Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon

by Barrow, Mark V

Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon

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Description

In the decades following the Civil War--as industrialization, urbanization, and economic expansion increasingly reshaped the landscape--many Americans began seeking adventure and aesthetic gratification through avian pursuits. By the turn of the century, hundreds of thousands of middle-and upper-class devotees were rushing to join Audubon societies, purchase field guides, and keep records of the species they encountered in the wild. Mark Barrow vividly reconstructs this story not only through the experiences of birdwatchers, collectors, conservationists, and taxidermists, but also through those of a relatively new breed of bird enthusiast: the technically oriented ornithologist. In exploring how ornithologists struggled to forge a discipline and profession amidst an explosion of popular interest in natural history, A Passion for Birds provides the first book-length history of American ornithology from the death of John James Audubon to the Second World War.

Barrow shows how efforts to form a scientific community distinct from popular birders met with only partial success. The founding of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1883 and the subsequent expansion of formal educational and employment opportunities in ornithology marked important milestones in this campaign. Yet by the middle of the twentieth century, when ornithology had finally achieved the status of a modern profession, its practitioners remained dependent on the services of birdwatchers and other amateur enthusiasts. Environmental issues also loom large in Barrow's account as he traces areas of both cooperation and conflict between ornithologists and wildlife conservationists.

Recounting a colorful story based on the interactions among a wide variety of bird-lovers, this book will interest historians of science, environmental historians, ornithologists, birdwatchers, and anyone curious about the historical roots of today's birding boom.