The Won­der­ful Mr Wil­lughby

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild At Home - BY TIM BIRK­HEAD, BLOOMS­BURY, £25 Jonathan El­ph­ick Or­nithol­o­gist

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. Renowned or­nitho­log­i­cal writer Tim Birk­head has res­cued the charis­matic and bril­liant young 17th cen­tury nat­u­ral­ist Fran­cis Wil­lughby from be­ing con­sid­ered sec­ond in stature to his more fa­mous tu­tor and col­lab­o­ra­tor, John Ray, giv­ing him the ac­co­lade of first true or­nithol­o­gist, a ge­nius whose ground­break­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still rel­e­vant to­day. The au­thor’s pas­sion for his sub­jects, both hu­man and avian, shine through as he brings his­tory to life and re­lates past to present.

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