Title Page to Willughby's 'Ornithology...', 1678 edition.
Francis Willughby was born at Middleton Hall, Warwickshire, and is known for his Ornithologia libri tres in 1676 (the English edition, The Ornithology of Francis Willoughby. In three books wherein all the Birds hitherto known, was published two years later). Willughby’s book revolutionised ornithology in Europe. It departed from the older writings of Aristotle by observing their habits, and changed how birds were classified (at its broadest level, according to land or water birds). Gone was the mythological, and in its place was the scientific approach to the subject. After Willughby’s death in 1672, his tutor and colleague John Ray saw his book through to publication.
Fitting then that Middleton is home to the Middleton lakes project which is now home to a wonderful array of bird wildlife created and watched over by the RSPB