Robert Ridgway was an ornithologist who photographed the trees and forests
along the lower Wabash River during the late 1800s. His photographs capture
the forests at a time when they were rapidly disappearing as the result
of a booming timber industry.
recorded the height, crown width, and diameter of many of the larger trees
he photographed. Original forests and old growth trees of immense proportions
are immortalized through his photographic work. The Illinois State Museum
has in its collection
He also founded the American Ornithologist's Union in 1883. It is a professional organization that is devoted to the scientific study of birds, but amateurs are welcome to join.
Ridgway wrote many books during his career. They include an eight-volume set of a study of North American birds, and a two-volume work called Birds of the Galapagos Archipelago (1896). He also illustrated many of his books with paintings he made of birds.
He is known for developing a system of color standards for scientists to use when describing birds. It is called Color Nomenclature for Birds. This color system has a color wheel of 36 basic colors, with tints and shades of grayed colors adding up to 1115 named colors. It is still used today by ornithologists.
Ridgway retired in 1916 to Olney, Illinois, in the same part of the state in which he was born. He set aside sixteen acres of his land for a Bird Haven, where he grew native plants and made a sanctuary for wild birds.