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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Illuminated 13th century manuscript, The Art of Falconry by early amateur naturalist Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.
Illuminated 13th century manuscript, The Art of Falconry by early amateur naturalist Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.
Famous naturalist and artist John James Audubon.
 
Famous naturalist and artist John James Audubon. Portrait (pg 166) from Famous Men of Science (1889) by Sarah Bolton.

Are you a bird watcher? Do you keep fish or reptiles in an aquarium or terrarium? Do you reach for your camera when wildlife wanders through your backyard? Many people have a strong interest in observing and learning about wild animals, but few make a living at it. However, it is not only scientists at universities, zoological parks, and museums that make significant contributions to our knowledge of the natural world. Historically, and in modern times, many amateur naturalists, people who earn livings in fields outside natural history, have become recognized experts in the study of animals, or zoology.

In this presentation we highlight the published works of prominent amateur naturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries who have advanced our knowledge of vertebrate zoology. These notable figures have contributed to the scientific and popular literature in a variety of ways. Amateur naturalists have described new species, illustrated scientific articles, and documented the behaviors, ecology, and distributions of a myriad of animal species. Enthusiastic volunteer naturalists have aided professional zoologists by participating in bird counts, frog surveys, fish collections, and by recording bird and frog vocalizations. Many amateur naturalists have also written popular books that generated interest and concern for the natural world among the general public and inspired younger readers to pursue careers as professional researchers, conservationists, and environmental educators.

Book

To give you an opportunity to take a more in-depth look at the published works of these naturalists, we have provided online links to full text versions of publications that are now in the public domain. We encourage you to peruse these publications and learn about the discoveries of these amateur naturalists first hand.


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