Roger Tory Peterson
In this century no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson the inventor of the modern field guide.
PAUL EHRLICH The Birders Handbook 1988
Roger Tory Peterson one of the worlds preeminent naturalists was born August 28 1908 in Jamestown New York. As is often the case it was an influential teacher who turned a young boy away from mischief and toward a new future. Petersons seventh-grade teacher encouraged her class to join a Junior Audubon Club. Her enthusiasm for birds was captivating and almost overnight Peterson became completely absorbed in their world. Not satisfied to observe the birds passively Peterson became passionate about identifying each species. He began making field sketches and soon thereafter decided to pursue a career as an artist.
After graduating from high school Peterson moved to New York City where he attended the Art Students League (1927-1928) and the National Academy of Design (1929-1931). During this time his pursuit of birds continued unabated and he had the opportunity to meet many of the leading ornithologists of the day. As an instructor in science and art at the Rivers School in Brookline Massachusetts he had his first opportunity to begin sharing his joy of bird watching with the next generation. Elliot Richardson (later attorney general of the United States) was one of Petersons students. Many years later Richardson remembered Petersons influence and nominated him for Outstanding Teacher of the Year. This award was only one of the many honors Peterson would earn in his lifetime. The culmination of Petersons artistic and bird identification skills was the publication of his first book A Field Guide to the Birds in 1934.
When Peterson sought a publisher for the book some doubted whether he could entice people into watching and learning how to identify birds. But when Houghton Mifflin took a chance on the young artist and naturalist A Field Guide to the Birds sold out its first printing of 2000 copies in one week. It has never stopped selling in five different editions over the last 68 years and it has gone on to spawn the most successful series of nature guides ever published in the United States.
Introducing the founder of our field guide series:
Roger Tory Peterson
Roger Tory Peterson, the artist, the photographer, the writer, the guide who turned the skies into a cathedral for the worship of living things ... [is] one of America's most talented men.
- PETER JENNINGS, ABC World News Tonight, recognizing Roger Tory Peterson as Person of the Week.
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