Charles Waterton(1782-1865), Naturalist
Sitter in 2 portraits
Waterton was a pioneering naturalist and traveller who invented a new method of taxidermy. He first travelled to South America in 1805 to manage his uncle’s sugar plantations in British Guiana where 300 enslaved Africans were put to work. He relinquished this post in 1812 and between 1816 and 1824 he explored the tropical forests of South America, travelled around North America and visited the West Indies. In 1825 he published the successful Wanderings in South America, which recorded natural history, explained his technique for preserving specimens and detailed his adventures. Having inherited the family seat of Walton Hall in Yorkshire in 1806, Waterton then devoted the next forty years to managing his estate as a bird sanctuary. John Edmonstone, who grew up as a slave working on Waterton’s family plantation, accompanied him on many of his travels where he learned how to skin and stuff birds. John gained his freedom after travelling to Britain with Waterton in 1817, eventually settling in Edinburgh teaching taxidermy to students who included Charles Darwin.
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