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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 the United 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 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 by Gerard Carruthers
Chapter 2: Verses from America by Irving N. Rothman
Chapter 3: The Art of Illustrating Nature by William E. Davis, Jr.
Chapter 4: American Ornithology: Exemplar of Scientific Creativity by Edward H. Burtt, Jr.
Chapter 5: Bird Species: Then and Now by Frank Gill and Rick Wright
The late Edward H. Burtt, Jr. was the Cincinnati Conference Professor of Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University.
"Combining one of the prettiest sciences, ornithology, with multiple subspecialties within eighteenth-century studies (art history, literary history, cultural studies, political history), Alexander Wilson: Enlightened Naturalist will enjoy a wide and possibly even popular audience, for it combines scholarly precision with appealing illustrations while it addresses an ever-loved topic."
– Kevin L. Cope, Louisiana State University