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The Wonderful Mr Willughby

The First True Ornithologist

Tim Birkhead



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01 July 2018
Biography: science, technology & engineering; Mathematics & Sciences; Wildlife: birds & birdwatching
From the author of Bird Sense and The Most Perfect Thing, a biography of Francis Willughby, the first ornithologist Francis Willughby lived and thrived in the midst of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Along with his Cambridge tutor John Ray, Willughby was determined to overhaul the whole of natural history and impose order on its complexity. It was exhilarating, exacting and exhausting work. Yet before Willughby and Ray could complete their monumental encyclopaedia of birds, Ornithology, Willughby died. In the centuries since, Ray's reputation has grown, obscuring that of his collaborator. Now, for the first time, Willughby's own story and genius are given the attention they deserve.

Tim Birkhead celebrates how Willughby's endeavours set a standard for the way birds and natural history should be studied. Rich with glorious detail, The Wonderful Mr Willughby is a fascinating insight into a thrilling period of scientific history and a lively biography of a man who lived at its heart.
By:   Tim Birkhead
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   736g
ISBN:   9781408878484
ISBN 10:   1408878488
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   01 July 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Tim Birkhead FRS is a professor at the University of Sheffield where he teaches animal behaviour and history of science. Among his other books are Promiscuity; Great Auk Islands; The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Birds, which won the McColvin medal; The Red Canary, which won the Consul Cremer Prize; Bird Sense, which was the Guardian's and the Independent's Natural History Book of the Year; and The Most Perfect Thing, winner of the Zoological Society of London's Communicating Zoology Award for 2016. He lives in Sheffield.

Reviews for The Wonderful Mr Willughby: The First True Ornithologist

In this engrossing biography of the first true ornithologist , Birkhead takes us on imaginative journey to the time of Charles II, when there was no classification of animals, birds and plants; when men such as Willughby often endured great hardship in order to make ground-breaking discoveries -- Bel Mooney * Daily Mail * Energetically pursuing his quarry, Birkhead has combined ingenuity and perseverance to produce an evocative portrait of a great pioneer in the scientific study of birds -- Patricia Fara * Literary Review * Brilliantly researched - a vivid celebration of a neglected pioneer of scientific natural history -- Nick Davies, author of 'Cuckoo' A joint celebration of two of the great scientific brains of the Age of Reason ... [An] engaging study' * Country Life * [A] precise and rigorously told biography ... There's a quiddity about [Birkhead's] writing that follows in his subject's steps -- Philip Hoare * New Statesman * Fascinating * Big Issue * Francis Willughby is an ideal subject for a biography ... An entertaining and informative book, packed with well-explained scientific detail -- Sam Leith * Spectator * The story of Willughby's short life, elegantly and engagingly told by Tim Birkhead -- Francis Gooding * London Review of Books * Enthralling ... Tim Birkhead's careful sleuthing uncovers the remarkable story of an ingenious gentleman-scholar living at the dawn of the scientific revolution -- Matt Ridley, author of 'The Evolution of Everything' If you ever thought the history of natural history might be dull, this wonderful book, a masterpiece of biographical sleuthing, will quickly dispel that illusion ... The author's passion for his subjects, both human and avian, shine through as he brings history to life and relates past to present -- Jonathan Elphick * BBC Wildlife * Magnificent: science without any high falutin' technology -- Praise for 'The Most Perfect Thing', David Attenborough Brilliant. It's so wonderful when you come across a book on a subject you are not naturally drawn to and you're completely engaged by it -- Praise for 'The Most Perfect Thing', Bill Bryson Full of wonder and surprise and beautifully written -- Praise for 'The Most Perfect Thing', Nick Davies, author of 'Cuckoo' Birkhead's approach to writing - hard, clear sentences; deep, revelatory looking - has the same effect as his microscope, bringing objects to light that were previously hidden, making us see the familiar with new eyes ... After reading The Most Perfect Thing, you'll never dip your morning soldiers without a shiver of wonder at the complexity and resgourcefulness of the humble egg -- Praise for 'The Most Perfect Thing', Alex Preston * Observer *

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