Elliott Coues

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Elliott Coues

Elliott Coues Autograph Letter Signed - 1864

Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pages, approx 6″ x 8″, dated February 15, 1864, Mt. Pleasant, Washington, Hospital, Coues writes to his colleague, George H. Lawrence, in which he often refers to the work of the esteemed American ornithologist and ichthyologist Professor Spencer Fullerton Baird; in part:

Dear friend Lawrence,

            Your letter was received a few days ago, and I have already taken out for you the birds you desire. Prof Baird will forward them shortly.

            You will find the Ereunetes n.8p from the West Coast – exactly identical I think with those you have – I do not think that you can make anything of the __________ mar minutilla from Pacific. The specimen I refer to in my monog. as peculiar is in merely that unusual dark state of plumage we find all the species of the group to assume occasionally. Nevertheless I send specs in abundance.

            We have no Lams chalcopterus. It is one of the S. Q. desiderata [?]. I believe you mistake the Affrintes of L. borealis. “Borealis Brandt” is a large slate colored species from the north Pacific, synonymous with cachimrans Pallas, and also I think with occidentalis Andreb. In my forthcoming monog. Larridae, I assign ________ a query to that species.

            I am now deep in the Thalassidromae. I have worked up all the species in a monog. Exotic as well as domestic. – You know I have a new genus and two new species. The new genus is a _____ tailed form from Pacific; the other new species is the one you described in R.R. Rep as I. Melania, but which you recalled Prof. B. has since discovered is not the melania at all. …

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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