The Ernst Mayr Library and Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, holds a unique and extensive collection of photographs, letters, manuscripts and field notes of William Brewster, a prominent ornithologist/naturalist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His published work is lauded as providing authoritative and novel additions to ornithology.
Brewster published more than 300 ornithological papers and several books which are widely available in academic and research libraries. He was the first president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and was a founding member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, out of which grew the national organization, the American Ornithologists’ Union. Brewster served as President of the American Ornithologists’ Union from 1895 to 1898, and the organization has awarded a medal in Brewster’s name since 1921.
Brewster’s ornithological studies covered the United States, although he worked most extensively in New England. Brewster was a Curator of Ornithology in the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology from 1885 to 1902, continuing to work in the MCZ until his death in 1919. He deposited his bird specimen collection in the MCZ and his associated works such as his journals, diaries, correspondence and some photographic works in the Ernst Mayr Library & MCZ Archives. Brewster’s extensive specimen collection, in combination with his large body of published work, secures his place in ornithological history.