John Gould was an English ornithologist who left behind more than 40 volumes and over 3000 prints of birds and mammals -- his most famous works being Birds of Australia (1840-48) and A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Family of Hummingbirds (1849-61). He grew up in a modest household and learned about plants and animals from his father, a gardener at the Royal Gardens of Windsor. Gould began his career on the staff of London's Zoological Society, and became the curator and director -- the primary taxidermist -- at the age of 23. He married artist Elizabeth Coxen in 1829, and her lithographs illustrated most of Gould's best work, until her death in 1841. Gould famously helped Charles Darwin identify many species from the Beagle voyage in the 1830s, and is said to have inadvertently helped Darwin along his way to a theory of evolution. During his long career, Gould published Birds of Europe (5 volumes, 1832-37), Birds of Australia (8 volumes), The Mammals of Australia (1849-61), Birds of Asia (1849-83) and Birds of Great Britain (5 volumes, 1862-73).
John Gould wasn’t much of an artist himself; he used other accomplished illustrators besides his wife. Among them, for a short time, was Edward Lear, the poet and humorist… Gould has had several species named after him, including Gould’s Petrel, Gould’s Sunbird and Gould’s Frogmouth… Gould had a long fascination with hummingbirds, but didn’t see a living specimen until he traveled to New York when he was 53 years old.
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