James Bond (ornithologist)

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James Bond
James Bond 1974.jpg
Portrait of James Bond in 1974
Born(1900-01-04)January 4, 1900
DiedFebruary 14, 1989(1989-02-14) (aged 89)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

James Bond (January 4, 1900 – February 14, 1989) was an American ornithologist and expert on the birds of the Caribbean, having written the definitive book on the subject: Birds of the West Indies, first published in 1936. His name was appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his fictional British spy of the same name.

Life and career[edit]

Bond was born on January 4, 1900 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Margaret Reeves (Tyson) and Francis Edward Bond. His interest in natural history was spurred by an expedition his father undertook in 1911 to the Orinoco Delta. Bond was originally educated at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, but after the death of his mother he moved with his father to England in 1914. There he studied at Harrow and later Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained a B.A. in 1922 and was the sole American member of the Pitt Club.[1] After graduating he moved back to the United States and worked for a banking firm for three years in Philadelphia. An interest in natural history prompted him to quit and accept a place on an expedition to the Amazon run by the Academy of Natural Sciences.[2] Subsequently, he worked as an ornithologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in that city, rising to become curator of ornithology there.[3] He was an expert in Caribbean birds and wrote the definitive book on the subject: Birds of the West Indies, first published in 1936. From the 1920s to the 1960s, he took dozens of birding explorations to the West Indies.[4]

Bond won the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Medal in 1952;[3][5] the Brewster Medal of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1954; and the Leidy Award of the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1975.[6] He died in the Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia at age 89.[3] He is interred in the church yard at Church of the Messiah in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania. Bond's wife, the author Mary Wickham Bond, who wrote several memoirs about her husband, died in 1997.[7]

Fictional namesake[edit]

Ian Fleming, who was a keen bird watcher living in Jamaica, was familiar with Bond's book, and chose the name of its author for the hero of Casino Royale in 1953, apparently because he wanted a name that sounded "as ordinary as possible". Fleming wrote to the real Bond's wife, "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born." He did not contact the real James Bond about using his name in the books, and Bond did not learn of the identity "theft" until the early 1960s when the 007 books became popular in the U.S. In 1964 during his annual winter stay at Goldeneye in Jamaica, James Bond and his wife visited Fleming unexpectedly.[8] Also in his novel Dr. No Fleming referenced Bond's work by basing a large ornithological sanctuary on Dr. No's island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed, "To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity". In December 2008 the book was put up for auction, eventually fetching $84,000 (£56,000).[9][10]

James Bond's wife told Fleming that her husband saw the use of his name for the character as a good joke, to which Fleming replied "I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming...Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion."[11]

In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day, the fictional Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana, Cuba. The author's name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx (Halle Berry), he introduces himself as an ornithologist. In the 2015 Bond film Spectre, the same book was seen in a promotional on-set photo, which is supposed to be appearing in an alternate take of a scene taking place in Bond's Chelsea apartment.[12] However, it is nowhere to be found in the final film.

In the ITV Miss Marple murder mystery "A Caribbean Mystery", broadcast on 16 June 2013, Miss Marple meets Ian Fleming at a talk on "Birds of the West Indies", given by James Bond. Before the talk begins, Fleming tells Miss Marple that he's working on a new book, but trying to come up with a name for the character. When the speaker introduced himself, Fleming has a moment of inspiration and reaches for his notebook. The talk by the ornithologist James Bond is on guano which figures in the background and plot of the James Bond spy novel Dr. No.


  • Bond, James (January 1936). Birds of the West Indies. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
  • Bond, James (May 15, 1946). "The Birds of Mona Island". Notulae Naturae. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (176). ISBN 1-60483-176-6.


  1. ^ Contosta (1993), p. 48.
  2. ^ Parkes, Kenneth (1989). "In Memoriam: James Bond" (PDF). The Auk. 106 (4): 718–720.
  3. ^ a b c "James Bond, Ornithologist, 89; Fleming Adopted Name for 007". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 17, 1989. p. D19. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  4. ^ Wright (2020), p. 8.
  5. ^ The Institute of Jamaica's web site has him listed as winning a silver Musgrave Medal for ornithology in 1951.
  6. ^ "The Four Awards Bestowed by The Academy of Natural Sciences and Their Recipients". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 156 (1): 403–404. June 2007. doi:10.1635/0097-3157(2007)156[403:TFABBT]2.0.CO;2.
  7. ^ Wright (2020), p. 135.
  8. ^ Wright (2020), pp. 13–19.
  9. ^ "Ian Fleming's 'You Only Live Twice' Sells For $84,000 At Auction". CommanderBond.net. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  10. ^ "Lot 103, Ian Fleming sgd 1st British ed You Only Live Twice". LiveAuctioneers.com. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  11. ^ Mrs. James Bond: "Ian Fleming". In "Letters to the Editors", Life 4 November 1966, p. 22A.
  12. ^ "Birds of the West Indies by James Bond". James Bond Lifestyle. 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2016-04-11.


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