Jonathan Couch was born in Polperro, the son of Richard Couch, a prosperous fish merchant, and his wife Philippa. He went to school first in Lansallos and then at Bodmin Grammar School. In 1804 he took up a five-year apprenticeship to John Rice, a surgeon apothecary in East Looe. In 1809 he won a place at Guy's & St Thomas' teaching hospitals in London where he was taught anatomy by the celebrated surgeon Astley Cooper.
He became well versed in anatomical drawing and, as a naturalist, was forever dissecting specimens and recording differences in species. He also developed a considerable talent as a watercolourist. In 1824 he was elected a Fellow of the prestigious Linnean Society, and throughout his life he submitted numerous papers both to this Society and the Royal Institution of Cornwall.
While Jonathan gained national recognition as a leading naturalist, it was for his study of fish that he was best known, and he tended to be referred to as 'the Cornish Ichthyologist'. Together with his son, Thomas QUILLER-COUCH, Jonathan produced a History of Polperro. The original manuscript, dated 1855, is held by the Courtney Library, which also holds the large album containing some 243 of his original watercolours of fishes.
Painter, doctor, writer, naturalist
Tovey, David (2021) Polperro - Cornwall's Forgotten Art Centre - Volume One - Pre-1920, Wilson Books