Henry Baker Tristram bigraphy, stories - British ornithologist, parson-naturalist

Henry Baker Tristram : biography

11 May 1822 - 8 March 1906

The Reverend Henry Baker Tristram FRS (11 May 1822 – 8 March 1906) was an English clergyman, Biblical scholar, traveller and ornithologist. As a parson-naturalist he was an early acceptor of Darwinism, attempting to reconcile evolution and creation.

Tristram was born at Eglingham vicarage, near Alnwick, Northumberland, and studied at Durham School and Lincoln College, Oxford. In 1846 he was ordained a priest, but he suffered from tuberculosis and was forced to live abroad for his health. He was secretary to the governor of Bermuda from 1847 to 1849. He explored the Sahara desert, and in 1858 visited Palestine, returning there in 1863 and 1872, and dividing his time between natural history observations and identifying localities mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. In 1873 he became canon of Durham Cathedral. In 1881 he travelled again to Palestine, the Lebanon, Mesopotamia, and Armenia. He also made a voyage to Japan to visit his daughter, (1858–1948), who was a missionary and teacher in Osaka, where the famous Church Missionary Society (CMS) School for Girls was opened in 1879, and developed under her guidance between 1888 and 1925.

In 1858, he read the simultaneously-published papers by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace that were read in the Linnean Society, and published a paper in Ibis stating that given the "series of about 100 Larks of various species before me... I cannot help feeling convinced of the views set forth by Messrs Darwin and Wallace." He attempted to reconcile this early acceptance of evolution with creation.Armstrong, 2000. p. 6

Tristram riding a donkey Edward Bartlett (1836–1908), an English ornithologist and son of Abraham Dee Bartlett, accompanied Tristram to Palestine in 1863–1864. Tristram was a founder and original member of the British Ornithologists' Union, and appointed a fellow of the Royal Society in 1868. His travels and contacts enabled him to accumulate an extensive collection of bird skins, which he sold to the World Museum Liverpool.

Tristram's publications included The Great Sahara (1860), The Land of Israel, a Journal of Travels with Reference to Its Physical History (1865), The Natural History of the Bible (1867), The Daughters of Syria (1872), Land of Moab (1874), Pathways of Palestine (1882), The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (1884), Eastern Customs in Bible Lands (1894) and Rambles in Japan (1895).

A number of birds were named after him, including Tristram's Starling (also Tristram's Grackle), Tristram's Warbler, Tristram's Woodpecker, Tristram's Serin, and Tristram's Storm-petrel. He also lent his name to the gerbil Meriones tristrami, also known as Tristram's Jird (a type of gerbil).


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