Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Wilson, Alexander (Scotland-United States 1766-1813)
ornithology, poetry

Wilson had made only a very modest success as a poet before emigrating to the United States in 1794, and once there he became consumed in his spare time with amateur studies in ornithology. Slowly developing both the talents and the contacts to live out his dream of publishing a study of all the species of birds in then-known America, he was able to accomplish the lion's share of this, his main life's work, by the time he died in 1813. The product of Wilson's own indefatigable fieldwork, American Ornithology was the first work of its kind in America, and featured his easy, attractive writing style, summary accuracy, and lovely artwork. Wilson has sometimes been called the "father of American ornithology," largely in recognition of this seminal contribution.

Life Chronology

--born in Paisley, Scotland, on 6 July 1766.
--1779: apprenticed as a weaver
--1782-1789: works as weaver and peddler
--1790: publishes his Poems
--1792-1794: becomes involved in political causes; runs into trouble with the law
--1794: emigrates to Delaware
--1796-1801: works as a schoolmaster at Milestown, near Philadelphia
--1802-1806: works as a schoolmaster at Union School, near Gray's Ferry, Pennsylvania
--1804: becomes an American citizen
--1804: executes a long walking tour through western New York State
--1806: applies unsuccessfully to President Jefferson to accompany exploration expedition of Zebulon Pike
--1806: resigns as schoolmaster; becomes an assistant editor for Samuel F. Bradford
--1808: travels along much of the East Coast seeking out subscribers for his American Ornithology
--1808-1814: publishes nine volumes of his American Ornithology
--1809-1810: publishes "The Foresters," an epic poem
--1810: takes trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans
--1812: elected to the Society of Artists of the United States
--1813: elected to the American Philosophical Society
--dies at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 23 August 1813.

For Additional Information, See:

--American National Biography, Vol. 23 (1999).
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 59 (2004).
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 7 (1897).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 14 (1976).
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Alexander Wilson: Naturalist and Pioneer, A Biography (1961).
--The Life and Letters of Alexander Wilson (1983).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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