S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Jameson, Mr James Sligo (bird collection, insect collection)

Born: 17 August 1856, Alloa, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Died: 17 August 1888, Along the Congo River, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mr James Sligo Jameson

James Sligo Jameson, naturalist and traveller, was the son of a wealthy businessman and could afford to travel and live out his interest in big game hunting and natural history. His first expedition, in 1877, was to Borneo, where he collected beetles, butterflies and birds. His next expedition was to southern Africa, arriving late in 1878. He first went to the southern Kalahari, but by April 1879 was in Natal. He then organised a hunting expedition to Mashonaland (in present Zimbabwe), with F.C. Selous* as principal guide and Thomas Ayres* as naturalist. They left Potchefstroom early in 1880 and travelled via Zeerust, the Marico River, and Shoshong (Botswana), reaching Bulawayo in May. From there the party travelled north to Mashonaland where they remained to October. They collected big game heads, birds, beetles, butterflies, flowers and grasses. As war had broken out between the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the British, the party travelled to the Cape via present Botswana, collecting along the way. He returned to England in 1881.Though Jameson organised and paid for this first bird collecting trip to Mashonaland, many of the birds may have been collected by Ayres.

Jameson gave his collection of southern African birds to G.E. Shelley*, who described them in Ibis in 1882, including Ayres's field notes. Two species were described as new, one being the Mashona Flycatcher, Hyliota australis. Further specimens were described in 1890. Several subspecies were named after Jameson. The Skipper butterfly Calleagris jamesoni also carries his name.

During the next two years Jameson hunted in the Rocky Mountains in Montana, United States, with his brother. Early in 1884 he suffered a stroke, which prevented him from returning for a second visit to southern Africa. He did, however, travel in Spain and Algeria later that year and in 1885. Upon his return he married Ethel Durand.

In 1887 Jameson left the United Kingdom to join H.M. Stanley's* expedition to relieve the naturalist and medical practitioner Emin Pasha, in the north-eastern part of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He died there the next year, on his 32nd birthday. A small but valuable collection of birds and insects that he made at Yambuya, on the Congo River, reached England in 1890. The story of his role in the expedition, with appendices describing his specimens, was edited by his wife and published that same year.

List of sources:
Brooke, R.K. An early ornithologist - James Sligo Jameson. Honeyguide, 1972, Vol. 71, pp. 13-16.

Jameson, James Sligo. Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Pinhey, E.C.G. James Sligo Jameson (1856-1888). Rhodesia Science News, 1878, Vol. 12(6), p. 149.

Robertson, H. Collectors of insects and arachnids in Africa. http://www.museums.org.za/bio/people/.

Compiled by: C. Plug