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Spotlight on Amateur Naturalists

A web project by Courtney Shaw, VZ Librarian, formatted for the web by Diane Pitassy.

This website, Spotlight on Amateur Naturalists, highlights the scientific and popular literature contributions of prominent amateur naturalists from the 18th-20th centuries. The project started about four years ago when the then Zoo librarian, Alvin Hutchinson, thought that it might be nice to highlight some of the non-taxonomic books in the VZ libraries, especially those used by scientists use in the course of their work.

Konrad Gesner, Historia animalium [History of animals], 1551-87, “De Camelo.”

As Courtney Shaw started investigating this idea, she asked many curators what books and people they thought should be included. It became evident that many contributions referenced by the curators were written by amateur naturalists. The decision was made to pursue the idea of how amateur naturalists have enhanced the knowledge base of vertebrate zoology literature.

The goal of the site is to give a fullness to the idea that many people, of all ages and walks of life, can actively contribute to science and inspire interest and concern for the natural world.

The site is divided into different publication categories. Many images of books were taken by the Libraries’ Photo Lab and added to the Galaxy of Images; some were used in the current text. Whenever possible, works in the public domain were linked to full text online versions available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library,, and Google Books. Hotlinks were also made to EOL pages when specific taxa were referenced in the text. The site will be included on the Vertebrate Zoology Libraries page as a featured presentation.

Courtney Shaw


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