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CHARLES B. CORY (1857-1921)

Charles B. Cory was born rich and enjoyed his money. Besides having a passionate interest in birds (he was a founding member and later president of the American Ornithologists’ Union), he was an accomplished musician (he wrote an opera), magician, hypnotist, shooter, and golfer (he built himself a private golf course). Frank Chapman went so far as to say, “I have never met a man so gifted as Charles Cory” (Chapman 1933, 53). He also had a happy spirit, evidenced by the fact that when he lost his entire fortune in 1906, it did not ruin him. He took – and apparently quite enjoyed – a salaried position at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, to which in more prosperous days he had donated his collection of nineteen thousand bird specimens. He continued to do ornithological research for the rest of his life, publishing over one hundred scientific papers, as well as several books. Most notably, he inaugurated publication of the Catalogue of Birds of the Americas, work that was cut short by his death, then carried on by Carl Eduard Hellmayr until his death, in 1944. That immense undertaking was not completed until 1949.