Soaring in Scotland

(Image courtesy of Belknap Press)

(Image courtesy of Belknap Press)

This news is definitely worth tweeting about.

The country of Scotland is celebrating the legacy of Alexander Wilson, the Father of Ornithology in North America, and Ohio Wesleyan University professor Edward H. “Jed” Burtt Jr. is in the United Kingdom this summer to help share Wilson’s story.

Burtt is the co-author of a new book recounting Wilson’s life, including his contributions to modern ornithology. Burtt wrote “Alexander Wilson: The Scot Who Founded American Ornithology,” with William E. Davis Jr., professor emeritus at Boston University following a decade of research. The resulting 464-page book was published in May by Belknap Press, an imprint of Harvard University Press, and was hailed by one reviewer as a “richly illustrated, very special book [that brings Wilson] back to life as an engaging and influential character whose passion for birds primed ours. I couldn’t put it down.”

While living in the United States in the 1800s, Wilson decided to document the nation’s birds. Before his death in 1813, he discovered 26 species of North American birds, representing 80 percent of the birds in eastern North America, says Burtt, himself an honorary life member of the Wilson Ornithological Society.

“He saw passenger pigeons, ivory billed woodpeckers, and the now extinct Carolina parakeets among many others,” says Burtt, a zoology teacher at Ohio Wesleyan for more than 35 years. “Wilson’s books are key in all ornithology research.”

Burtt is in Scotland to help the nation honor Wilson 200 years after his death. Burtt is participating in events at the University of Glasgow, including the opening of a Wilson exhibition at the Hunterian Zoology Museum.

While abroad, Burtt will take time to soak up some of the sights and culture of Scotland, including staying at a castle that now offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations. “I’m hoping to get a photograph at the front door,” Burtt says, noting that guests typically don’t use the castle’s main entry.

Read more about Burtt’s book, “Alexander Wilson: The Scot Who Founded American Ornithology.”

Read more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Zoology.

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