In 1926 a young self-taught ornithologist named James Bond gave up a banking job to work for the Academy of Natural Sciences. Within 10 years, the Academy would publish his first book, the landmark Birds of the West Indies.
The book became the birding bible of author Ian Fleming. In early 1952 Fleming began writing his 007 thrillers — and stole Bond’s name for his secret agent.
The real James Bond worked for the Academy for nearly six decades. His Birds of the West Indies in its various editions remained in print even longer, introducing generations of birders to an array of incredible birds that he collected and studied for the Academy: the last Eskimo Curlew in the world, Cuba’s Bee Hummingbird (the smallest bird in the world) and Jamaica’s Red-billed Streamertail immortalized by Fleming in “For Your Eyes Only.”
Several years ago, I began researching the real James Bond, and the more I learned — with the help of Academy Ornithology Collections Manager Nate Rice and other Academy scientists — the more I realized that Bond deserved his own biography, and a lavishly illustrated one at that.
In the process, I got to see several of the rare birds that Bond collected on his ground-breaking trips to the Caribbean, including those rare hummingbirds and a Bahama Nuthatch that may have gone extinct in the past year.
I also made several trips to the Academy’s library, where I pored over Bond’s correspondence, looked through his scrapbooks, and even got to hold his penknife. (You won’t believe what’s etched on one of the blades.)
On March 3, the Academy is hosting a launch event for my book, The Real James Bond. I’ll present an illustrated talk, answer questions from the audience, and sign copies of the book. Lots of cool Bond items will be on display, including editions of Birds of the West Indies, Mary Bond’s scrapbook, Bond’s penknife, and some of the rare birds he collected that still are used for research today.
By Jim Wright, author of The Real James Bond. Jim Wright, of Allendale, N.J., is a prize-winning writer, blogger and birding columnist for The [Bergen] Record in northern New Jersey. His books include The Nature of the Meadowlands, Jungle of the Maya, and Hawk Mountain.
To register for “The Real James Bond: Philly, Spies and the Academy of Natural Sciences,” visit our webpage here.
For another post about Academy ornithologist James Bond, click here.
For a story by Philly Voice on the Academy’s James Bond connection, click here.
To learn more about the Academy’s collection of 18 million animals and plants, watch this new video from @6 ABC Localish, click here.