Roslyn Russell: The Business of Nature

Bird Man from Lyme Regis

John Thompson


The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia
by Roslyn Russell
National Library of Australia, $49.95 hb, 224 pp, 9780642276995


When the English zoologist John Gould died in London in February 1881, he was renowned for his scientific and descriptive studies, principally of birds – those found in his native Britain, the Himalayas, Europe, Australia, North America, and New Guinea – but also of Australian mammals. In the course of his self-made career, Gould produced forty-one large volumes, handsomely illustrated with 3000 plates. These were the work of several artistic collaborators, including, importantly, his wife, Elizabeth, and – early and briefly – Edward Lear, famous later in his own right for his limericks and as a masterly writer of nonsense verse and prose. In addition to his great published works of natural history, Gould was the author of many learned papers and the recipient of high honours from scientific societies. As a leader in his field, he interacted as an equal with aristocratic men of science and affairs; the members of the governing class of his day.

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Published in June 2011 no. 332
John Thompson

John Thompson

John Thompson is a historian and writer now living in Sydney after a long career at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. He holds a doctorate in history from the Australian National University and has written for various journals. He is a frequent reviewer for Australian Book Review. The author of The Patrician and the Bloke: Geoffrey Serle and the Making of Australian History (2006), he co-edited (with Brenda Niall) The Oxford Book of Australian Letters (1998). His anthology Documents that Shaped Australia was published in 2010.

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