Famous Ornithologists

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jjaudubonAlthough John James Audubon had met Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) in 1810 and had seen Wilson’s great work American Ornithology, it was not until ten years later that Audubon arrived at the idea of publishing his own illustrations of birds and began collecting and drawing specifically toward that end. With his assistant Joseph Mason, a young artist specializing in plants and insects, he journeyed from Cincinnati to New Orleans and Natchez. In 1822 Audubon took lessons in oil painting from an itinerant artist named John Stein (or Steen). This is his only recorded training in this medium. He had been working primarily in pastels, but about this time he began increasingly to use watercolors. Audubon visited Philadelphia in 1824 and arranged to show his work at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He won no sponsorship in that city, however, because of his rough manner and the threat his project posed to the work of the favored Alexander Wilson.

AWilsonAlexander Wilson (1766-1813) is known as “the father of American Ornithology”. Wilson’s Warbler, Storm Petrel, and¬†Phalarope are named after him. He published a nine volume treatise entitled American Ornithology and made the first bird census.

John Gould, 1804 – 1881, English ornithologist whose large, lavishly illustrated volumes on birds command ever-mounting prices among collectors. Gould learned taxidermy at Windsor Castle, where his father was foreman of gardeners. In 1827 he became taxidermist to the Zoological Society of London. The arrival in 1830 of a collection of exotic bird skins from the Himalayas enabled him to produce the first of many folio volumes, A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains (1831-32). Gould’s sketches were transferred to the lithographer’s stone by his wife, the former Elizabeth Coxon, whose artistic talents were to enhance many of his works until her death in 1841. The five-volume Birds of Europe (1832-37) and Monograph of the Ramphastidae (Toucans) (1834) were so successful that the Goulds were able to spend two years (1838-40) in Australia, where they made a large collection of birds and mammals.

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