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Wilson, Alexander 1766-1813

Ornithologist; born in Paisley, Scotland, July 6, 1766; became a weaver, and wrote verses for the newspapers, and in 1789 peddled two volumes of his poetry through the country. His Watty and Meg, published in 1792, and attributed to Burns, had a sale of 100,000 copies. Being prosecuted for a poetical lampoon, he came to America in 1794, landing at Newcastle, Del. By the advice of William Bartram (q. v.), the botanist, he turned his attention to ornithology. Late in 1804 he made a journey on foot to Niagara Falls, and wrote a poetic account of it. In 1805 he learned the art of etching. He persuaded Bradford, the Philadelphia publisher, to furnish funds for the publication of a work on American ornithology in a superb manner, but it was so expensive that it was not pecuniarily successful. His labors, day and night, upon this great work impaired his health and hastened his death. He had finished seven volumes when he laid aside his implements of labor. He died in Philadelphia, Aug. 23, 1813. The eighth and ninth volumes were edited after his death, with a biography, by George Ord, who had accompanied him on some of his journeys. The work was afterwards continued by Charles Lucien Bonaparte.

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