The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

by Lewis, Daniel
The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

by Lewis, Daniel

Format: Hardcover

Release Date: 1/1/2012

Code: 13676

Condition: New

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Product Details

Amateurs and professionals studying birds at the end of the nineteenth century were a contentious, passionate group with goals that intersected, collided and occasionally merged in their writings and organizations. Driven by a desire to advance science, as well as by ego, pride, honor, insecurity, religion and other clashing sensibilities, they struggled to absorb the implications of evolution after Darwin. In the process, they dramatically reshaped the study of birds.

Daniel Lewis here explores the professionalization of ornithology through one of its key figures: Robert Ridgway, the Smithsonian Institution's first curator of birds and one of North America's most important natural scientists. Exploring a world in which the uses of language, classification and accountability between amateurs and professionals played essential roles, Lewis offers a vivid introduction to Ridgway and shows how his work fundamentally influenced the direction of American and international ornithology. He explores the inner workings of the Smithsonian and the role of collectors working in the field and reveals previously unknown details of the ornithological journal The Auk and the untold story of the color dictionaries for which Ridgway is known.

About the Author:
Daniel Lewis is the Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science and Technology and the Chief Curator of Manuscripts at The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. He lives in Pasadena.


"Lewis's masterful biography of Ridgway gives us an insight into what it meant to be a "professional" biologist in the late nineteenth century. It fills a critical gap in our understanding of the emergence of the life sciences and on the nature of the scientific profession." - Paul Lawrence Farber, author of Discovering Birds and Finding Order in Nature

"The roots of all American bird enthusiasts trace squarely back to Robert Ridgway, and Lewis's account of Ridgway and the emergence of a modern ornithology in North America resonates and fascinates." - Kimball L. Garrett, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, co-author of the Peterson Field Guide to the Warblers of North America

"A major contribution to the history of natural history, history of museums, history of American science, as well as history of ornithology... sets a fine standard for biographies that move beyond a narrative into analysis of intellectual and social currents in the field." - Pamela Henson, American University

"Deftly presented and deeply researched, The Feathery Tribe uses the life and career of Robert Ridgway to tell the story of professionalization in American ornithology. This book fills an important gap in our understanding of the development of modern bird study, while restoring Ridgway to his rightful place of honor among the pantheon of American naturalists." - Mark V. Barrow, Jr., Virginia Tech, author of A Passion for Birds and Nature's Ghosts

Our Opinion: This book is not only the story of Ridgway's life, but also the history of ornithology at the turn of the 20th century, with all its growing pains. Lewis describes America's first bird organizations, changing and expanding bird study collections, and the struggles that surrounded nomenclature, checklists, and codes.

Known mostly for his standardization of the colors of birds, most famously in Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, Ridgway's magnum opus, The Birds of North and Middle America: A Descriptive Catalog, remains the definitive work on the avifauna of North and Central America. Written in eleven parts, and completed after Ridgway's death by Herbert Friedmann.

Besides the story, the additional information in this book is also of great interest. A complete index and bibliography are helpful, and extensive notes on the text shed a great deal of light on the history. An appendix a whopping 34 pages long makes up a comprehensive list of Ridgway's published works. A fascinating reference to match a fascinating text.

ISBN: 9780300175523

Publisher: Yale University Press

Year of Publication: 2012

Page Count: 346

Shipping Weight: 2.25 lb