Alexander Wilson

Died aged 47

Born in Paisley, Scotland, Wilson was baptised in 1766 by Rev John Witherspoon who was later a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.
Wilson was a weaver, and like many weavers at the time became well read and a radical on social issues. His satirical account of a local mill owner led to imprisonment on charges of libel and blackmail. Wilson decided to emigrate to America in 1794 after a run-in with the law over the distribution of radical propaganda. Once there, he travelled 10,000 miles on foot across the country observing birds in their natural habitats, scrutinising behaviour, posture and habits, and classifying the different species.
This culminated in the publication of nine volumes of the book American Ornithology featuring Wilson’s drawings, paintings and descriptions of more than 260 species of birds - with 25 species previously unknown - in North America.
Wilson died of dysentery in 1813. Seven volumes of American Ornithology had been published during his lifetime with the final two volumes produced posthumously.
Five species of bird have been named after Wilson – Wilson’s Storm-petrel; Wilson’s Plover; Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope and Wilson’s Warbler.


Alexander Wilson (July 6, 1766 – August 23, 1813) was a Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator. Identified by George Ord as the "Father of American Ornithology," Wilson is now regarded as the greatest American ornithologist before Audubon. Several species of bird are named after Wilson, including the Wilson's storm-petrel, Wilson's plover, Wilson's phalarope, Wilson's snipe, and Wilson's warbler. The now obsolete warbler genus Wilsonia was named for him by Charles Lucien Bonaparte. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology and the Wilson Ornithological Society also bear his name.

Wikidata Wikipedia

Commemorated on 1 plaque

Alexander Wilson 'Father of American Ornithology' 1766-1813 poet, artist, explorer & scientist. A pioneer in the scientific study of birds. Baptised, Laigh Kirk, 10 July 1766

Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley, United Kingdom where they was baptised (1766)