George Edwards (naturalist)

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George Edwards
Edwards George 1693 1773.jpg
Born(1694-04-03)3 April 1694
Died23 July 1773(1773-07-23) (aged 79)
NationalityEnglish, British
Known forNatural history writings and illustrations
Etching from Gleanings, vol. I: The little owl

George Edwards (3 April 1694 – 23 July 1773) was an English naturalist and ornithologist, known as the "father of British ornithology".[1]

Edwards was born at Stratford, Essex. In his early years he travelled extensively through mainland Europe, studying natural history, and gained some reputation for his coloured drawings of animals, especially birds.

Librarian for the Royal College of Physicians

In 1733, on the recommendation of Hans Sloane, he was appointed librarian to the Royal College of Physicians in London. Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum, had employed George Edwards as a natural history painter for many years, and Edwards drew miniature figures of animals for him. Edwards visited Sloane once a week to share news and a coffee. Sloane kept track of Edwards's expenses and reimbursed him annually. Edwards served as College librarian for thirty-six years. He was chosen Fellow of the Royal Society and of the London Society of Antiquaries and was rewarded with the Copley Medal.[2]


In 1743 Edwards published the first volume of his A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, the fourth volume of which appeared in 1751; three supplementary volumes, under the title Gleanings of Natural History, were issued in 1758, 1760 and 1764. The two works contain engravings and descriptions of more than 600 subjects in natural history not before described or delineated. He likewise added a general index in French and English, which was afterwards supplied with Linnaean names by Linnaeus himself, with whom he frequently corresponded.

About 1764 he retired to Plaistow, Essex, still a rural village, where he later died at the age of 77.[2] He also wrote Essays of Natural History (1770), Elements of Fossilogy (1776)

Edwards's plates appeared in Johann Seligmann's Sammlung verschiedener ausländischer und seltener Vögel, 1749. Some of the colour plates in his Natural History of Birds were painted by Peter Paillou.

The puffadder shyshark, first described by Edwards in 1760, is now named Haploblepharus edwardsii.


Diadophis punctatus edwardsii, a subspecies of North American snake, is named in honor of George Edwards.[3]


  • Edwards, George (1743–1751). A Natural History of Uncommon Birds (Part I to IV). London: Printed for the author at the College of Physicians. Publication dates on title pages: Part I 1743, Part II 1747, Part III 1750, Part IV 1751
  • Edwards, George (1758). Gleanings of Natural History. Part I. London: Printed for author at the Royal College of Physicians.
  • Edwards, George (1760). Gleanings of Natural History. Part II. London: Printed for author at the Royal College of Physicians.
  • Edwards, George (1764). Gleanings of Natural History. Part III. London: Printed for author at the Royal College of Physicians.
  • Edwards, George (1770). Essays upon Natural History, and other miscellaneous subjects. London: Printed for J. Robson.
  • Edwards, George (1776). Elements of Fossilogy. London: Printed by B. White.


  1. ^ "Hill Collection — 18th c. British authors & artists". Ornithology Collections in the Libraries at Cornell University: A Descriptive Guide. Cornell University Library. 1999. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b Holl, William; Wood, Neville; Mammatt, Edward, editor (1836). "Memoir of Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum". The Analyst. Simpkin and Marshall. 5: 3–20 [13–14].CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). "Edwards, G.". The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Edwards, George". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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