Public Program - Gregory Nobles
“"Reader, Can You Assist Me?" John James Audubon and the Origins of Citizen Science”
Cosponsored by the Massachusetts Audubon Society/Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary
In addition to being America's most famous painter of birds, John James Audubon (1785-1851) also achieved unsurpassed status as the nation's first celebrity scientist. Like any nineteenth-century naturalist, however, he could not pursue his research completely by himself.
Audubon frequently relied on ordinary people for ornithological information, which could often be quite fanciful, even foolish, but sometimes essential to his scientific knowledge.
Above all, by repeatedly reaching out to his "Kind Reader" in his massive, five-volume work, Ornithological Biography, Audubon established the foundation for what later came to be known as Citizen Science, a practice now most associated with the organization that bears his name, the Audubon Society.
This talk is based on Nobles’s latest book, John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman.
Gregory Nobles is professor of history emeritus at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently the Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society. His published books include: Whose American Revolution Was It? Historians Interpret the Founding, co-authored with Alfred F. Young (New York University Press, 2011); American Frontiers: Cultural Encounters and Continental Conquest (Hill & Wang, 1997; paperback edition 1998; also published in UK by Penguin UK, 1998); Evolution and Revolution: American Society 1600-1820, co-authored with James A. Henretta (D.C. Heath, 1987); and Divisions Throughout the Whole: Politics and Society in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, 1740-1775 (Cambridge University Press, 1983; paperback edition 2004). Nobles spent 33 years at Georgia Tech as a specialist in early American history and environmental history. In addition to teaching, he also served in three administrative positions, as associate dean of the Ivan Allen College (1994-1996); chair of the School of History, Technology, and Society (1996-2001); and founding director of the Georgia Tech Honors Program (2005-2014). He held two Fulbright professorships, as Senior Scholar in New Zealand (1995) and as the John Adams Chair in American History in The Netherlands (2002), and has received numerous research grants, including three from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and residential fellowships at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington Library, the Princeton University Library, and Newberry Library. In 2004 he was named to the Distinguished Lectureship Program of the Organization of American Historians and, for 2005-2008, was elected to the advisory council of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR); he now serves SHEAR as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the Early Republic and as a member of the SHEAR Book Prize committee. Nobles’s fifth book, John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman, is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. He was elected to AAS membership in 1995.