John Gould

John Gould FRS (/ɡuːld/; 14 September 1804 – 3 February 1881[1]) was an English ornithologist and bird artist. He published a number of monographs on birds, illustrated by plates that he produced with the assistance of his wife, Elizabeth Gould, and several other artists including Edward Lear, Henry Constantine Richter, Joseph Wolf and William Matthew Hart. He has been considered the father of bird study in Australia and the Gould League in Australia is named after him. His identification of the birds now nicknamed "Darwin's finches" played a role in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould's work is referenced in Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species.

John Gould
John Gould
Born14 September 1804
Lyme Regis, Dorset
Died3 February 1881 (aged 76)
Resting placeKensal Green cemetery
Known forIllustrated monographs on birds
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Gould
Scientific career
InfluencesCharles Darwin

Early life

Gould was born in Lyme Regis the first son of a gardener. He and the boy probably had a scanty education. Shortly afterwards his father obtained a position on an estate near Guildford, Surrey, and then in 1818 Gould became foreman in the Royal Gardens of Windsor. He was for some time under the care of J. T. Aiton, of the Royal Gardens of Windsor. The young Gould started training as a gardener, being employed under his father at Windsor from 1818 to 1824, and he was subsequently a gardener at Ripley Castle in Yorkshire. He became an expert in the art of taxidermy. In 1824 he set himself up in business in London as a taxidermist, and his skill helped him to become the first Curator and Preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London in 1827.[2][3]

Research and works published

Calliope Tschebaiswi Prjer (Thrush Family) by John Gould
Calliope Tschebaiswi Prjer (Thrush Family) by John Gould

Gould's position brought him into contact with the country's leading naturalists. This meant that he was often the first to see new collections of birds given to the Zoological Society of London. In 1830 a collection of birds arrived from the Himalayas, many not previously described. Gould published these birds in A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains (1830–1832). The text was by Nicholas Aylward Vigors and the illustrations were drawn and lithographed by Gould's wife Elizabeth Coxen Gould. Most of Gould's work were rough sketches on paper from which other artists created the lithographic plates.[4][5]

This work was followed by four more in the next seven years, including Birds of Europe in five volumes.[6] It was completed in 1837; Gould wrote the text, and his clerk, Edwin Prince, did the editing. The plates were drawn and lithographed by Elizabeth Coxen Gould. A few of the illustrations were made by Edward Lear as part of his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae in 1832. Lear, however, was in financial difficulty, and he sold the entire set of lithographs to Gould. The books were published in a very large size, imperial folio, with magnificent coloured plates. Eventually 41 of these volumes were published, with about 3000 plates. They appeared in parts at £3 3s. a number, subscribed for in advance, and in spite of the heavy expense of preparing the plates, Gould succeeded in making his ventures pay, realising a fortune.[2][7] This was a busy period for Gould who also published Icones Avium in two parts containing 18 leaves of bird studies on 54 cm plates as a supplement to his previous works.[8] No further monographs were published as in 1838 he and his wife moved to Australia to work on the Birds of Australia. Shortly after their return to England, his wife died in 1841. Elizabeth Gould completed 84 plates for Birds of Australia before her death.[9]

Work with Darwin

A studio photograph (c. 1860)
John Gould Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle Pyrocephalus nanus
The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle : under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N., during the years 1832 to 1836, edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. [Album view] Pl. no. 7, Pyrocephalus nanus held by the State Library of New South Wales digital reference number a1417005h

When Charles Darwin presented his mammal and bird specimens collected during the second voyage of HMS Beagle to the Zoological Society of London on 4 January 1837, the bird specimens were given to Gould for identification. He set aside his paying work and at the next meeting on 10 January reported that birds from the Galápagos Islands which Darwin had thought were blackbirds, "gross-bills" and finches were in fact "a series of ground Finches which are so peculiar" as to form "an entirely new group, containing 12 species." This story made the newspapers. In March, Darwin met Gould again, learning that his Galápagos "wren" was another species of finch and the mockingbirds he had labelled by island were separate species rather than just varieties, with relatives on the South American mainland. Subsequently, Gould advised that the smaller southern Rhea specimen that had been rescued from a Christmas dinner was a separate species which he named Rhea darwinii, whose territory overlapped with the northern rheas. Darwin had not bothered to label his finches by island, but others on the expedition had taken more care. He now sought specimens collected by captain Robert FitzRoy and crewmen. From them he was able to establish that the species were unique to islands, an important step on the inception of his theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould's work on the birds was published between 1838 and 1842 in five numbers as Part 3 of Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, edited by Charles Darwin. Elizabeth Gould illustrated all the plates for Part 3.[10][11][12]

