Alexander Wilson is regarded as the greatest American ornithologist before Audubon, and is often referred to as the "father of American ornithology." In May 1794 he left his native Scotland to find a better life in America. He took a number of teaching positions, eventually moving to Gray's Ferry, Pennsylvania where he met the famous naturalist William Bartram. Bartram encouraged Wilson's interest in ornithology, and in 1802 Wilson made the decision to publish a book illustrating all the birds in North America.
For the remainder of his short life Wilson traveled
extensively observing, painting and writing about birds, and collecting subscribers for his book. This resulted in the nine-volume American Ornithology (1808-1814) which illustrates 268 species of birds, 26 of which had not been previously described. Wilson died during the writing of the ninth volume, which was completed and published after his death by his friend George Ord.