Bird watching with John James Audubon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Today on our homepage, Google honors the 226th birthday of French-American artist and ornithologist John James Audubon:

J. J. Audubon, who immigrated to America at the start of the 19th century, was a naturalist whose writings on the bird species of North America had a wide and long-lasting impact on the fields of natural history, evolutionary biology, and art. Charles Darwin himself quoted Audubon's work in On the Origin of Species, and the naturalist (and keen hunter) continued to work cataloging birds, and later mammals, into the 1840s.

Audubon's seminal work, Birds of America is in the public domain and available for easy reading (and downloadable as a PDF file) via Google Books. This book, which included dozens of beautiful paintings of bird species, had a storied publication history, and an article in the The Economist noted that 5 of the 10 highest prices paid for physical books were for original copies of Birds of America.

Sophia Foster-Dimino, an artist on the Doodle team that worked on today's tribute says this of J. J. Audubon: "His watercolor and gouache paintings are fascinating from an artistic perspective as well as a scientific one -- Audubon intentionally tried to capture the liveliness and personality of his subjects. I think this warm personal approach is what elevates these images above scientific illustration."

On Audubon's birthday, the Google Books team encourages you to check out this American gem's most important work.


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