Who is the Original James Bond?
He was no debonair secret service agent, who enjoyed the lifestyle every young boy dreamed of. Instead the original James Bond was an American ornithologist. This James Bond led a life dedicated to the meticulous study and understanding of bird species across the West Indies. His significant contributions to ornithology, notably his book Birds of the West Indies, have left an indelible mark on the field.
As we delve into the world of this unsung hero, we will journey through his passion for birds and the unusual connection between his life and the creation of a fictional superspy. In this exploration, we unravel the enigma of the original James Bond – the man behind the iconic moniker, whose life, though devoid of cinematic glamour, was rich with natural wonder and scientific discovery.
The Original James Bond – The Ornithologist
The original James Bond was born on January 4, 1900, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the son of Margaret Reeves Tyson and Francis Edward Bond. His father’s 1911 exploration of the Orinoco Delta ignited Bond’s curiosity about the natural world. His academic path led him from the Delancey School to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire.
Yet, the untimely death of his mother brought about a shift in scenery in 1914, when he moved to the United Kingdom with his father. Here, he pursued studies at Harrow and subsequently at Trinity College, Cambridge, earning a B.A. in 1922 while being the only American member of the prestigious Pitt Club.
Returning to the United States after graduation, Bond spent three years in Philadelphia working for a banking institution. However, his passion for natural history led him to resign, and together with Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, he secured a loan to embark on an expedition to the Amazon. Their mission: to collect specimens for the Academy of Natural Sciences.
This marked the beginning of his tenure at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where he rose through the ranks to become the curator of ornithology. James Bond established himself as an authority on Caribbean birds, culminating in the publication of his magnum opus, Birds of the West Indies, in 1936.
Bond’s contributions to ornithology were recognized with the Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica in 1952, the Brewster Medal from the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1954, and the Leidy Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1975.
He passed away in 1989 at the age of 89 in Chestnut Hill Hospital, Philadelphia, and his final resting place is in the churchyard of the Church of the Messiah in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania. His wife, author Mary Fanning Wickham Bond, who penned several memoirs about her husband’s life, passed away in 1997.
How James Bond the Spy Got His Name
The name James Bond is synonymous with the world of espionage and sophistication, thanks largely to the vision of one man – Ian Fleming. The British author was the creative genius behind the legendary spy character, having penned a series of novels and short stories that would later evolve into one of the most successful film franchises in history.
Fleming, an avid birdwatcher, was also known for his fascination with the natural world. While living in his house, GoldenEye, in Jamaica and crafting the character that would eventually become the suave secret agent, he needed a name that embodied absolute simplicity and anonymity.
During this time, Fleming stumbled upon a book that he had in his personal collection – Birds of the West Indies by American ornithologist James Bond. The book, comprehensive and detailed, had become Fleming’s birdwatching bible.
Seeing the author’s name, Fleming found it fit the character perfectly, saying, “I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers’. Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure—an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
Interestingly, this seemingly ordinary choice for a name sharply contrasts with the exhilarating escapades of the character James Bond, introducing a layer of irony to the narrative. Although Fleming aimed to find the ‘dullest, plainest-sounding name’, the name James Bond now resonates with class and elegance in the modern world.
The Origins of the Coolest Name in Hollywood
In the grand tapestry of history, the lives of a British author and an American ornithologist intertwined to give us a name recognized globally – James Bond. The ornithologist James Bond’s life, rich in scientific exploration and discovery, was far removed from the glamour and danger that define the character of 007.
Yet, thanks to the intriguing blend of simplicity and exoticism Ian Fleming sought for his protagonist, the name Bond, James Bond has grown to become one of the most recognizable names in the world.