Mapping Isabella Bird: Geolocation & Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880)

Isabella Bird: A Brief Biography

Isabella Lucy Bird was a British naturalist, explorer, writer, and photographer.

She was born on October 15, 1831 in the home of her maternal grandmother in Boroughridge Hall, North Yorkshire, Great Britain. The daughter of Reverend Edward Bird BA (1794-1858) and Dora Lawson (1803-1866), she was raised in an upper middle class family and her parents took responsibility for her education at home. Under her father's tutelage, she learned a variety of subjects, including formal studies in flora and fauna. His lessons would serve her writing well and can be seen inflected in her detailed writings on the natural landscape found in her travelogues.

Throughout her life,  Bird called 16 Melville Street in Edinburgh, Scotland home. She died there on October 7, 1904 and was laid to rest in the Dean Cemetery on the west side of Edinburgh. Her obituary appeared in the American Geographical Society Bulletin.

After her death in 1904, the London Spectator explained that her "bright intelligence, [and] an extreme curiosity as to the world outside, made it impossible for her brain and her nature generally to be narrowed and stiffened by the strictly evangelical atmosphere of her childhood" (1907). It is of no surprise then that her life of adventure began in 1854 (at the age of 23), when her doctors recommended a sea voyage and open air as a means to improve her chronically bad health.

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This page references:

  1. Portrait: Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904)
  2. Video: Travels with Isabella Bird
  3. Obituary: Death of Mrs. Isabella Bishop (Isabella L. Bird)