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Abbot, John (31 May 1751–1840), artist-naturalist, was born in London, England, the son of John Abbot, an attorney in the court of King’s Bench, Plea side, and Ann Clousinger. (Although baptismal records list his birth date as 31 May, Abbot, in his “Notes on My Life” [1834], claimed he was born on 1 June.) Little is known about Abbot’s early education. The family rented a country home near London where young John read books and studied insects in the field. His father had a collection of good paintings and encouraged his son’s interests with books and arranged for home art lessons under the engraver and drawing master Jacob Bonneau. Nevertheless, Abbot’s career was assumed to be in law, and in February 1769 he began to clerk in his father’s law office. In his free time he continued to study insects, purchase books that illustrated insects and birds, and paint pictures. In 1770 Abbot exhibited two lepidoptera watercolors at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in London. By early 1773 he had determined to go to North America to collect and paint insects. The Royal Society of London and two English naturalists, Thomas Martyn and Dru Drury, commissioned Abbot to collect natural history specimens....

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Ames, Blanche Ames (18 February 1878–01 March 1969), artist and women's rights activist, artist and women’s rights activist, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Adelbert Ames, a Civil War general and governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction, and Blanche Butler, whose father was a general and governor of Massachusetts. The younger Blanche graduated from Smith College in 1899 with diplomas from both the College and the School of Art....

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Audubon, John James (26 April 1785–27 January 1851), naturalist and artist, was born Jean Rabin Fougère in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, the son of Captain Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, planter, and slave dealer, and Jeanne Rabin (or Rabine), a young Frenchwoman employed as a chambermaid on the island. The traditional view, that Mlle Rabin was a Creole woman native to Santo Domingo, has been disproved. Audubon’s mother died before he was seven months old, and the child was cared for by another mistress of the father’s with whom he had several children. In 1791, fearing worsening conditions in Santo Domingo, Captain Audubon arranged for his son and a younger daughter by his mistress Catherine “Sanitte” Bouffard to be taken to France. There both were well cared for by Captain Audubon’s legal spouse, Anne Moynet Audubon, who had no children of her own. Both children were formally adopted by the couple in 1794, as was required if they were legally to inherit Captain Audubon’s name and property, and were baptized in 1800. At this time the boy received the name Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon....

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John James Audubon. Lithograph in Gallery of Illustrious Americans, 1850. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-28111).

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Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

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Beard, James Carter (06 June 1837–15 November 1913), artist, author, and naturalist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of James Henry Beard, a portrait, genre, and animal painter, and Mary Caroline Carter. He spent his childhood there and in nearby Covington, Kentucky, then attended Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, during the mid-1850s. Later he read law in Cincinnati under ...

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Brödel, Paul Heinrich Max (18 June 1870–26 October 1941), medical illustrator and anatomist, was born in Leipzig, Germany, the son of Paul Heinrich Louis Brödel, an employee of the Steinweg piano works, and Christiane Henriette Frenzel. As a child, Max Brödel showed talent in both music and the visual arts, and at age fifteen he enrolled in the Königliche Kunstakademie und Kunstgewerkeschule zu Leipzig. Required by the Leipzig art school to learn at least one graphic technique, Brödel always acknowledged the importance of his training in lithography. In 1888, he began working part-time as an illustrator for the renowned physiologist Carl Ludwig. At the time, the Leipzig medical school drew physicians and investigators from around the world for advanced training and research opportunities, and, while working for Ludwig, Brödel met the American anatomist ...

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Anna Botsford Comstock. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111455).

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Comstock, Anna Botsford (01 September 1854–24 August 1930), educator and scientific illustrator, was born in a log cabin in Cattaraugus County, New York, the daughter of Marvin Botsford and Phoebe Irish. The Botsfords were prosperous farmers who encouraged Anna in her love of art, literature, and natural history. Her mother, a Hicksite Quaker, shared her love of the natural world with her daughter. From 1871 to 1873 Anna attended the Chamberlain Institute and Female College in nearby Randolph, where she resisted attempts by its faculty to have all students “experience” religion, asserting the moderate beliefs she would retain throughout her life....

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Fuertes, Louis Agassiz (07 February 1874–22 August 1927), artist, naturalist, and scientific illustrator, was born in Ithaca, New York, the son of Estevan Antonio Fuertes of Puerto Rico, a professor of civil engineering at Cornell University, and Mary Perry of Troy, New York. Named after but unrelated to the great nineteenth-century naturalist Louis Agassiz of Harvard, Fuertes was the youngest in a family of six. He traveled widely throughout the world but always considered Ithaca his home....

