Scientist of the Day - John Gould
John Gould, an English ornithologist, was born Sep. 14, 1804. Gould was a skilled taxidermist and a competent sketch artist who had the good fortune to marry an even more talented artist and budding lithographer, Elizabeth Coxen Gould. In 1830, he and Elizabeth collaborated on their first bird book venture, a large folio volume called Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains. The book was issued in parts to subscribers, four plates per month for 20 months, finishing in 1832. It was a great success, and was followed by the five-volume Birds of Europe (1837), also issued by subscription. Over the course of fifty years, Gould and his artists (Elizabeth died in 1841) issued 50 large volumes containing over 3000 hand-colored lithographed plates. Our History of Science Collection has a respectable Gould collection, including both of the titles mentioned here, but the nearby Spencer Library at the University of Kansas in Lawrence has what must be the best collection in the world--all of Gould's published volumes, plus thousands of his and Elizabeth's drawings, lithographic transfers, even some lithographic stones.
The first four images above are from the Birds of Europe, and show, in order: a bee-eater, a detail of the bee-eater plate, a common crane (drawn by Edward Lear), and a water ouzel. The nutcracker (fifth image) is from the Birds of the Himalayas, and the koalas are from Mammals of Australia (1863). We displayed several Gould volumes in our 2009 exhibition, The Grandeur of Life, where you can see a great heron and a blue roller from Birds of Europe, and a numbat and Tasmanian devil from the Mammals of Australia. The home page of this exhibit also employs one of Gould’s koalas, to happy effect.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to email@example.com.