Elliott Coues

Birth: 1842
Death: 1899
Occupation: doctor

Associated Counties

  • Baltimore City

Additional Information

  • Dates:
    Notes: See also:
    “Superb but Mystic: Coues” Chapter XVII in Natural History in America: From Mark Catesby to Rachel Carson.” By Wayne Hanley. Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1977.
  • Dates: 1837-1919
    Notes: COUES, Elliott (1842-1899), naturalist, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 9, 1842, son of Samuel Elliott Coues and Caroline Haven Ladd. He graduated at Columbian (now George Washington) University, Washington, in 1861, taking A. M. in 1862; M. D., 1863; Ph. D., 1864. Medical cadet at Washington 1862-63, he was appointed assistant surgeon in the United States Army in 1864. His service was somewhat extensive, including hospitals and field; later he served in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Dakota.

    His “Key to North American Birds” was published in 1872, and revised and rewritten in 1884 and in 1901; it “has done much to promote systematic study of ornithology in America.”

    From 1873-1876 he was surgeon and naturalist to the United States Northern Boundary Commission; 1876-1880 secretary and naturalist to the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, and he edited the Survey publications. He lectured on anatomy in the medical school of Columbian University, 1877-1882, and was professor of anatomy there, 1882-1887. Resigning from the Army in 1881, he gave himself altogether to scientific work in mammalogy as well as in ornithology. He was founder of the American Ornithologists’ Union, and editor of its organ, “The Auk”, and of other ornithological publications. In 1887 he became president of the Esoteric Theosophical Society of America.

    Among his publications are: “Birds of the North-west” (1874); “New England Bird Life” (1881); “Dictionary and Check List of North American Birds” (1882); “Biogen, A Speculation on the Origin and Motive of Life” (1884); “Can Matter Think?” (1886); “Neuro-Myology” (1887). His “Fur-Bearing Animals” (1877) was “distinguished by the accuracy and completeness of its description or species, several of which are already becoming rare.” He contributed the definitions of biological and zoological terms to the Century Dictionary (1889-1892), and edited Lewis and Clark’s travels, with extended notes (1893).

    In 1867 he married Jeannie Augusta, daughter of Owen McKinney, of Rushford, New York.

    Coues died at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, December 25, 1899, of pneumonia following an operation for esophageal diverticulum.

    Howard A. Kelly
    Source: Kelly, Howard A. and Burrage, Walter J., Dictionary of American Medical Biography: Lives of Eminent Physicians of the United States and Canada, From the Earliest Times [reprint of 1928 edition] Boston: Milford House: 260

  • Dates: 1870
    Notes: Stationed at Fort McHenry, Baltimore
    Source: Records of the War Department, Office of the Adjutant General. Medical History, Post of Fort McHenry. National Archives, Washington DC, p. 17
  • Dates: 1870-1872
    Notes: Stationed at Fort McHenry as asst. surgeon Nov. 25, 1870-Oct. 1872.
    Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Records Concerning Medical Personnel 1839-1914, List of Officers Serving at Permanent Posts 1860-1893. National Archives, Washington DC, p. 224


  • Coues, Elliott, The Coues Checklist and Ornithological Dictionary Boston: Estes and Laurait.
  • Coues, Elliott, Birds of the Northwest: A handbook of the ornithology of the region drained by the Missouri River and its tributaries Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.