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.

ornithologistsAlthough 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.

John Gould, 1804 – 1881, English ornithologist whose ornithologistslarge, 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.

ornithologistsThomas Brewer (1814 – 1880): Brewer’s Sparrow, Brewer’s Blackbird
Brewer had a strange occupation, serving as both a physician and reporter for a Boston newspaper. He graduated from Harvard College in 1835 and from Harvard Medical School three years later. He gave up medicine to work with birds. He is perhaps best best known as the joint author, with Baird and Ridgway, of A History of North American Birds (3 volumes, 1874)

Ornithologists, scientists who study ornithology, the science of birds, have changed over the years, as has the science. Once just observers of birds, then collectors of birds, eggs, and nests, ornithologists have incorporated the tools of ecology to study bird populations and the interaction among individuals between and within species. New tools such as radios, infrared, GPS,  and microwaves have allowed scientists to track and observe birds from long distances. In addition, sophisticated laboratory tools and techniques have allowed ornithologists to delve more deeply into the senses of birds to discover what they are able to perceive and how they react to stimuli.

Ornithologists have been the leaders of nature study and many have birds named after them. Here is a short list of some of the more famous ornithologists f rom the past and a link to present day well-known ornithologists (from WIkipedia).

A Gallery of Audubon
Audubon Watercolors of North American Birds
Alexander Wilson Biography
Alexander Wilson Galleries
Alexander F. Skutch
John James Audubon
Spencer Fulton Baird
Thomas Bewick
Thomas Nuttall
John Kirk Townsend
American Ornithologist’s Union
British Ornithologist’s Union
English Ornithologists
Wilson’s American Ornithology

LISTS OF ORNITHOLOGISTS

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