Bond … James Bond, ornithologist

Bond … James Bond, ornithologist

James Bond’s name was stolen from a Philadelphia ornithologist

Ian Fleming was living in Jamaica while writing what would become his first James Bond novel, 1953’s Casino Royal. What he needed was a good good solid name for his protagonist, a name that very flat and quiet. Fleming was an avid bird watcher and had a copy of Birds of the West Indies by Philadelphia ornithologist James Bond, which he felt would be the perfect name. Fleming later said that:

“I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, and ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”

The real life James Bond was a celebrated expert in birds of the Caribbean and worked for decades at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He was unaware of his name’s new found fame until the 007 books became popular in the United States. Bond and his wife paid Fleming an unannounced visit in 1964 while in Jamaica, and presumably things went well because Fleming gave a first edition of You Only Live Twice dedicated to Bond, “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”. In 2008 this dedicated copy sold at auction for $84,000.

Also, in 2002’s Die Another Day, Bond’s Birds of the West Indies appears in the film being held by, well, Bond, but with the real life author’s name obscured. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond later identifies himself as an ornithologist.