Edwards, George (1694-1773) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17
Edwards, George (1694-1773)

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EDWARDS, GEORGE (1694–1773), naturalist, born at Stratford, Essex, 3 April 1694, was taught in early years by a clergyman named Hewit, who kept a public school at Leytonstone, and afterwards served an apprenticeship in Fenchurch Street, London. As a youth he had an opportunity of examining the library of Dr. Nicholas, and read incessantly. At the expiration of his apprenticeship he spent a month in Holland; in 1718 went to Norway, and was captured at Friedrichstadt by Danish soldiers, who suspected him of being a spy. He journeyed through France in 1719 and 1720, partly on foot. On returning home he began to make coloured drawings of animals, which fetched good prices. James Theobald, F.R.S., proved a zealous patron; and after an excursion in Holland, in 1731, Edwards was appointed (December 1733), on Sir Hans Sloane's recommendation, librarian of the Royal College of Physicians. The publication of his 'History of Birds' began in 1743, and occupied him till 1764. On St. Andrew's day 1760 Edwards was presented with the gold medal of the Royal Society, of which he was afterwards elected a fellow. He became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries 13 Feb. 1762. About 1764 Edwards retired to Plaistow, and died of cancer and stone 23 July 1773. He was buried in West Ham churchyard. A portrait by Dandridge was engraved by J. S. Millar in 1764. His chief work, 'The History of Birds,' was dedicated to God. The first volume appeared in 1743, the second in 1747, the third in 1750, and the fourth in 1751. Under the new title of 'Gleanings of Natural History' three additional volumes were issued in 1758, 1760, and 1764 respectively. Nearly six hundred subjects in natural history not before delineated are here engraved. A generical index in French and English was added. Linnæus often corresponded with Edwards, and prepared an additional index of the Linnsæn names. Edwards's collection of drawings was purchased by the Marquis of Bute shortly before the naturalist's death. Edwards's papers in the 'Philosophical Transactions' were collected by J. Robson, and issued with the Linnæan index in 1776. Edwards was also the author of 'Essays of Natural History' (1770) and 'Elements of Fossilogy' (1776).

[Biog. Brit. (Kippis); Nichols's Lit. Anecd. 317-26; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]