Peterson, Roger Tory, 1908–96, American ornithologist, writer, and illustrator, b. Jamestown, N.Y. He became famous with his best-selling pocket-sized Field Guide to the Birds (1934) and is known for his bold, precise drawings and paintings and his clear, succinct descriptive prose. He wrote or edited more than 50 books, many on birds, many on other facets of the natural world. Through his books and his Institute of Natural History (founded 1986 in his birthplace), Peterson was extremely influential in popularizing birding and in heightening awareness of environmental issues.
Peterson, Roger Tory(1908– ) ornithologist; born in Jamestown, N.Y. He began observing and drawing birds as a boy, and pursued an artist's education in New York City at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. He taught art and science in Brookline, Mass., for several years before publishing his Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America in 1934. With its novel and easy-for-the-novice pointers on how to identify birds, this guide became a major best-seller. It also helped him obtain a job with the National Audubon Society; he was art editor for Audubon magazine from 1934–43. During World War II, the Army Air Force adapted his bird-spotting methods to aircraft identification. From the late 1940s, he edited a series of field guides, lectured, and continued to publish his own works, among them Birds over America (1948), How to Know the Birds (1949), and A Bird Watcher's Anthology (1957). Wild America (1957), written in collaboration with James Fisher, was an account of a journey along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts from Maine to Alaska. Peterson's guides and other work gave him wide influence in building popular awareness of wildlife conservation and environmental protection. He founded the Roger Tory Peterson Institute for the Study of Natural History in 1986.