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Furbish, Kate (19 May 1834–06 December 1931), botanist and watercolorist, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the daughter of Benjamin Furbish, a hardware merchant and civic leader, and Mary A. Lane. The family moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Furbish was an infant, and she was educated in the Brunswick schools. Her public school education was supplemented by art courses in Portland and Boston, botanical study in Boston, and the study of French literature in Paris. In 1870 she began to focus on the Maine flora, and for the next sixty-one years she devoted herself to its study. She did not marry, and on her father’s death in 1873 she inherited enough money to live comfortably on her own for the remainder of her life....

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William Henry Holmes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-48333).

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Holmes, William Henry (01 December 1846–20 April 1933), artist, scientist, and administrator, was born on a farm near Short Creek in southeastern Ohio, the youngest of three sons of Joseph Holmes and Mary Heberling Holmes. In 1856 Holmes's mother died and his grandparents, John and Mary Heberling, raised him in nearby Georgetown until 1860, when his father married Sarah I. Moore. At eighteen, Holmes entered McNeely Normal School to prepare for a teaching career. While excelling in drawing, geography, and natural history and immersing himself in the student life of McNeely, Holmes taught temporarily in the Harrison County schools. In 1870 he was asked to join the McNeely faculty to teach art and science. Art was Holmes's real passion, however; not teaching. Restless, he decided to go to the nation's capital between terms to study under Theodore Kaufmann. When not in the studio, Holmes was at the Smithsonian Institution drawing birds and, perhaps, also drawing attention to himself. He was discovered there by a Costa Rican ornithologist, José Zeledon, and hired on the spot as one of the Smithsonian's contract illustrators. Holmes liked his new work but learned that there was a difference between art and illustration when Assistant Secretary ...

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Lesueur, Charles Alexandre (01 January 1778–12 December 1846), artist and naturalist, was born in Le Havre, France, the son of Jean-Baptiste-Denis Lesueur, an officer in the admiralty, and Charlotte Geneviève Thieullent, the daughter of a naval captain. At the age of nine Lesueur entered the Royal Military School at Beaumont-en-Auge. In 1793 he enrolled in a military school in Le Havre called the “Batillon de l’Esperance,” and from 1797 to 1799 he was an under-officer in the National Guard of Le Havre. For a few months in 1798 he served aboard the dispatch boat ...

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Peale, Titian Ramsay (02 November 1799–13 March 1885), naturalist and artist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Willson Peale, an artist, and Elizabeth DePeyster. Like several of his siblings, Peale was named after a famous painter by his father, who served in the revolutionary war, painted the earliest portrait of ...

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Roger Tory Peterson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Peterson, Roger Tory (28 August 1908–28 July 1996), ornithologist and artist, was born in Jamestown, New York, to Charles G. Peterson and Henrietta Bader Peterson. Both his parents had emigrated to America from Europe: his father had been born in Sweden, his mother in Germany to parents of Slavic descent. His father, an intensely practical man, worked for a company that made office furniture. Though he admired the artistic talent his son exhibited at an early age, he was also skeptical of Roger's dreamy absorption in nature and feared that the boy would not come to a good end. From earliest childhood Roger Tory Peterson enjoyed being alone in the woods and countryside, observing animals and especially birds. He began to sketch what he saw, and at the age of fourteen won a prize for a drawing of a butterfly. His active membership in a Junior Audubon Club from the age of eleven onward gave a focus to his life that the activities of other children his age did not, and in old age he remembered himself when young as a rebellious loner for whom nature provided salvation....

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Ernest Thompson Seton With Blackfoot Indians, starting a fire with bow and stick, 1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115320).

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Seton, Ernest Thompson (14 August 1860–23 October 1946), naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, was born Ernest Evan Thompson in South Shields, England, the son of Joseph Logan Thompson, a businessman, and Alice Snowden. Joseph Thompson claimed famous Scottish ancestry, including a title, never legally established, deriving from the fifth earl of Winton, Lord Seton. Ernest legally adopted the surname Seton in 1901....

Article

Sinclair, Isabella McHutcheson (1840–1890), author and illustrator, was born near Stirling, Scotland. William and Isabella Phelps McHutcheson are believed to be her parents, and her father was employed by the Inland Revenue Service. He is thought to have been the brother of Elizabeth McHutcheson Sinclair, the matriarch who bought the Hawaiian island of Niihau with her sons in 1864. The William McHutcheson family migrated in 1861 from Scotland to Canterbury, New Zealand, probably to live near the family of Elizabeth Sinclair (widowed in 1846), who had originally settled at Pigeon Bay in 1843. Private tutoring offered Isabella McHutcheson a gentlewoman’s education and developed her early-recognized artistic abilities. She was well versed in the lore of the Maoris and understood their knowledge of flowering New Zealand plants....