When one considers careers WPI graduates pursue, being an author and illustrator of field guides to birds probably does not come to mind. In the early 1900s, that is what Chester Reed did, producing the first bird guides that were practical to take into the field. Instead of following his WPI major of Electrical Engineering, Reed joined his father’s Worcester taxidermy business. Reed’s guides filled birdwatchers’ need for a small book they could fit into their pockets to carry with them. The books were first published by his father, Charles K. Reed, and later were picked up by Doubleday. They are still being reprinted today, and are available freely available online. In 1903, he also began a series of field guides for flowers. Reed was passionate about educating young and old about nature, especially birds, providing his guides as prizes for Boy Scout badges and giving lively talks about bird watching.
Reed died of pneumonia after a brief illness one hundred years ago, on December 16, 1912, at the age of 36. His accomplishments include publishing 67 issues of American Ornithology, 24 books, mainly on ornithology, and drawing thousands of black and white and color illustrations of birds.
Find out more about Chester Reed at this website http://www.chester-reed.org/fr/e-intro.html devoted to his work, and see a selection of his books on display in Gordon Library and at the WPI Archives.