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John L. Latham

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John L. Latham

*  1740 Eltham
† 1837 unbekannt


John L. Latham was born on June 27, 1740, in Eltham, England. Latham studied medicine and began practicing in Datford, in the county of Kent, working as a doctor there until 1793. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1775 and was a cofounder of the Linnean Society of London in 1788. Aside from his activity as a doctor, Latham became interested in and began studying the birds of Australia, which had been introduced to England during the last part of the 18th century, and gave the previously unnamed animals scientific names. The results of this work were published in the orinthological book "A general synopsis of birds," which appeared from 1781 to 1801 and contained 106 illustrations drawn by Latham himself. Just as the French natural scientist Leclarc de Buffon before him, he placed no importance on the nomenclature of the species introduced in this work, though he later realized that only the binomial nomenclature as used by Carl von Linné would bring him the necessary respect, which would allow the species identified by him to be ultimately attributed to him. He published the "Index ornithologicus" in 1791, in which he gave a binomial Latinized name to all of the species of birds he had described. However, this had already been anticipated by the German natural scientist Johann Friedrich Gmelin, who had already named the birds identified by Latham in his 13th edition of Carl von Linné's "Systema naturae" in 1788. Nonetheless, Latham was considered the grandfather of Australian orinthology at the time of his death on February 4, 1837.