National Records of Scotland

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Alexander Wilson (1766-1813)

Alexander Wilson (1766-1813)

Ornithologist and poet

Alexander Wilson was apprenticed as a weaver and also worked as a pedlar. He was self-taught with an interest in poetry including the works of Robert Burns. He published his own journal and poems in 1790. Following arrests for protests against industrial conditions he emigrated from Scotland to the United States with his nephew in 1794. In 1804 he became an American citizen. The botanist, William Bartram, encouraged his interest in birds. He travelled widely making drawings and detailed studies backed by his reading of the scientific literature. The results were published as 'American Ornithology' in eight volumes from 1808. One of the early subscribers was President Thomas Jefferson. His achievements were recognised by election to the Society of Artists of the United States and the American Philosophical Society. A ninth volume was published after his death in August 1813. The Wilson Ornithological Society is named in his honour and there is a statue to him in Abbey Close, Paisley.

Birth in 1766

Alex[ande]r Wilson was born on 6 July 1766, the son [lawful] (SL) to Alex[ande]r Wilson and Mary McNab. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Paisley Burgh or Low gives the date of baptism as 10 July.

Birth and baptism entry for Alexander Wilson (ornithologist)

Birth and baptism entry for Alexander Wilson (15 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 573-3/2