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Gibson, William Hamilton

GIBSON, WILLIAM HAMILTON (1850-1896), American illustrator, author and naturalist, was born in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on the 5th of October 1850. The failure and (in 1868) death of his father, a New York broker, put an end to his studies in the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and made it necessary for him to earn his own living. From the life insurance business, in Brooklyn, he soon turned to the study of natural history and illustration, - he had sketched flowers and insects when he was only eight years old, had long been interested in botany and entomology, and had acquired great skill in making wax flowers, - and his first drawings, of a technical character, were published in 1870. He rapidly became an expert illustrator and a remarkably able wood-engraver, while he also drew on stone with great success. He drew for The American Agriculturist, Hearth and Home, and Appleton's American Cyclopaedia; for The Youth's Companion and St Nicholas; and then for various Harper publications, especially Harper's Monthly Magazine, where his illustrations first gained popularity. He died of apoplexy, brought on by overwork, on the 16th of July 1896 at Washington, Connecticut, where he had had a summer studio, and where in a great boulder is inset a relief portrait of him by H. K. Bush-Brown. He was an expert photographer, and his drawings had a nearly photographic and almost microscopic accuracy of detail which slightly lessened their artistic value, as a poetic and sometimes humorous quality somewhat detracted from their scientific worth. Gibson was perfectly at home in black-and-white, but rarely (and feebly) used colours. He was a popular writer and lecturer on natural history; in his best-known lecture, on "Cross-Fertilization," he used ingenious charts and models.

Gibson illustrated S. A. Drake's In the Heart of the White Mountains, C. D. Warner's New South, and E. P. Roe's Nature's Serial Story; and his own books, The Complete American Trapper (1876; revised, 1880, as Camp Life in the Woods); Pastoral Days: or, Memories of a New England Year (1880); Highways and Byways (1882); Happy Hunting Grounds (1886); Strolls by Starlight and Sunshine (1891); Sharp Eyes: a Rambler's Calendar (1891); Our Edible Mushrooms and Toadstools (1895); Eye Spy: Afield with Nature among Flowers and Animate Things (1897); and My Studio Neighbours (1898).

See John C. Adams, William Hamilton Gibson, Artist, Naturalist Author (New York, 1901).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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