William Louis Abbott

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William Louis Abbott
Born(1860-02-23)February 23, 1860
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedApril 2, 1936(1936-04-02) (aged 76)
Maryland, U.S.

William Louis Abbott (23 February 1860 – 2 April 1936) was an American medical doctor, explorer, ornithologist and field naturalist. He compiled prodigious collections of biological specimens and ethnological artefacts from around the world, especially from Maritime Southeast Asia, and was a significant financial supporter of the United States National Museum collecting expeditions.

Early life and education[edit]

Abbot was born in Philadelphia.[1] He obtained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881 before studying medicine there, graduating in 1884 and subsequently doing postgraduate studies in England, obtaining licentiates from the Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Surgeons. In 1886, he received a substantial inheritance, ceased the formal practice of medicine, and devoted himself to exploration and collecting.[2][3]

Exploration and collecting expeditions[edit]

Journeys of exploration and collecting made by Abbott include:[2]

Post career[edit]

In 1923, Abbott retired from active fieldwork but continued to provide funding on several occasions to the United States National Museum for other collecting expeditions.

He died at his farm on the Elk River in Maryland of heart disease after a long illness, leaving his books, papers and 20% of his estate to the Smithsonian Institution.[2] At the time of his death he was the largest single contributor to the collections of the museum.[6] Abbott's name is commemorated in the names of numerous animal taxa, including those of Abbott's crested lizard (Gonocephalus abbotti ),[7] Abbott's day gecko (Phelsuma abbotti ),[7] Abbott's booby (Papasula abbotti), Abbott's starling (Cinnyricinclus femoralis), pygmy cuckoo-shrike (Coracina abbotti), Abbott's sunbird (Cinnyris sovimanga abbotti ) and Abbott's duiker (Cephalophus spadix). Plants named after him include Cyathea abbottii, a tree-fern native to Hispaniola.


  1. ^ "William Louis Abbott Papers". Record Unit 7117, Abbott, William Louis, 1860-1936. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Boruchoff, Judith. (1986). Register to the William Louis Abbott Collection. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution: Washington.[1]
  3. ^ "Collections Recently received from Dr. W. L. Abbott and Mr. William Astor Chanler," Smithsonian Institution, 1894.
  4. ^ a b Aluka: Dr William Louis Abbott
  5. ^ Thomas, Lately. The Astor Orphans: A Pride of Lions, W. Morrow, 1971; p. 126.
  6. ^ Taylor, Paul Michael (1985). "The Indonesian collections of William Louis Abbott (1860-1936): invitation to a research resource at the Smithsonian Institution". Museum Anthropology 9 (2): 5-14.
  7. ^ a b Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Abbott, W.L.", p. 1).

External links[edit]