As my friend and noted Napoleonic scholar, J. David Markham, likes to say, “Napoleon Bonaparte is everywhere.” You are so right, David! Sure enough, while I was vacationing in Alaska, I came across this species of seagull, commonly called “Bonaparte’s Gull.”
It’s not, however, named after Napoleon. It’s named after his nephew, Charles.
Charles Lucien Bonaparte (1803 – 1857) was the son of Napoleon’s political firebrand and frequently estranged younger brother, Lucien. In 1822, seven years after Waterloo and a year after the Emperor’s death, Charles married his cousin Zénaïde. The couple then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to live with Zénaïde’s father, Joseph Bonaparte.
Charles Bonaparte is an excellent example of the self-taught citizen scientists of his day. An avid naturalist, he focused his studies on ornithology. During his time in the US, he joined the scientific societies of Philadelphia where he presented his findings and became friends with John James Audubon. Between 1825 and 1833, he updated The Natural History of Birds Inhabiting the United States to include more than 100 new species he had discovered. Among those was a kind of pigeon he called the Zenaide, after his wife.
Bonaparte’s Gull, however, was discovered by George Ord, another leading ornithologist of the time. Ord named the bird after Charles in recognition of his contributions to natural science—one more example of how the Bonaparte family changed the world.