Biographer Peter Logan ’75 Discusses Audubon, ‘The Greatest Naturalist’

Peter B. Logan ’75, the author of a new biography of John James Audubon (1785-1851), visited campus on Thursday and Friday to give a public talk and meet with students, staff, and faculty who are interested in the life of the great naturalist, as well as printmaking and conservation.

Logan’s book, Audubon: America’s Greatest Naturalist and His Voyage of Discovery to Labrador, was published last spring by Ashbryn Press. Audubon, an American-French naturalist and ornithologist, made it his life’s mission to document the birds of North America, which he did by painting them realistically but also artistically, with watercolors, in their habitats.

Bowdoin has a unique connection to Audubon because the library’s George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives houses one of only 120 copies of the naturalist’s complete Birds of America. In addition, Audubon also did some research on Kent Island, where the Bowdoin Scientific Station is today.


Logan joined Special Collections & Archives for the monthly page turning of Audubon’s double-elephant folio Birds of America.

Bowdoin Professor Parker Cleaveland (1780-1858), also known as “Father of American Mineralogy,” worked hard for Bowdoin to gain a subscription to Audubon’s prints. Cleaveland’s wish was fulfilled by Roscoe H. Hupper, Class of 1907, when Hupper donated a copy of the complete set of Birds of America to the college in 1955. In 2010, a copy of Birds of America was sold for $11.5 million at an auction in London. Every first Friday of the month, the library has a page-turning event to reveal a new species of bird for visitors.

On Friday, Logan met students studying either printmaking or environmental studies. He also met with Kate Dempsey ’88, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Maine, as well as with faculty and students connected to The Nature Conservancy where Peter supports the Logan Fellowship, a summer internship placement for Bowdoin students through the Environmental Studies Program.

Logan graduated magna cum laude from Bowdoin in 1975 with a degree in government and environmental studies. In addition to being a James Bowdoin Scholar, he was a member and officer of Chi Psi fraternity, competed on Bowdoin’s swimming and water polo teams, did a weekly radio show on WBOR-FM, wrote for the Bowdoin Orient, acted with Masque & Gown, was a proctor at Moore Hall, and served on the five-member student judiciary board. He went on to law school at Georgetown University, where he earned his law degree in 1978 and was an editor of the American Criminal Law Review. For the past 38 years, he has practiced as a civil litigator with law firms in San Francisco and nearby Marin County, where he makes his home and where he served as mayor of Tiburon, California. He is one of the country’s leading scholars on the life of the French-American naturalist and painter John James Audubon and last year published his biography.

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