Horace Gundry Alexander (18 April 1889 – 30 September 1989) was a British Quaker teacher and writer, pacifist and ornithologist. He was the youngest of four sons of Joseph Gundry Alexander (1848–1918), two other sons being the ornithologists Wilfred Backhouse Alexander and Christopher James Alexander (1887–1917). He was a friend of Mahatma Gandhi.
Horace Gundry Alexander
Alexander (left), c. 1970
|Born||18 April 1889|
|Died||30 September 1989 (aged 100)|
Pennsylvania, United States
Life and workEdit
Horace was born on 18 April 1889 at Croydon, England. His father Joseph Gundry Alexander (1848–1918) was an eminent lawyer, who had worked to suppress the opium trade between India and China. His mother was Josephine Crosfield Alexander. His early schooling was at Bootham School in York, after which he studied at King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in history in 1912. In 1914 the First World War broke out, and he served as secretary on various anti-war committees. In 1916, as a conscientious objector, he was initially exempted only from combatant military service, but after two levels of appeal he was exempted on condition of teaching, which he took up via General Service with the Friends' Ambulance Unit, holding posts at Sibford School, Warwick School and Cranbrook School, Kent.
He married Olive Graham (1892–1942) on 20 July 1918 and joined the staff of Woodbrooke, a Quaker college in Birmingham, teaching international relations, especially in relation to the League of Nations, from 1919 to 1944. His wife Olive died in 1942, having been confined to a wheelchair for several years. In the same year Alexander joined a section of the World War II Friends Ambulance Unit and went to parts of India threatened by Japan. In 1958 he married Rebecca Bradbeer (née Biddle, 1901–1991), an American Quaker. After ten years they moved to Pennsylvania, United States, where he spent the remaining twenty years of his life. He was also, for its first ten years, a governor of Leighton Park School, a leading Quaker school in England. He died of a gastrointestinal illness at Crosslands, a Quaker retirement community in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Alexander was a lifelong dedicated and gifted birdwatcher, keenly involved in the twentieth century movements for the protection and observation of birds. Along with two of his older brothers, Wilfred and Christopher, he took a keen interest in nature. Growing up in a Quaker home devoid of any other forms of entertainment, he found an interest in birds from the age of eight, when his older brother Gilbert gave him a book on natural history. In his autobiography he traced the precise origin of his interest in birds to 8.45 am on 25 March 1897, when an uncle pointed out a singing chiffchaff in their garden. It was not until he was 20 that he obtained his first pair of binoculars. He was one of a small group of amateur birdwatchers who developed the skills and set new standards for combining the pleasures of birdwatching with the satisfaction of contributing to ornithological science. He made many significant observations, mainly in Britain but also in India and the United States.
Alexander spent most of his time in India and became interested in its birds in 1927. Ornithology at that time was not popular among Indians in India, and when Horace informed Gandhi of an expedition, Gandhi commented, "That is a good hobby, provided you don't shoot them." Horace demonstrated the use of binoculars as an acceptable alternative to the gun and carried them at most times. Horace Alexander joined Sidney Dillon Ripley on an expedition to the Naga hills in 1950. Ripley named a subspecies of the aberrant bush warbler after Alexander, although this is no longer recognised. In the same year he founded the Delhi Birdwatching Society along with Lt. Gen. Harold Williams. One of the early members of this organisation was the young Indira Gandhi, and the group encouraged Indian ornithologists such as Usha Ganguli. Many of his notes were mislaid when one of his suitcases was lost in India in 1946. Through his influence on Jawaharlal Nehru he was instrumental in the designation of the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary near Delhi.
Alexander's father-in-law, John William Graham, believed that Gandhi was a subversive and that the Indians were unprepared for self-government. At the Quaker yearly meeting in 1930 the Nobel prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore attacked British rule in India. The Quakers were disturbed by the address and John Graham was particularly outraged. Afterwards it was agreed that a representative would be sent to India to attempt a reconciliation between the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, and Gandhi. This task was assigned to Horace Alexander, who first met Gandhi in March 1928. He made it possible for Gandhi to attend the 1931 round-table conference in London. After the conference he founded the India Conciliation Group along with Agatha Harrison and Carl Heath. Becoming a close friend of Gandhi (who, in 1942, described Alexander as "one of the best English friends India has"), he wrote extensively about Gandhi's philosophy. In 1947 he attempted to intervene to control the violence between Muslims and Hindus and was beside Gandhi in Calcutta on 15 August 1947.
Alexander made several appearances on BBC Radio, as a presenter:
- 27 April 1933Adventures in Bird Watching, BBC Regional Programme Midland: 
- 14 June 1948Personalities and Possibilities in Kashmir, Third Programme: 
He also appeared as a guest on several programmes about Gandhi, in the 1950s and 1960s.
The books and articles written by Horace Alexander include:
- Joseph Gundry Alexander.
- Justice Among Nations. Leonard & Virginia Woolf At The Hogarth Press. 1927.
- The Indian Ferment. 1929.
