Elliott Coues

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Elliott Coues

ALS to George Lawrence - 1863

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages, 4.5″ x 7″, dated December 22, 1863, Mt. Pleasant, Washington, Hospital, Coues writes to his colleague, George H. Lawrence, in full:

Dear Mr. Lawrence,

Your kind letter came duly to hand; and I have to thank you for the specimens, which I have no doubt I shall find at the S. I. [Smithsonian Institution] next time I go over there.

I have rec’d Salvin’s S Terninae : they are very interesting. They comprise S Antillarum…. Which I do not know both are very different from our N. A. Fuliginosa and Stolida; a genus and species unknown to me which I have to look up : and a (probably) Chroecocephalus cucullaris I am at present determining them to send back to him.  over

I shall have again to take advantage of your kindness and trouble you with a little commission. When at your house, I left behind me, on the top of Bogota Birds, my pocket rule of ivory. As I value it very much as the gift of a friend and have constant need of it, I shall be much indebted to you, if you can forward it to me by mail or Express.

I will send the good spec of lurdus aliciae when Prof. B [Spencer Fullerton Baird] forwards his box to you.

With respectful regards to Mrs. Lawrence & your family I remain

                Very truly yours
                Elliott Coues

ELLIOTT COUES (1842-1899) was an American army surgeon, historian, ornithologist and author. In 1872 Coues (pronounced Cows) published his Key to North American Birds, which, revised and rewritten in 1884 and 1901, did much to promote the systematic study of ornithology in America. His work was instrumental in establishing the currently accepted standards of trinomial nomenclature-the taxonomic classification of subspecies-in ornithology, and ultimately the whole of zoology. In 1873-1876 Coues was attached as surgeon and naturalist to the United States Northern Boundary Commission, and in 1876-1880 was secretary and naturalist to the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, the publications of which he edited. He was lecturer on anatomy in the medical school of the Columbian University in 1877-1882, and professor of anatomy there in 1882-1887. In addition to ornithology he did valuable work in mammalogy; his book Fur-Bearing Animals (1877) being distinguished by the accuracy and completeness of its description of species, several of which were already becoming rare.


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