Thomas Douglas Fearnehough was born in Sheffield in July 1911. He was a metallurgist by training and profession, but he also had an interest in natural history and maintained a long standing relationship with the Rotherham naturalists community. This may have developed this during the second world war, when he worked for the forestry commission. Shortly after the end of the war, whilst working as a metallurgical chemist for the Admiralty in Janson Street, Fearnehough began to write papers on moths. He was particularly fascinated by differences or 'abberations' between members the same species. He started to collect specimens and preserved them with all the tenacity of a Victorian collector, but with the responsible scientific approach of the late twentieth century, carefully noting where he had obtained each specimen. His collection is pinned and labelled exquisitely - the height of the lepidopterist's art, with each specimen at the same height on the pin, with not so much as an antenna missing. He retired to the Isle of Wight in 1961 and continued to work on his collections. Whilst there, he pioneered a unique preservation technique, sticking pairs of wings of Geometrid moths into books, binding them with sticky backed plastic. All specimens are perfectly in line, with excellent collection or breeding data. What might normally occupy an entire butterfly cabinet fits neatly into two bound volumes labelled, ‘Geometridae’. The method has also preserved the wing colour perfectly and very unusually for a traditional collection, the emerald moths are actually still green, with no sign of light fading.
Fearnehough was also a talented painter, producing two bound volumes of swallowtail butterflies, that are astonishing in their detail. Each page shows one, two or three specimens, painted in acrylic/gouache on graph paper. The paintings are not only beautiful, but also provide an excellent reference source for identification of Papilios of the world. Each image is referenced with details from whose collection the specimen derived.
When Fearnehough died in 1983, he kindly bequeathed his collection of butterflies, moths and notebooks to Weston Park Museum, as well as his paintings of swallowtails, which can be seen online.