- India Since Cripps. Penguin. 1941.
- New Citizens of India. 1951.
- Consider India: An Essay in Values. 1961.
- Gandhi Through Western Eyes. 1969.
- 70 Years of Birdwatching. T & A D Poyser. 1974. ISBN 0-85661-004-6.
- 1929Some birds seen in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. Ibis, 12 5(1), 41–53.:
- 1931Shearwaters in the Arabian Sea. Ibis, 13 1(3), 579–581.:
- 1948The status of the Dusky Willow-Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus (Blyth) in India. JBNHS. 47(4), 736–739.:
- 1948White-winged Wood-Duck Asarcornis scutulatus (Mueller) on the Padma River, East Bengal. JBNHS. 47(4), 749.:
- 1949The birds of Delhi and District. JBNHS. 48(2), 370–372.:
- 1949The Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus (Linn.) in Orissa. JBNHS. 48(2), 367–368.:
- 1949Whitecapped Redstart Chaimarrhornis leucocephalus (Vigors) feeding on berries. JBNHS. 48(4), 806.:
- 1950Field identification of birds. JBNHS. 49(1), 123–124.:
- 1950Kentish Plovers Leucopolius alexandrinus (Linn.) at Bombay. JBNHS. 49(2), 311.:
- 1950Large Grey Babbler attacking metal hub-cap of wheel of car. JBNHS. 49(3), 550.:
- 1950Possible occurrence of the Black Tern Chlidonias niger (L.) near Delhi. JBNHS. 49(1), 120–121.:
- 1950Some notes on the genus Phylloscopus in Kashmir. JBNHS. 49(1), 9–13.:
- 1950with Sir N. F. Frome — Birds of Delhi and District, The Reference List. JBNHS.:
- 1951Some notes on birds in Lahul. JBNHS. 49(4), 608–613.:
- 1952Birds attacking their reflections. JBNHS. 50(3), 674–675.:
- 1952Identifying birds of prey in the field. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club (BBOC) 72, 55–61.:
- 1952Letter to the Editor. Ibis 94(2), 369–370.:
- 1952with Abdulali, H - Ardeidae with red legs. Ibis 94, 363.:
- 1953Rednecked Phalarope near Delhi. JBNHS. 51(2), 507–508.:
- 1955Field notes on some Asian leaf warblers. British Birds. 48, 293–299, 349–356.:
- 1957Bird life of Madhya Pradesh. JBNHS. 54(3), 768–769.:
- 1964Return to Delhi. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 4(1), 1–3.:
- 1969Some Notes on Asian Leaf-Warblers (Genus Phylloscopus). Private/TRUEXpress, Oxford. 31 pages.:
- 1972On revisiting Delhi. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 12(9), 1–3.:
- 1972Nest building of the Baya Weaver Bird. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 12(9):12.:
- 1974What leads to increases in the range of certain birds? Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society (JBNHS). 71(3), 571–576.:
- Carnall & Wood 2004.
- Woodland, Jenny (2011). Bootham School Register. York, England: BOSA.
- Obituary. New York Times 5 October 1989
- Moss 2004, p. 87.
- Fitter 1990.
- Moss 2004, p. 88.
- Ripley, S. Dillon (1951). "Notes on Indian Birds. IV. Some recently collected birds from Assam". Postilla. 6: 1–7.
- Wood 2003.
- Moss 2004, p. 102.
- Bhutani 1984.
- "Chronology". West Midland Bird Club. Archived from the original on 21 September 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- Carnall 2010.
- Carnall, Geoffrey (2006). "Gandhi's Interpreter: a life of Horace Alexander".
- "Regional Programme Midland, 27 April 1933 22.00". Radio Times. BBC. 39 (499). 21 April 1933.
- "Third Programme, 14 June 1948 18.00". Radio Times. BBC. 98 (1287): 11. 11 June 1948.
- "Search Results — BBC Genome". BBC Online. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- Bhutani, RK (1984). "Re-formation of Delhi Birdwatching Society". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 24 (4): 15–16.
- Carnall, Geoffrey (2010). Gandhi's Interpreter: A Life of Horace Alexander. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh Univ. Press.
- Carnall, Geoffrey; Wood, J. Duncan (2004). "Alexander, Horace Gundry (1889–1989)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
- Chmielewski, Wendy. "Horace Gundry Alexander – Papers, 1916–1983". Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
- Fitter, Richard (1990). "Obituary". Ibis. 132 (3): 484–486. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1990.tb01068.x.
- Wood, J. Duncan (2003). Horace Alexander: Birds and Binoculars. Sessions of York. ISBN 1-85072-289-7.
- Moss, Stephen (2004). A bird in the bush: A social history of birdwatching. Aurum Press.
- Papers in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection (page includes biography)
- Extract from 70 Years of Birdwatching on West Midland Bird Club website at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 September 2007)
- Obituary in The New York Times 5 October 1989
- H G Alexander's biography of his father Joseph Gundry Alexander
- Gandhi's interpreter by Geoffrey Carnall
- National Archive