Overview and History of Ornithology (The Late 20th Century Period)

Ornithology is the branch of zoology that deals with the study of birds. The documented history of this study covers 1812 up to the present. The Natural History Museum in Philadelphia, part of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (ANSP), chronicles the history of ornithology which has four phases. The first part of the history known as the early period took place from 1812 to 1869. The middle period took place from 1888 to 1969. The late 20th century period shows the events from 1969 to 1994 and the last part, called the current situation is the history from 1994 up to the present. However, this article will focus more on the third part of ornithology’s history.

An American ornithologist, Frank Gill, lead to the growth and modernisation of the Ornithology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He established various programmes, wherein another ornithologist, Bob Ridgely helped him to incorporate other programmes in 1982. Ridgely began to work on his four-volume masterpiece entitled ‘Birds of South America’ illustrated by Guy Tudor. His second Vireo, ‘Visual Resources in Ornithology’ became the largest collection of bird pictures in the world. It was followed by ‘Birds of North America’ (BNA), which aimed to cover 720 nesting species’ life histories in the continent. More books by Ridgely have been published in the following years; these books became among the leading books or references of the students.

The research conducted by Gill lead to revolutionary changes in ornithology. To read the entire history of ornithology, visit ANSP’s official site, the http://www.ansp.org/research/biodiv/ornithology/history.php.

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