Obituary: Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996)

Published on 01 December 1996 in Obituaries

The death of Roger Tory Peterson at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, marked the end of the career of a man who can truly be said to have revolutionised birdwatching throughout North America and Europe. Until not long before the advent of his first book, A Field Guide to the Birds (of Eastern North America), published in 1934, the identification of small birds had mostly been made down the barrel of a gun. The many Peterson field guides that followed embodied his unique system of identification, using arrows added to his superb illustrations to indicate the main diagnostic features of each bird. I first met Roger, appropriately enough, on Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania in 1949. I was using Roger’s Field Guide and we fell into conversation. Within two hours we had decided to produce an equivalent European version, A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Knowing that Philip Hollom, already working on The Popular Handbook of British Birds, was thinking along similar lines, we decided to invite him to collaborate. Roughly speaking, the idea was that Roger should do the illustrations, I the text, and Phil the distribution details and maps. Like its American counterpart, the book was an immediate success. It has since sold more than one million copies in 13 foreign-language editions. Producing the European Guide involved a lengthy visit to Europe by the three of us, most notably to Spain when I organised an exploratory expedition to the Coto Donana. Roger then settled

Click here to download the full article.

Media To view larger versions of these images simply click on the image thumbnail