John James Audubon, an American ornithologist, born on a plantation in Louisiana, May 4, 1780, died in New York, Jan. 27, 1851. He was the son of an officer in the French navy. When very young he showed the greatest fondness for birds, keeping many as pets. He made sketches of these, and, disclosing considerable talent as a draughtsman, was taken to France to be educated, and placed in the studio of the celebrated painter David. He was 17 years old when he returned to his native country, and he afterward became possessed of a fine farm on the banks of the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania. His researches into the habits of birds, and his drawings of them, absorbed his attention, and though unsuccessful at first in bringing his drawings before the public, he laid during the years of his life in Pennsylvania the foundations of the great work which he afterward produced. A severe trial befell him when, after having accumulated a large stock of the most carefully executed designs, he discovered that the whole of them had been destroyed by mice. After 10 years' residence in Pennsylvania, he removed to Henderson, Kentucky, where he embarked in trade.
In 1810 he made the acquaintance of the Scotch ornithologist Alexander Wilson, who was then prosecuting his own researches in the American wilderness, and accompanied him in his excursions. The next year Audubon visited the bayous of Florida, gathering with his rifle and pencil new subjects for study. In 1824 he went to Philadelphia and New York, to make arrangements for the publication of the results of his labors; and for the same purpose he sailed for England in 1826. He was everywhere received by learned societies and scientific men with the utmost cordiality and enthusiasm. Among his warmest admirers in Great Britain were Jeffrey, John Wilson, and Sir Walter Scott; and in Paris, Cuvier, Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, and Humboldt. Of the 170 subscribers at $1,000 each to his splendid volume, the "Birds of America," nearly one half came from England and France. This volume was issued in numbers, containing five plates each, every object being of the size of life. By Nov. 11, 1828, eleven numbers of the work had appeared, with nearly 100 plates.
In 1829 he returned to the United States, where he gathered materials for a new work, which he termed his "Ornithological Biographies." In 1832 he made another visit to England, where in the course of two years the second volume of the "Birds of America" was published, and a second volume also of the " Ornithological Biographies." In 1833, having returned for the last time to this country, he established himself in a beautiful residence on the banks of the Hudson, near the city of New York, where he commenced a new edition of the " Birds of America," in imperial octavo. This was finished in seven volumes in 1844. During this interval Audubon exhibited in the hall of the New York lyceum of natural history a collection of his original drawings containing several thousand specimens of birds and animals, all of which had been gathered by his own hand, all drawn as large as life, and all represented in their natural habitats or localities. He next projected a work on the "Quadrupeds of America," on the same imperial scale with that on the birds. For this purpose he began, in company with his sons, Victor Gilford and John Wood-houso, who both inherited much of his talent as an artist as well as a naturalist, a new course of travel.
But the approach of old age induced his friends to dissuade him from the more toilsome expeditions which he thought necessary to complete this scheme. A great deal of the labor was performed for him by his friend Dr. Bachman, of Charleston, S. C, and he was largely assisted in the other departments by his sons. He died before the work was ended. His sons completed and published the "Quadrupeds of America," in folio and imperial octavo volumes, uniform with the two editions of the "Birds," but died without executing their cherished design of writing a biography of their father. Mrs. Audubon, now (1873) upward of 80 years of age, prepared, with the aid of a friend, a memoir which appeared in New York in 1869, entitled "The Life of John James Audubon the Naturalist," accompanied by a portrait after Henry Inman's well known picture, and a view of Audubon's residence. The work was also published in London. Audubon was a fellow of the Lin-naaan and zoological societies of London, of the natural history society of Paris, of the Wer-nerian society of Edinburgh, of the lyceum of natural history at New York, and an honorary member of the society of natural history at Manchester, of the royal Scottish academy of painting, sculpture, and architecture, and of many other scientific bodies.