Jean-Jacques Audubon (or John James Audubon in the United States), born on April 26, 1785 in Cayes (Saint-Domingue) and died on January 27, 1851 in New York, was an American ornithologist, naturalist and painter of French origin, naturalized in 1812, considered the first ornithologist of the New World.
He was raised in Couëron near Nantes where he was fascinated by natural history from his childhood.
In 1803, his father obtained for him a false passport that allowed him to travel to the United States.
He went down the Mississippi with his rifle, his box of colors and his assistant, with the intention of finding and painting all the species of birds in North America. From 1810 he led a wandering life as a hunter, while lovingly observing nature and describing and illustrating flora and fauna, especially birds, with great skill.
His birds are vividly depicted in their natural habitat. This contrasts with the stodgy representations of his contemporaries.
In 1826 he arrived in London with his portfolio. His success was immediate. He was celebrated as the "American Woodsman" and raised enough money to publish The Birds of America between 1830 and 1839. His work, remarkable for its accuracy of detail and beauty of execution, consists of four volumes containing 435 hand-painted life-size plates. King George IV was one of his enthusiastic admirers. Audubon was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, following Benjamin Franklin who was its first American Fellow. He added to his Birds of America the Ornithological Biographies (Edinburgh, 1831-1839, 5 volumes in-8), which contain the description of the life of each species represented. This work was written in collaboration with the Scottish ornithologist William MacGillivray.
Audubon continued his expeditions in North America and bought a property on the Hudson River, today Audubon Park. Back in his homeland, he undertook, with the help of Dr. John Bachman (1790-1874), the description of mammals, the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, which appeared in New York in 1850. The book was completed by his sons and his wife.
John James Audubon is probably buried in Trinity Churchyard, New York, where there is an imposing monument erected in his honor.