Research in Australia

Gould John Duckbilled Platypus 1845-1863
Platypus from The mammals of Australia (1845–63)
Letter to R. Denny
Letter from John Gould to R. Denny regarding Australian plants

In 1838 the Goulds sailed to Australia, intending to study the birds of that country and be the first to produce a major work on the subject. They took with them the collector John Gilbert. They arrived in Tasmania in September, making the acquaintance of the governor Sir John Franklin and his wife. Gould and Gilbert collected on the island. In February 1839 Gould sailed to Sydney, leaving his pregnant wife with the Franklins. He travelled to his brother-in-law's station at Yarrundi,[13] spending his time searching for bowerbirds in the Liverpool Range. In April he returned to Tasmania for the birth of his son. In May he sailed to Adelaide to meet Charles Sturt, who was preparing to lead an expedition to the Murray River. Gould collected in the Mount Lofty range, the Murray Scrubs and Kangaroo Island, returning again to Hobart in July. He then travelled with his wife to Yarrundi. They returned home to England in May 1840.

The result of the trip was The Birds of Australia (1840–48). It included a total of 600 plates in seven volumes; 328 of the species described were new to science and named by Gould. He also published A Monograph of the Macropodidae, or Family of Kangaroos (1841–1842) and the three volume work The Mammals of Australia (1849–1861).[14][15]

Elizabeth died in 1841 after the birth of their eighth child, Sarah, and Gould's books subsequently used illustrations by a number of artists, including Henry Constantine Richter, William Matthew Hart and Joseph Wolf.

John Gould, Phaethornis Pretrei (hummingbird)
Phaethornis Pretrei, the Planalto Hermit, Brooklyn Museum


Throughout his professional life Gould had a strong interest in hummingbirds. He accumulated a collection of 320 species, which he exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.[16] Despite his interest, Gould had never seen a live hummingbird. In May 1857 he travelled to the United States with his second son, Charles. He arrived in New York too early in the season to see hummingbirds in that city, but on 21 May 1857, in Bartram's Gardens in Philadelphia, he finally saw his first live one, a ruby-throated hummingbird. He then continued to Washington D.C. where he saw large numbers in the gardens of the Capitol. Gould attempted to return to England with live specimens, but, as he was not aware of the conditions necessary to keep them, they only lived for two months at most.

Other works

Gould published: A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Humming Birds with 360 plates (1849–61); The Mammals of Australia (1845–63), Handbook to the Birds of Australia (1865), The Birds of Asia (1850–83), The Birds of Great Britain (1862–73) and The Birds of New Guinea and the adjacent Papuan Islands (1875–88).

Birds of Great Britain

The University of Glasgow, which owns a copy of Birds of Great Britain, describes John Gould as "the greatest figure in bird illustration after Audubon",[17] and auctioneers Sotherans describe the work as "Gould's pride and joy".[18]

Gould had already published some of the illustrations in Birds of Europe, but Birds of Great Britain represents a development of his aesthetic style in which he adds illustrations of nests and young on a large scale.

Sotherans Co.[18] reports that Gould published the book himself, producing 750 copies, which remain sought after both as complete volumes, and as individual plates, currently varying in price from £450 – £850. The University of Glasgow records that the volumes were issued in London in 25 parts, to make the complete set, between 1863 and 1873, and each set contained 367 coloured lithographs.

Gould undertook an ornithological tour of Scandinavia in 1856, in preparation for the work, taking with him the artist Henry Wolf who drew 57 of the plates from Gould's preparatory sketches. According to The University of Glasgow[17] Gould's skill was in rapidly producing rough sketches from nature (a majority of the sketches were drawn from newly killed specimens) capturing the distinctiveness of each species. Gould then oversaw the process whereby his artists worked his sketches up into the finished drawings, which were made into coloured lithographs by engraver William Hart.

There were problems: the stone engraving of the snowy owl in volume I was dropped and broken at an early stage in the printing. Later issues of this plate show evidence of this damage and consequently the early issue – printed before the accident – are considered more desirable.

