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Roger Tory Peterson
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Author
    (August 28, 1908-July 28, 1996)
    Born in Jamestown, New York
    Ornithologist, author, and artist
    Wrote or edited a series of field guides starting with ‘Guide to the Birds’ (1934)
    Developed the Peterson Identification System for identifying birds and animals at a distance based on ‘field marks’ instead of the technical features used by scientists
    When he took his dates to the movies, he would close his eyes and listen for birdsongs on the soundtrack.
    He called revising his guides as ‘a kind of penance.’
    It took over 30 years for him to update the third edition of his ‘Field Guide to Birds.’ (Shortly before the fourth edition was released, he conceded that the third was ‘not just historic, it’s prehistoric.’)
    He once absentmindedly wandered away from a dinner being held in his honor.
    He and British ornithologist James Fisher went on a 30,000-mile tour of North America, during which they set a record by spotting 572 bird species in a single year (1953).
    He had a remarkable ear for birdsongs; a Harvard scientist who tested his hearing said it was the most acute he had ever encountered.
    When residents of Jamestown were polled to name the most famous person to come from the town, he edged out Lucille Ball by a single vote (1975).
    Paul Ehrlich wrote, ‘In this century, no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide.’
    He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980).

Credit: C. Fishel


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