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Alexander Wilson


1766 - 1813

Father of American ornithology. Born in Paisley, the son of a weaver, Wilson initially followed the same trade, becoming an apprentice in Lochwinnoch. He also wrote and published poems, but unfortunately one of these resulted in his imprisonment for libel. On his release, Wilson emigrated for the USA. There he was employed as a teacher and engraver, but quickly became interested in ornithology. He travelled more than 10,000 miles through the Eastern US studying birds and this work led to the publishing of his American Ornithology in nine volumes (1808-14). This described more than 280 species and remains a valuable resource. He also carried out the first census of breeding birds in America. In 1810, he met John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) and became a profound influence on him.

Wilson drowned while following a bird and lies buried in Philadelphia. He is remembered by a statue next to Paisley Abbey, where he had been christened by John Witherspoon (1723-94).


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