John Edmonstone was originally a black slave probably born in Demarara (Guyana, South America). He learned taxidermy from Charles Waterton, whose father-in-law Charles Edmonstone (b. 1793, Cardross Park, Dumbarton, Scotland - 1822, Demerara, Br. Guiana) had a plantation in Demarara.
After he was freed, John came to Glasgow with his former master, Charles Edmonstone. From there he moved to Edinburgh (37 Lothian Street), where he taught taxidermy to students at Edinburgh University, including Charles Darwin.
Edmonstone gave Charles Darwin inspiring accounts of tropical rain forests in South America and may have encouraged Darwin to explore there. Certainly the taxidermy Darwin learnt from Edmonstone helped him greatly during the voyage of the Beagle.
Edmonstone is one of Patrick Vernon's "100 Great Black Britons".
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