The lithographs were hand coloured. In the introduction for the work, Gould states "every sky with its varied tints and every feather of each bird were coloured by hand; and when it is considered that nearly two hundred and eighty thousand illustrations in the present work have been so treated, it will most likely cause some astonishment to those who give the subject a thought."

The work has gathered critical acclaim: according to Mullens and Swann, Birds of Great Britain is "the most sumptuous and costly of British bird books", whilst Wood describes it as "a magnificent work". Isabella Tree writes that it "was seen – perhaps partly because its subject was British, as the culmination of [his] ... genius".[19]


A number of animals have been named after Gould, including those in English such as the Gould's mouse.

Birds named after Gould include

Two species of reptiles are named in his honour: Gould's monitor (Varanus gouldii ) and Gould's hooded snake (Parasuta gouldii ).[20]

Gould's sunbird, or Mrs. Gould's sunbird, (Aethopyga gouldiae) and the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae) were named after his wife.[21]

A visit to Gould in his old age provided the inspiration for John Everett Millais's painting The Ruling Passion.

The Gould League, founded in Australia in 1909, was named after him. This organisation gave many Australians their first introduction to birds, along with more general environmental and ecological education. One of its major sponsors was the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

In 1976 he was honoured on a postage stamp, bearing his portrait, issued by Australia Post. In 2009, a series of birds from his Birds of Australia, with paintings by H C Richter, were featured in another set of stamps.[22]


His son, Charles Gould, was notable as a geological surveyor.

See also

  • All pages with titles containing Gouldi for species named for Gould
  • All pages with titles containing Gouldii for species named for Gould


Source: Australian Museum Research Library


John Gould also happened to live next to the famous Broad Street pump during 1854. The pioneering epidemiologist John Snow mentions Gould and his assistant Prince in his famous publication: On the mode of communication of cholera.[24]


  1. ^ Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1890). "Gould, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. 22. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 287–8.
  2. ^ a b Waterhouse, F H (1885). The dates of publication of some of the Zoological Works of the late John Gould. R H Porter, London.
  3. ^ Russell, Roslyn (2011). The business of nature : John Gould and Australia. Canberra: National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ Stephens, M. (2005). "Patterns of Nature: The Art of John Gould at the National Library" (PDF). National Library of Australia News. 15 (7): 7–10.
  5. ^ Cayley, N. (1938). "John Gould as an Illustrator". Emu. 38 (2): 167–172. doi:10.1071/MU938167.
  6. ^ Gould, John (1832–1837). The Birds of Europe. John Gould, London.
  7. ^ Sauer, G C (1985). "Forty years association with John Gould the Bird Man". Archives of Natural History. 1: 159–166. doi:10.3366/anh.1985.013.
  8. ^ Gould, John (1837). Icones Avium. Richard and John E. Taylor, London.
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Gould · John Gould: Bird Illustration in the Age of Darwin · KU Libraries Exhibits". Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  10. ^ Sulloway, F J (1982). "The Beagle collections of Darwin's finches (Geospizinae)" (PDF). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), Zoology Series. 43 (2): 49–94. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2012.
  11. ^ Sulloway, F J (1982). "Darwin and his finches: the evolution of a legend" (PDF). Journal of the History of Biology. 15: 1–53. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/BF00132004.
  12. ^ Ashley, Melissa (2013). "Elizabeth Gould, Zoological Artist 1840-1848: Unsettling Critical Depictions of John Gould's 'Laborious Assistant' and 'Devoted Wife'". Hectate. 39: 101–122 – via EBSCO.
  13. ^ Biography – Charles Coxen – Australian Dictionary of Biography. Yarrundi was a property on Dart Brook near Scone, New South Wales.
  14. ^ "Mammals of Australia, key plates [picture]". Digital collections. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  15. ^ McEvey, Allan (1968). "Collections of John Gould Manuscripts and Drawings". The la Trobe Journal. 1 (2): 17–31.
  16. ^ Anon (1885). "A guide to the Gould collection of Humming-birds" (4 ed.). British Museum (Natural history).
  17. ^ a b "University of Glasgow – MyGlasgow – Special collections – Virtual Exhibitions – Birds, Bees and Blooms – Birds – John Gould: The Birds of Great Britain". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  18. ^ a b "Henry Sotheran's – Birds of Great Britain". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  19. ^ The Ruling Passion of John Gould. London: 1991, Barrie & Jenkins, ISBN 9780712621588
  20. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Gould", p. 104).
  21. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm. p. 146.
  22. ^ Anon (2009). "Migrating waterbirds: international postage paid envelopes and aerogrammes" (PDF). Stamp Bulletin. 300: 14.
  23. ^ See also An Introduction to the Birds of Britain; 1873
  24. ^ Snow, John (1855). On the Mode of Communication of Cholera (2nd ed.). London: John Churchill. p. 53.


