History

The decline and fall of William Swainson

In 1834, the Englishman William Swainson was at the height of his scientific career. Aged 45, loaded with honours from the scientific academies and institutions of Paris, Quebec, South Africa, Philadelphia and Bermuda, a fellow of the British Royal Society and the prestigious Linnean Society and vice-president of the London Zoo and the British Ornithological Society, Swainson confidently looked forward to extending his reputation as one of the world's leading naturalists. Then his fortunes took a turn for the worse, and he ended up in New Zealand, living out the latter part of his life in hardship, toil and frustration in a society that set little store by his skills.

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