, John (1866) Entomostraca in shale, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 5, pages 111-112

Butterworth, John (1875) Lecture on Cotton, Publications of The New England Cotton Manufacturers' Association, pages 49-45

Butterworth, John (1876) Rambles after fossil plants, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 12, pages 243-244

Butterworth, John (1880) The mineralisation of coal plants, Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip, Vol. 16, pages 162-163

Butterworth, John (1881) Cotton and Its Treatment in the Various Processes of Opening, Carding, and Spinning, Hirst & Rennie, Oldham

Butterworth, John (1889) Calcareous nodule from coal, Journal of Microscopy and Natural Science, Vol. 8, page 251

Butterworth, John (1889) Photomicrographic camera, designed chiefly to facilitate the study of opaque objects, more especially in the study of palaeo-botany, Journal of Microscopy, pages 595-596

Carruthers, W. (1872) On the structure of the stems of the arborescent Lycopodaceae of the Coal-measures, and On a leaf-bearing branch of a species of Lepidodendron, Monthly Microscopical Journal, Vol. 7, pages 50-54

Chemical News (1866) Minutes of the December 18, 1865 meeting of the Microscopical and Natural History Section of the Literary and Philosophical Society Manchester, page 21

England census, birth, marriage and death records, accessed through

English Mechanic and World of Science (1871) “Coal Plants - Mr. J. Butterworth writes as follows to the Monthly Microscopical Journal: - ‘It will be remembered that Professor Williamson read a memoir some time ago, before the Manchester Philosophical Society, on a new fossil fruit found by me in one of the lower coal-seams of the Lancashire Coal-field: this fruit he described as belonging to his new plant called Calamopetus. Since then he has read another memoir before the above society on another but very different fossil fruit found by me in the same coal-seam. I have been very fortunate in finding another coal fruit, very different from either of the above. The sporangia in the two first fruits are protected by bracts, which pass between the sporangia from the axes. When they reach the outside, they ascend and overlap each other, is seen in Lepidostrobus. This fruit I have just found seems to be void of these bracts altogether, and appears to be a naked cone. The spores are those of a Calamite, and the sporangia are very numerous and densely packed together.’ - Our readers should obtain specimens of coal fossils for examination with the microscope, as we believe there are many facts that may yet be discovered with respect to our coal formations”, Vol. 13, page 380

English Mechanic and World of Science (1900) “Mr. John Butterworth, F.R.M.S., was well known throughout Lancashire for his knowledge of all the minutiae of cotton-spinning, but he was also known for his work on scientific subjects, especially in connection with the fossilised plants of the Lancashire and Yorkshire coalfields. He was a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and devised a photomicrographic camera for the purpose of studying opaque objects. He was a colleague of the late Prof. W. C. Williamson. Mr. Butterworth, who resided at Shaw, was in his 70th year”, Vol. 71, page 400

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1867) Exchange offer from J. Butterworth, Vol. 3, page 120

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1867) Response to query: “Witham’s Books – Mr. John Butterworth may procure either of Witham’s works of Mr. E.D. Suter, 37, Cheapside, London”, Vol. 3, page 168

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1873) Exchange offer from J. Butterworth, Vol. 9, page 43

Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip (1874) Exchange offer from J. Butterworth, Vol. 10, page 72

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