Known as the Grandfather of Australian ornithology, he was the first to describe, and to name scientifically, a large number of Australian (and New Zealand) birds. He built up a substantial collection of bird skins and a very fine library.
Latham dominated ornithology for half a century.
It must always be borne in mind that Latham, as well as following his profession, visited all the museums, published his works, etched every copper plate in his original work, stuffed and set up almost every animal in his very extensive museum, and put together, with his own hands, a great many of the very cases in which they were disposed... (Gregory Mathews).
During Latham's long lifetime there poured in upon him countless new discoveries from all parts of the world, but especially from the newly-explored shores of Australia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. According the WRB Oliver, both the specimens and the drawings collected by the Forsters in the New Zealand region during Cook's second voyage, together with those specimens collected during Cook's first voyage were used by Latham when writing his General Synopsis of Birds (1781?1785).
The Synopsis was limited to 500 copies.
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