William Leon Dawson


I’m mildly obsessed with early ornithology classics, and William Leon Dawson is king of the crop.

He was born in 1873, in Iowa, grew up in the midwest, attended University of Washington, and then Oberlin Theological seminary in 1894. He left the ministry and published “Birds of Ohio” in 1903 while living in Columbus. In 1905 he moved to back to Washington, and published the “Birds of Washington” in 1909.

He was convinced to come to California largely by members of the Cooper Ornithological Society and he moved to Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara. He founded the Museum of Comparative Oology on his property in 1916 which became the foundation of Santa Barbara Natural History Museum’s egg collection. In 1923 he published his opus, “The Birds of California”. I run a twitter feed (below) and tumblr dedicated to some of his more epic passages.

Swarth, Harry S.. 1913. “William Leon Dawson: A Biography”. The Condor 15 (2). Cooper Ornithological Society: 62–69. doi:10.2307/1362052.

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