The 18th Century Search for the Blue Nile

Mark Catesby

Catesby's Swallow Tail Hawk.jpg

Catesby's Water Color Illustration of a Hawk

Born into a wealthy and prominent family in Suffolk, East Anglia, Mark Catesby quickly showed signs that he would not go into the family norm of being lawyers and governors. Although little is known about his education, specifically in natural science and art, his childhood interest became more than just a hobby. In fact, Catesby is recognized as the first European to explore the New World’s natural history of botany, taxonomy, and many other animals.

His interest in natural history began when he saw his uncle creating a vast botanic garden, which was a common hobby for wealthy “gentlemen.” However his uncle, Nicholas Jekyll, provided much more to Catesby than just introducing him to the field of study. Jekyll was involved with many great naturalists and introduced Catesby at a very young age, building a strong foundation for the rest of his career.

Catesby is known for his two journeys to America, studying plants, animals, and other natural resources. He spent much of his life illustrating and publishing his findings into his book Natural History, which he presented in sections to the Royal Society from 1729-1747 (Meyers, xvi). Three volumes were published as more naturalistic science was developed, the most recent of which was in 1771.



"Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands." Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Accessed May 22, 2015.

Meyers, Amy, and Margaret Pritchard. Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision. Williamsburg, Virginia: Omohundro Institute, 1998.

Catesby, Mark, and George Frederick Frick. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, 1974.

Mark Catesby