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Witmer Stone (1866-1939) was one of the preeminent ornithologists of his day, and has been called one of the last of the "great naturalists". In addition to his involvement in the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), including editing their journal The Auk for 25 years and serving as chairman of their conservation and classification committees, he also produced an exhaustive flora of the New Jersey Pine Barrens which is still used today, and made lesser contributions to mammalogy and entomology. He worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS) for 51 years, and performed heroic work salvaging their historic bird collection, which had been neglected for twenty years prior to his arrival.
Stone's name is also synonymous with birding at Cape May Point. The phenomenon of fall bird migration at that location was discovered by him, and his book Bird Studies at Old Cape May (BSOCM) was the earliest signpost pointing the way to what is now one of the most popular North American birding destinations. His Pine Barrens and Cape May books are still widely read by natural history buffs, and are not only considered invaluable for their record of historical conditions, but are admired for their vivid, descriptive prose that succeeds wonderfully in taking readers back to an earlier time. BSOCM, in particular, is a classic of American, time-and-place natural history literature. Stone wrote with the same twinkle in the eye that he exhibited in person, and the pleasantness of personality that leavened his writings has garnered him a host of modern-day admirers.
And yet, the details of Stone's life remain mostly unknown. Unlike some of his contemporaries (e.g., Frank Chapman, Margaret Morse Nice, George M. Sutton), Stone wrote almost nothing in the way of autobiography or memoir, and very little has been written about him in ornithological history books. Witmer Stone: The Fascination of Nature was produced to correct that situation.