Deaths – Philadelphia Daily News
February 16, 1989
James, Feb. 14, 1989, of Chestnut Hill, Pa., husband of Mary F. W. (Nee Porcher) Bond. Relatives and friends are invited to the Memorial Service, 11 A.M. at ST. Martin in the Fields
James Bond, 89, Spied on Birds
By Jim Nicholson
James Bond, world famous ornithologist, author and a former curator of the ornithology department of the Academy of Natural Sciences, died Tuesday. He was 89 and lived in Chestnut Hill.
A widely published and respected authority on birds of the Caribbean, Bond had devoted his life to the study of birds since 1926.
He was also known beyond ornithological circles as the man after whom Ian Fleming named his 007 spy, James Bond.
In the past six decades, Bond visited more than 100 islands. In the early days he could live there on as little as 25 cents a day, living with the islanders, eating their food and, to the despair of his friends in the medical profession, drinking unboiled water.
“He got along with the native people so remarkably well,” said his wife, Mary Fanning Wickham Bond, “This was the strength of his research work down there, because the island people are very close to the earth, theyknow their medicines and voodoo and everything about their birds and animals around them. He got close to that.”
For nearly a century the scientific community accepted the belief that birds of the Caribbean were of South American origin. Then, in 1934, Bond shook the foundation of biogeography when he presented the theory that the birds of the region actually originated in North America. He supported his theory over the years in more than 100 scientific papers.
As a measure of the acceptance of his theory, his peers now call “Bond’s Line,” that line dividing the Caribbean birds of North American ancestry from those of South American. The line lies between Grenada and Tobago.
Born in Philadelphia, Bond attended St. Paul’s in New Hampshire and then went to Cambridge to obtain a bachelor of arts degree in 1922. He began a career in banking but quickly changed to natural history.
In 1974, in a biographical sheet written for the Academy, Bond noted, “All of my life I have been interested in natural history. And as a young boy, I collected butterflies. Following graduation from college I worked for nearly three years in the Foreign Exchange department of the old Pennsylvania Company, resigning in 1925 to accompany Rudolphe de Schauensee on an expedition to the Lower Amazon in search of mammals and birds. On my return I decided on my life work – a survey of the avifauna of the Antillean subregion, and subsequently of extralimital island of the Caribbean.”
He said part of his choice was the realization that “probably more Antillean birds were in danger of extinction than in all the rest of the world.” Some of the field data he gathered can never be duplicated.
In 1936 he authored the book, “Birds of the West Indies.” It was this book, now in its sixth edition, that spy-thriller author Ian Fleming was reading in the early 1950s when he began writing his 007 stories. In the early 1960s, Fleming corresponded with Bond’s wife and explained how he appropriated her husband’s name.
Fleming wrote that he was at his house in Orcabessa, Jamaica, and about to be married. He said to take his mind off the apprehensions of matrimony he decided to write a thriller.
“I was determined that my secret agent should be as anonymous as possible,” wrote Fleming. “Even his name should be the reverse of the kind of ‘Peregrine Carruthers’ whom one meets in this type of fiction. At that time, one of my bibles was and still is ‘Birds of the West Indies’ by James Bond, and it struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James II was born.”
In relaying his regards, Fleming added in his letter, “I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may see fit! Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.”
In 1952 Bond received the Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. In 1954 he was awarded the Brewster Medal, the American Ornithologist Union’s highest honor. And in 1975 he received the Leidy Medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences, only the second academy scientist in the 52-year history of the award to receive it at that time.
Mary Bond, his wife of 36 years, is also an author of poetry, short stories and numerous magazine articles, and two novels, “Device and Desire” and “The Petrified Gesture.” Last spring her “autohistory” was published by Dorance and Co., entitled, “Ninety Years At Home In Philadelphia.”
Of her marriage to Bond, she said, “It was a wonderful life for me to go around to these places. He was a relaxed and charming person.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a step-daughter, Mary E. Eiseman, a nephew, and six step-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Martin in the Fields, Chestnut Hill.
Contributions may be made to the Academy of Natural Sciences, 19th Street and the Parkway, Philadelphia., 19103.