James Wilson (zoologist)
James Wilson (1795–1856) was a Scottish zoologist.
He was the youngest son of John Wilson (died 1796), a gauze manufacturer, and his wife Margaret (born Sym), and was born at Paisley in November 1795. John Wilson who wrote as "Christopher North" was his eldest brother; Henrietta Wilson the writer was his niece, daughter of his brother Andrew. His father having died during James's first year, the family moved to Edinburgh, where he was educated. In 1811 he began to study for the law, but his health was poor.
In 1816 Wilson visited the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Paris. He later returned to Paris to purchase Louis Dufresne's collection of birds for the museum of Edinburgh University; and helped to arrange them. In 1819 he visited Sweden, soon after which symptoms of lung disease appeared, and he resided in Italy during 1820–1. In 1824 he married In 1824 he married Isabella Keith, and settled down at Woodburn, Dalkeith near Edinburgh, where he wrote and worked on scientific pursuits. Losing his wife in 1837, he took a winter residence in George Square, Edinburgh.
In 1841, with Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, he made a series of excursions round the coasts of Scotland, at the request of the Fisheries Board, to study the natural history of the herring. Other trips followed at intervals between 1843 and 1850, and fishing excursions inland. In 1854 he was offered but declined the chair of natural history in the Edinburgh University, then vacant by the death of Edward Forbes.
He died at Woodburn on 18 May 1856. Wilson had joined the Wernerian Society when just 17, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
He was author of:
- Illustrations of Zoology, Edinburgh, 1826, 9 pts.
- Entomologia Edinensis, written with James Duncan, Edinburgh, 1834.
- Treatise on Insects, Edinburgh, 1835.
- Introduction to the Natural History of Quadrupeds and Whales, Edinburgh, 1838.
- Introduction to the Natural History of Fishes, Edinburgh, 1838.
- Introduction to the Natural History of Birds, Edinburgh, 1839.
- The Rod and Gun, Edinburgh, 1840; new edition, 1844.
- A Voyage round the Coasts of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1842, 2 vols.
- Illustrations of Scripture. By an Animal Painter, with Notes by a Naturalist [signed ‘J. W.’], Edinburgh (1855).
For the Edinburgh Cabinet Library he wrote the zoology of India, China, Africa, and the northern regions of North America; and contributed the greater part of the natural history and a life of Professor Forbes to the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He published articles in the Quarterly Magazine, Blackwood's Magazine, and other periodicals.
- "Wilson, James (1795-1856)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.