John Latham: surgeon, ornithologist and antiquary.

John Latham: surgeon, ornithologist and antiquary. Mary Thornton Howard.

London: Troubador Publishing, 2012. Octavo, text illustrations, softcover.

He published a listing of all the known birds of the world in his 'General Synopsis of Birds' - the first such undertaking in Britain for many years - and later added to it an 'Index Ornithologicus' in Latin, to conform to current practice. He rubbed shoulders with Joseph Banks and other eminent scientists of the day, and was duly elected fellow of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries. He was one of the founder members of the Linnean Society. Retirement took him to the historic market town of Romsey, where he threw himself just as vigorously into another of his interests: collecting the artefacts of the past. He copied historical documents and recorded oral tradition, and gathered it all together in seven illustrated volumes, thereby preserving some original material that has since been lost. His name is still revered by historians in Romsey. When tragedy struck, leaving him almost destitute at the age of 80, he was obliged to move to Winchester to live with his married daughter Ann Wickam. Nothing daunted, he set about publishing an even more compendious 'History of Birds', to include all the latest discoveries. He had the intellectual curiosity of his age, and prodigious energy to boot. We are indebted to him for his instinct to preserve and classify, and yet his name is all but forgotten now.

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