This book examines the power of cross-disciplinary thinking. Alexander Wilson was a published poet, an accomplished musician, a skilled artist and an insightful observer. All these skills came together in his truly revolutionary text, American Ornithology, which is the founding document of American ornithology. The elegance of its writing, the novelty of its art, and the excellence of its science make Wilson’s Ornithology worth consulting even today, two centuries after its publication.
When talking about the Enlightenment, ornithology is seldom the first topic of conversation. Still, Enlightenment and ornithology converge in one important respect, that of abundance. In our time, new-wave ornithologists have renewed their faith in eighteenth-century expectations for the discovery of a gigantic number of bird species. It is at this intersection between abundant modern science and ambitious Enlightenment ideology that this remarkable collection of five essays on Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), the father of American ornithology, makes its original and delightful contribution. Alexander Wilson: Enlightened Naturalist recovers Wilson’s literary, artistic and musical pursuits, and the cultural contexts of his life in the Scotland of Robert Burns. It also explores Wilson’s scientific and philosophic contribution to American ornithology in American Ornithology; or The Natural History of the Birds of theUnited States, published in Philadelphia between 1808 and 1814. Alexander Wilson is richly illustrated, links to a web site of audio readings of Wilson’s Scots poems– links that are embedded in the ebook–and includes a tribute to the late Edward H. Burtt, Jr., who died shortly before publication.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Chapter 1: Alexander Wilson: Scots Poet byGerard Carruthers
Chapter 2: Verses from America byIrving N. Rothman
Chpater 3: The Art of Illustrating Nature byWilliam E. Davis, Jr.
Chapter 4: American Ornithology: Exemplar of Scientific Creativity byEdward H. Burtt, Jr.
Chapter 5: Bird Species: Then and Now byFrank Gill and Rick Wright
About the Contributors