  • Chisholm, A. H. 1938. Out of the past: Gould material discovered. Victoria Naturalist 55:95–102.
  • Gould, John. 1840–1848. The Birds of Australia: in seven volumes.
  • Maguire, T. H. 1846–1852.Portraits of the Honorary Members of the Ipswich Museum (George Ransome, Ipswich).
  • Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1890). "Gould, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. 22. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 287–8.
  • Sauer, G. C. 1948. Bird art and artists; John Gould. American Antiques Journal 3:6–9.
  • Sauer, G. C. 1983. John Gould in America. In Contributions to the History of North American Natural History. London, Society for the Bibliography of Natural History Special Publication No. 2:51–58.
  • Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. 1991. Charles Darwin (Penguin)
  • Sauer, G. C. 1982. John Gould the bird man: a chronology and bibliography. (Melbourne, Landsdowne)
  • Tree, Isabella. 1991. The Ruling Passion of John Gould (Grove Weidefeld)
  • Tree, Isabella. 2003. The Bird Man – The Extraordinary Story of John Gould (Ebury Press)
  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Gould, John". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

External links

Albert Gould

Sir Albert John Gould (12 February 1847 – 27 July 1936) was an Australian politician and solicitor who served as the second president of the Australian Senate.

A solicitor, businessman and citizen soldier before his entry into politics, Gould was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1882 to 1898, during which time he served as Minister for Justice in two Free Trade governments. He later served two years in the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1899 to 1901 until his election to the Australian Senate. Gould's interest in parliamentary procedure saw him become involved with the relevant standing committee and he was elected unopposed as the second President of the Senate in 1907. His tenure is remembered as more traditionalist and Anglophilic than his predecessor's.

Defeated by the Labor nominee in 1910 following the Liberal government's defeat, Gould remained in parliament as a backbencher until 1917, when he retired after he was not re-endorsed by the Nationalist Party. He was active in community and religious affairs during his long retirement.

Australasian darter

The Australasian darter or Australian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) is a species of bird in the darter family, Anhingidae. It is found in Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. It weighs around 2.6 kg and spans 86–94 cm (34–37 in) in length.

Cabbage Tree Island

Cabbage Tree Island, also known as the John Gould Nature Reserve, is a protected nature reserve and uninhabited continental island lying 1.4 km (0.87 mi) off the mouth of Port Stephens on the coast of New South Wales, Australia. The 30 ha (74-acre) reserve and island is named for the Cabbage-tree Palms in the two gullies on the island's western side which are the nesting site of Goulds petrel. It is the principal breeding site of the nominate subspecies of the threatened Gould's petrel and, with the nearby Boondelbah Island where there is also a small colony, has been classified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area. Both Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah Islands are gazetted nature reserves under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act, so protecting the island's habitat from land uses incompatible with nature conservation. Access is only permitted for scientific and conservation purposes.

Eastern false pipistrelle

The eastern false pipistrelle, species Falsistrellus tasmaniensis, is a vespertilionid bat that occurs in eastern and south-eastern Australia, including the island of Tasmania.

Galapagos hawk

The Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) is a large hawk endemic to most of the Galapagos Islands.

Hoary wattled bat

The hoary wattled bat (Chalinolobus nigrogriseus) is a species of vesper bat found in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. Two subspecies are currently recognised:

C. n. nigrogriseus (Gould, 1852)

C. n. rogersi (Thomas, 1909)

John Gould (Latter Day Saints)

John Gould (December 21, 1784 – June 25, 1855) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement.

John Gould (ice hockey)

John Milton Gould (born April 11, 1949 in Alliston, Ontario) is a former professional ice hockey player who played 504 NHL games for the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, and Atlanta Flames. He played professionally from 1971 to 1980. He is the older brother of two-game NHLer Larry Gould.

John Gould Fletcher

John Gould Fletcher (January 3, 1886 – May 10, 1950) was an Imagist poet (the first Southern poet to win the Pulitzer Prize), author and authority on modern painting. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, to a socially prominent family. After attending Phillips Academy, Andover Fletcher went on to Harvard University from 1903 to 1907, when he dropped out shortly after his father's death.

