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John Edmonstone was a black enslaved man probably born in Demerara, British Guiana (present day Guyana, South America), who later gained his freedom. He learned taxidermy from Charles Waterton, whose father-in-law Charles Edmonstone (b. 1793, Cardross Park, Dumbarton, Scotland - 1822, Demerara, Br. Guiana) had a plantation in Demerara.[1][2]

After he was freed, Edmonstone came to Glasgow with his former master, Charles Edmonstone. From there he moved to Edinburgh (37 Lothian Street), where he taught taxidermy to students at the University of Edinburgh, including Charles Darwin.[1][2]

Edmonstone gave Charles Darwin inspiring accounts of tropical rain forests in South America and may have encouraged Darwin to explore there. The taxidermy Darwin learnt from Edmonstone helped him greatly during the voyage of the Beagle.[1][2]

Edmonstone is regarded as one of the "100 Great Black Britons"[3].


  1. ^ a b c BBC. "BBC - Radio 4 Making History - Latest programme". Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Toespraak Mcewen (eng)". 23 December 2005. Archived from the original on 23 December 2005. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  3. ^ "100 Great Black Britons - John Edmonstone". Retrieved 6 December 2018.