October 13, 2023    
6:45 pm - 8:30 pm


Academy of Natural Sciences
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Event Type

Please note: There will be a special, in-person event on FRIDAY, October 13, 2023 in place of our normal October 19th meeting.

It will be held in the auditorium of the Academy of Natural Sciences.  Beforehand, the Illuminating Birds exhibit will be open to attendees. [Specifics to follow.] The doors to the auditorium will open at 6:30pm and the presentation will start at 7pm.  The presentation will also be televised via Zoom which will open at 6:45pm.

Whether attending in person or via Zoom, register for the event here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0kceqqrT8vHNIIaGUgFJh4h-4wrSyHNB-3

You will receive a Zoom link in your email. Disregard the link if attending in person.

Oil portrait of Alexander Wilson (1766–1813), attributed to Thomas Sully (1783–1872) and painted c.1812.


Speaker: Matthew Halley

Birds of the Philadelphia Museum – New Light on the History of American Ornithology and the Legacy of Alexander Wilson

For more than a century, Alexander Wilson (1766–1813) has been hailed as the “Father of American Ornithology”. However, groundbreaking new work by Dr. Halley challenges that paradigm by unveiling the forgotten ornithological contributions of Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827) and his children. Peale was a polymath and proprietor of the “Philadelphia Museum”, which occupied the second floor of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) during Wilson’s time. Through a systematic study of (mostly unpublished) primary sources in Philadelphia-based archives, Halley has reconstructed the first digital inventory of Peale’s famous bird collection, which dramatically changes our understanding of the historical development of scientific ornithology in the United States, and the legacy of Wilson and later scientists.

Matthew R. Halley is an ornithologist and historian from Chester county, Pennsylvania, the Assistant Curator of Birds at the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science, and a Research Associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 2021. Halley is a Fellow and former Editor of the DVOC. He has extensive research experience in the United States and abroad, especially in the Neotropics, and has authored dozens of research papers about bird evolution and the history of American science. During the last decade, Halley relocated and exposed a litany of overlooked primary sources, which have reshaped our understanding of historical figures like Wilson and Audubon, and the development of scientific ornithology in the United States.




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