Monday, September 28, 2009
Yes, Birdie was his nickname
If you watched the first part of Ken Burn’s The National Parks, you might have noticed, amid the rather lugubrious narrative, this man George Bird Grinnell, of the rather appropriate name, whom I’ve encountered before in a history of ornithology. Grinnell (1849-1931) was the editor of Forest and Stream for decades, using his position to fight against what he called the “park grab” of Yellowstone by private interests (some things never change) and for other issues of conservation. I assume he’ll show up in further episodes, because he’s pretty interesting and influential, if little remembered. Looking into him today, I find he was born right here in Brooklyn. His family soon moved up to Audubon Park, now Terrace, in upper Manhattan, where he got to know the widowed Lucy Audubon and Audubon’s two sons. In addition to being naturalist on a couple expeditions West, Grinnell got a doctorate in zoology. He was a great campaigner against the slaughter of the American bison and the decimation of Native American people and culture. He founded the first Audubon Society. All in all, a worthy specimen of the Brooklyn-born. And check out that 'stache -- he'd fit right in in Billyburg today.