John James Audubon

Who Was John James Audubon?

John James Audubon was born in 1785, in Haiti. Audubon conducted his first scientific studies from his father's Pennsylvania estate. After trying and failing in several different types of business ventures, he concentrated on drawing and studying birds, and began traveling around the country to pursue this work. He got his extraordinary four-volume Birds of America published in London in 1827 and followed it up with several related works.

Taking Flight

In 1820 Audubon and his family headed to New Orleans to study and draw birds. Audubon combined his artistic talents and his interests as a naturalist. He painted a huge collection of drawings of birds that are noted for their dramatic and realistic qualities.

'Birds of America'

Audubon went to the United Kingdom, where he found engravers skilled enough to reproduce his work. He exhibited his work in both Scotland and England, and the public loved his drawings of birds.

The success of his exhibitions led to the first publication of his most famous book: Birds of America. Featuring more than 400 plates of his drawings, the four-volume work was printed in London in 1827. The drawings were accompanied by text that told about the lives and behaviors of the birds.

In 1841 Audubon moved his family to a large rural estate on the Hudson in upper Manhattan, where he began work on a more compact edition of Birds of America.

Last Frontier

In 1843 Audubon ventured westward where he began research for a new work on mammals. However, Audubon was going blind, and he became dependent on others to help him complete it.

Audubon died in 1851. He is remembered as one of the most important naturalists of his era. His respect and concern for the natural world makes him one of the forefathers of the modern conservationism and environmentalism movements. In 1886, the first bird-preservation society was named in his honor.

Source: John James Audubon
© National Audubon Society

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