1902 Encyclopedia > Edwards

George Edwards
English antiquarian and zoologist
(1693-1773)



GEORGE EDWARDS, (1693-1773), a celebrated antiquarian and ornithologist, was born at Stratford, in Essex, on the 3d April 1693. He was originally apprenticed to a tradesman in Fenchurch Street, London; but obtaining by accident access to a number of books on natural history, painting, astronomy, and antiquities, he lost his inclination for mercantile pursuits, and acquired a desire for foreign travel. In 1716 he visited the principal towns in Holland, and two years afterwards travelled in Norway and Sweden, In 1719 he went to Paris for the purpose of studying its natural history collections, and during his stay in France he made two journeys of a hundred miles each, the first to Chalons in Champagne, and the second on foot to Orleans and Blois. On his arrival in England he closely pursued his favourite study of natural history, applying himself to drawing and colouring such animals as fell under bis notice. Birds first engaged his particular attention, and having purchased some of the best pictures of them, he made a few drawings of his own, which were admired by the curious, who encouraged the young naturalist by paying a good price for his early labours. In 1731 he made an excursion to Holland and Brabant, where he collected several scarce books and prints, and had an opportunity of examining the original pictures of several great masters, at Antwerp, Brussels, Utrecht, and other cities. In December 1733, by the recommendation of Sir Hans Sloane, the pre-sident of the college of physicians, he was chosen librarian to that body, and had apartments assigned him in the college. Here he had the opportunity of a constant recourse to a valuable library filled with scarce and curious books on the subject of natural history, which he so assiduously studied. By degrees he became one of the most eminent ornithologists in his own or any other country. He published the first volume of the History of Birds in 1743, a second volume in 1747, a third in 1750, and a fourth in 1751. In 1758 he continued his labours under a new title, that of Glean-ings of Natural History. A second volume of the gleanings was published in 1760, and a third in 1764. The two works contain engravings and descriptions of more than six hundred subjects in natural history not before described or delineated. He likewise added a general index in French and English, which was afterwards perfected with the Linnsean names by Linnaeus himself, who frequently honoured him with his friendship and correspondence. In 1750 he received the gold medal of the Royal Society, given annually on St Andrew's day to the author of any new discovery in art or nature. He was, a few years afterwards, elected fellow of the Royal Society, and of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and also a member of many of the academies of sciences and learning in different parts of Europe. ,Af ter the publication of his last work, having arrived at his seventieth year, and finding his sight beginning to fail, and his hand losing its wonted steadiness, he retired from public employment to a little house which he had purchased at Plaistow. The conversation of a few select friends, and the perusal of a few select books, were the amusement of the evening of his life ; and now and then he made an excursion to some of the principal cities in England, particularly to Bristol, Bath, Exeter, and Norwich. His general health began to fail some years before his death, which took place on the July 23, 1773.







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