The Times/1928/Obituary/James Edmund Harting

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Obituary: James Edmund Harting  (1928) 

Source: The Times, Tuesday, Jan 17, 1928; Issue 44792; pg. 16; col D — Mr. J. E. Harting.

Mr. J. E. Harting

Mr. James Edmund Harting, who died yesterday at Essex House, Barnes in his 87th year, was formerly librarian and assistant secretary of the Linnean Society, and was notable both as a naturalist, and as a sportsman. Born in Chelsea in 1841, he was the eldest son of a well-known Roman Catholic solicitor and was himself admitted to practice and followed the profession for some years. He was educated at Downside College, and took his B.A. at London University. He began to study birds around Kingsbury Reservoir, and his "Birds of Middlesex" (1866) was the first county history of birds. In 1871 he became a naturalist editor of the Field, and later shooting editor also. He did much to revive the old sport of falconry. When King Edward VII. visited India as Prince of Wales in the 'seventies, Mr. Harting was asked to go out as naturalist to the expedition, but to his lasting regret he could not be absent so long from his work. In 1877, when the Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria came to London, he sent for Mr. Harting in order to learn from him the management of trained hawks, and took an active part in following their flights on Epsom Downs.

When the Natural History Museum was opened at South Kensington Mr. Harting was entrusted with the formation of the zoological library. He also helped to draft an Act of Parliament for the protection of wild birds in 1873. Twenty years later the Board of Agriculture appointed him secretary to a committee of inquiry into the plague of voles in Scotland. He edited the Zoologist for 20 years. Among many books dealing with sport and natural history he was the author of "British Animals Extinct Within Historic times," and "Bibliotheca Accipitraria," dealing with nearly 400 ancient and modern book in 19 languages on the subject of falconry. He possessed a buoyancy of temperament and a personality that lifted the subject he dealt with into a brighter atmosphere. He was not a dry-as-dust professor. Onlookers were brought to see that ornithology and zoology were alive, and he did much to make nature study more attractive, yet he yielded to none in the scientific temper of his mind and set his face against popularizing his subject at the expense of dignity and accuracy. Te recent attempt to change the long-accepted nomenclature of birds was a sore trial to his patience and he never confirmed to the trinomial system. He married, in 1868, Elizabeth, daughter of J. M. Lynch, of Whiteleas, Co. Kildare; she died in 1907. She was a fearless rider to hounds and a brilliant musician. A son and a daughter are left.

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