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Society for the History of Natural History


Mark Catesby’s third centennial in America – celebrating his impact on our world

Mark Catesby’s third centennial in America – celebrating his impact on our world

November 4, 2012 12:00am - November 9, 2012 12:00am

In 1712, Mark Catesby (1683-1749), a 29-year old Englishman with an enigmatic past and an insatiable curiosity for the wondrous serendipity of nature, set sail on a three-month voyage to the colony of Virginia [the Lowcountry of South Carolina]. Much of his sojourn in the New World was taken under the auspices of the Royal Society of London. Catesby was to spend much of the next fourteen years exploring the natural habitat of the southeast colonies and the Bahamas, and the subsequent 20 years writing and illustrating his two-volume Natural History of Carolina, Florida and The Bahama Islands.

This celebration is being organized by the Catesby Commemorative Trust – you can view their website at for general background, with SHNH as a co-sponsor. Others involved include the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, US Botanic Garden, Wilton House Museum in Richmond, College of Charleston, Gibbes Museum, Charleston Library Society, Middleton Place Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston.

The program will include a broad array of speakers on diverse subjects with a connection to Mark Catesby as well as related art exhibits, colonial-era garden tours, and expeditions into areas of South Carolina little changed since Catesby was there. Among the speakers who have agreed to participate are several who have been active in our Society and its affairs , including Judith Magee at the Natural History Museum; Amy Meyers at the Yale Center for British Art; Leslie Overstreet at the Smithsonian; Florence Pieters at the University of Amsterdam, Henrietta McBurney Ryan at Eton College; and James Reveal at Cornell.

More information will be provided on the SHNH website as details are confirmed.

Keynote Speaker: Sir Gillean Prance, FRS, PPLS, VMH, Director Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1988-1999, Scientific Director of the Eden Project

Cynthia P. Neal, Producer/Director of “The Curious Mister Catesby” documentary

Catesby – Influences and Sources

Dr Karen Reeds, Mark Catesby and his Botanical Forerunners
Diana & Michael Preston, William Dampier
Florence F. J. M. Pieters & Dr. Kay Etheridge, Maria Sibylla Merian

Catesby’s World

Dr Janet Browne, England
Dr Sarah Meacham, Virginia
Dr Suzanne Linder Hurley, Carolina
Dr Robert Robertson, The Bahamas

Catesby’s Book

Henrietta McBurney Ryan, Catesby’s Drawings
Leslie K. Overstreet, “The Natural History”
Dr Amy Meyers, Catesby’s Etchings

Catesby’s Science

Dr Shepard Krech III, Ornithology (incl. bird migration)
Dr Steven A. Harris, Botany
Dr Aaron Bauer, Zoology (other than ornithology)
Dr W. Hardy Eshbaugh, Catesby’s economic and ethnobotany
Dr James L. Reveal, Catesby The Explorer

Catesby’s Impact

Dr Charlie Jarvis, Linnaeus and the relevance of his use of Catesby’s botany
Dr Kraig Adler, Linnaeus and his use of Catesby’s zoology
Judith Magee, The Naturalists who came after Catesby
Joel T. Fry, The Bartram-Catesby Connection
Mark Laird, Catesby and 18th Century Gardening

The Catesby Commemorative Trust is rebuilding its website and around the end of April will contain complete information about the program, including a ticket ordering facility and the information on special rate accommodations.

David J. Elliott