The Real James Bond

By Frank Otto

Forget Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and even Daniel Craig, now the star of “Spectre.” There was once a real James Bond in the not-so-distant past, and the Academy has a rather unique connection to him. The real James Bond was no secret agent, but he was a spy….of sorts. A bird spy.

In 1953, while deciding on a name for the protagonist of his spy thriller “Casino Royale,” Ian Fleming drew inspiration from one of his avid hobbies: bird watching.

Having moved from the United Kingdom to Jamaica following his service during World War II, Fleming noticed what he would later describe as a “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name” listed as the author on the cover of a book called “Birds of the West Indies.”

That name, of course, was Bond. James Bond.

bond montage

The man behind the name was a widely accomplished ornithologist, one who was so well respected that he was made curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in the 1920s.

The real Bond may not have been a secret agent, but he shared a flair for adventure of which his fictional namesake would approve. Bond led an expansion of the scope of ornithology at the Academy to include more specimens from across the world, including Africa and Asia. He went on hundreds of expeditions through the Caribbean and even the Amazon River to build his collection of bird specimens, most of which are housed in the Academy’s collection today.

The Academy also has a variety of medals and awards that he won for scientific study, a printing block from one of his books and even a scrapbook his wife, Mary Fanning Wickham Bond, kept of 007 memorabilia.

So while diamonds may be forever, Bond’s contributions to the Academy are lasting the test of time as well.


Images are from the Archives of the Academy of Natural Sciences and Jennifer Vess/ANS.

This article first was published by Drexel University’s DrexelNow.


  1. Hi, thanks for this interesting piece. Just a couple of points–Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale in 1952–which is when he chose the name “James Bond” The novel was published in 1953

    And Ian Fleming spent winters in Jamaica, but remained based in the UK after the war.

  2. I work in music , art etc James Bond, DC
    So, it is a true point , that a Mr.James Bond was living a true human life, right?regards

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