Humans, Nature, and Birds

Timeline Linking the Study of Birds, Technology, and Art


Timeline Linking the Study of Birds, Technology, and Art:

  Images document the slow rise of ornithology as a bona fide science. They record the transition of birds from objects of interest, sometimes venerated, in prehistory and the ancient past, into subjects of organized study in contemporary times. They register the discoveries made on the European mapping expeditions in the 1500s. They confirm the burgeoning European specimen collections of the mid-1500s and the growing roster of species named by Europeans in the 1600s. They convey the developing protocols that allowed researchers to organize birds (as well as other animals and plants) into biologically meaningful categories, which led in the 1700s to wide acceptance of the binomial nomenclature that gives each species a unique name. And they chronicle how the availability of unique names led to a rapid growth in the Western market for bird books, especially illustrated accounts of nonnative species.

In the 1800s, illustrated books filled with paintings of birds, now named and grouped by similarities, helped readers see how evolutionary theory lent orderto the background noise of natural philosophy. Developments in the scientific understanding of birds that were reported in the literature and captured on canvas eventually brought to light the vulnerabilities of bird populations; awareness of those vulnerabilities led, by the late 1800s, to the development of a conservation agenda. Then, with the publication of field guides filled with small, easily recognized paintings of each species, and the production of affordable binoculars, the barrier holding back public involvement in bird conservation efforts slipped away. Today the constituency of activist birders and “citizen

© 2008 Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy
scientists” is very large; mem bers’ efforts are well documented by images, and the results of their efforts are more impressive than early conservationists might have thought possible.[1] On the other hand, an equivalent expansion has taken place in the number and severity of insults to the avian environment that today’s conservationists must confront and work to diminish.

The timeline that follows provides a context for the art discussed in this book.[2] It lists major figures who produced bird art or made advances in bird science, as well as major shifts in technology that affected one or both arenas. The entries in black type refer to artists, trends, or events in art. Artists are typically listed at the midpoint of their career. Each artist with an image featured in this book is listed in red at the date of the cited work. The section covering the past half-century contains only one artist, however, because only deceased artists are included here. When the artist is unknown, the title of the work is listed in red.

The entries printed in blue refer to innovators, trends, or events in science and technology. Innovators are listed either at the midpoint of their career or at the point of their major contribution. The remaining entries, printed in green, refer to cultural events that relate to birds, the produc tion of bird art, or both—for example, the expeditions that returned with exotic specimens during the Age of Exploration. Individuals who made contributions to both art and science are coded according to their major influence.[3] Please note that given the availability of scholarly resources to us, this timeline emphasizes Western scientific, cultural, and artistic events, despite efforts by the authors to include important advances from non-Western sources.

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