1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Audubon, John James

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AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES (1780-1851), American naturalist, is said to have been born on the 5th of May 1780 in Louisiana, his father being a French naval officer and his mother a Spanish Creole. He was educated in Paris, where he had lessons from the painter, J. L. David. Returning to America in 1798 he settled on a farm near Philadelphia, and gave himself up to the study of natural history, and especially to drawing birds. In 1826 he went to England in the hope of getting his drawings published, and by the following year he had obtained sufficient subscribers to enable him to begin the publication of his Birds of America, which on its completion in 1838 consisted of 435 coloured plates, containing 1055 figures of birds the size of life. Cuvier called it “le plus magnifique monument que l’art ait encore élevé à la nature.” The descriptive matter to accompany the plates appeared at Edinburgh in 5 vols. from 1831 to 1839 under the title of American Ornithological Biography. During the publication of these works Audubon divided his time between Great Britain and America, devoting his leisure to expeditions to various parts of the United States and Canada for the purpose of collecting new material. In 1842 he bought an estate on the Hudson, now Audubon Park in New York City. In 1844 he published in America a popular octavo edition of his Birds of America. He also took up the preparation of a new work, The Quadrupeds of America, with the collaboration of John Bachman, the publication of which was begun in New York in 1846 and finished in 1853-1854. He died at New York on the 27th of January 1851.

See Ornithology; also Audubon and his Journals (1897), by his grand-daughter Maria R. Audubon, with notes by Elliot Coues.