The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds
Amateurs and professionals studying birds at the end of the nineteenth century were a contentious, passionate group with goals that intersected, collided and occasionally merged in their writings and organizations. Driven by a desire to advance science, as well as by ego, pride, honor, insecurity, religion and other clashing sensibilities, they struggled to absorb the implications of evolution after Darwin. In the process, they dramatically reshaped the study of birds.
Daniel Lewis here explores the professionalization of ornithology through one of its key figures: Robert Ridgway, the Smithsonian Institution's first curator of birds and one of North America's most important natural scientists. Exploring a world in which the uses of language, classification and accountability between amateurs and professionals played essential roles, Lewis offers a vivid introduction to Ridgway and shows how his work fundamentally influenced the direction of American and international ornithology. He explores the inner workings of the Smithsonian and the role of collectors working in the field and reveals previously unknown details of the ornithological journal The Auk and the untold story of the color dictionaries for which Ridgway is known.
- Paul Lawrence Farber, author of "Discovering Birds" and "Finding Order in Nature"
"The roots of all American bird enthusiasts trace squarely back to Robert Ridgway, and Lewis's account of Ridgway and the emergence of a modern ornithology in North America resonates and fascinates."
- Kimball L. Garrett, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, co-author of the "Peterson Field Guide to the Warblers of North America"
"A major contribution to the history of natural history, history of museums, history of American science, as well as history of ornithology[...]. sets a fine standard for biographies that move beyond a narrative into analysis of intellectual and social currents in the field."
- Pamela Henson, American University
"Deftly presented and deeply researched, The Feathery Tribe uses the life and career of Robert Ridgway to tell the story of professionalization in American ornithology. This book fills an important gap in our understanding of the development of modern bird study, while restoring Ridgway to his rightful place of honor among the pantheon of American naturalists."
- Mark V. Barrow, Jr., Virginia Tech, author of "A Passion for Birds" and "Nature's Ghosts"
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