John Gould Moyer

John Gould Moyer (July 12, 1893 – January 21, 1976) was a United States Navy Rear admiral, and the 31st Governor of American Samoa from June 5, 1942 to February 8, 1944. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, but lived in both Indiana and Hawaii for much of his life. Moyer was admitted to the United States Naval Academy on June 16, 1910, and became an Ensign shortly upon graduation. He became a Commander in 1934, a Captain in 1939, and eventually a Rear admiral. During his governorship, Moyer recommended the tour of duty of the men under his command be reduced, and took over command of the United States Marines barracks previously under the control of Brigadier general Henry Louis Larsen.

John Gould Stephenson

John Gould Stephenson (March 1, 1828 – November 11, 1883) was an American physician and soldier. He was the fifth Librarian of the United States Congress

from 1861 to 1864. He was referred to as the "librarian of the Civil War era" because Stephenson's tenure of librarianship covered almost the entire length of the war.


The kea (; Māori: [kɛ.a]; Nestor notabilis) is a species of large parrot in the family Nestoridae found in the forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. About 48 cm (19 in) long, it is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange under its wings and has a large, narrow, curved, grey-brown upper beak. The kea is the world's only alpine parrot. Its omnivorous diet includes carrion, but consists mainly of roots, leaves, berries, nectar, and insects. Now uncommon, the kea was once killed for bounty due to concerns by the sheep-farming community that it attacked livestock, especially sheep. In 1986, it received full protection under the Wildlife Act.The kea nests in burrows or crevices among the roots of trees. Kea are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital to their survival in a harsh mountain environment. Kea can solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to food, and will work together to achieve a certain objective. They have been filmed preparing and using tools.


Lagorchestes is a genus containing all but one of the species referred to as hare-wallabies. It has four species, two of which are extinct:

†Lake Mackay hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes asomatus (extinct)

Spectacled hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes conspicillatus

Rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus

†Eastern hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes leporides (extinct)The oldest known fossil of Lagorchestes is an 11,000-year-old one of the extant spectacled hare-wallaby.

Little spotted kiwi

The little spotted kiwi, or little grey kiwi, Apteryx owenii, is a small flightless bird in the kiwi family Apterygidae. It is the smallest species of kiwi, at about 0.9 to 1.9 kg (2.0–4.2 lb), about the size of a bantam. It is endemic to New Zealand, and in pre-European times occurred in both main islands, but is now restricted to a number of small offshore islands and mainland reserves protected by pest-exclusion fences.

Mountain toucan

Andigena, the mountain toucans, is a genus of birds in the family Ramphastidae. They are found in humid highland forests in the Andes of South America, ranging from Bolivia to Venezuela. These medium-sized toucans all have olive-brown upperparts, a black crown, yellow rump, blue-grey underparts and a red vent.

Northern scrub robin

The northern scrub robin (Drymodes superciliaris) is a species of bird in the family Petroicidae. It is found in northern Australia. It was found to be genetically distinct from the Papuan scrub robin, with which it was considered conspecific.A putative subspecies, D. s. colcloughi, known as the Roper River scrub robin, was described by Gregory Mathews in 1914 from specimens supposedly collected from the Northern Territory of Australia. However, there have been no further records from the area, the provenance of the specimens has been questioned, and the taxon is controversial.

Pied heron

The pied heron (Egretta picata), also known as the pied egret is a bird found in coastal and subcoastal areas of monsoonal northern Australia as well as some parts of Wallacea and New Guinea.

Vermilion flycatcher

The vermilion flycatcher or common vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus obscurus) is a small passerine bird in the Tyrannidae, or tyrant flycatcher family. Most flycatchers are rather drab, but the vermilion flycatcher is a striking exception. It is a favorite with birders, but is not generally kept in aviculture, as the males tend to lose their vermilion coloration when in captivity.

Victoria's riflebird

The Victoria's riflebird (Ptiloris victoriae) also known as the duwuduwu to the Yidinji people, is a bird-of-paradise endemic to the Atherton Tableland region of northeastern Queensland, Australia where it resides year-round.

As well as insects, they eat fruits from the trees, some which they peel by holding the fruit with one foot and removing the skin with their bill.

The Victoria's riflebird was discovered by John Macgillivray for John Gould in 1848 and is named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.A common species in its limited range, the Victoria’s riflebird is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES.


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