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Birders of AfricaHistory of a Network$
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Nancy J. Jacobs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300209617

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300209617.001.0001

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Ornithology Comes to Southern Africa, 1700–1900

Ornithology Comes to Southern Africa, 1700–1900

(p.78) Chapter 3 Ornithology Comes to Southern Africa, 1700–1900
Birders of Africa

Nancy J. Jacobs

Yale University Press

This chapter describes biology, including ornithology, through the hierarchies of Carl Von Linne (Linnaeus), and in relation to African vernacular traditions. Linnaeus' classificatory science moved across the globe in the nineteenth century with explorers and empires; by the late nineteenth century, ornithology had become a specialized scientific field. It spread across Africa in the wake of European political and economic expansion. With the help of vernacular birders, ornithologists harvested the avifauna of Africa, and with the help of laborers skilled at preparing specimens, they launched facts about bird species into the network of science. Ornithologists distinguished themselves from others through formal specialist knowledge that was not applied to the challenges of daily life. Their work privileged the visual, and for a long time the specimens of dead birds were more important objects of study than were living birds.

Keywords:   ornithology, biology, Linnaeus, African vernacular traditions, African avifauna, ornithologists, bird species

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