Dr Julian Pender Hume

Painting extinct animals led to a scientific interest in long-gone birds, allowing our expert to recreate dodos and their relatives in accurate and beautiful detail.

Dr Julian Pender Hume

Early aspirations

Dr Hume began his career as an artist. He was always fascinated by extinct things, at first dinosaurs but then birds, leading to a contract to paint extinct Hawaiian birds with the Smithsonian Institute.

Working closely with the scientists describing the bird fossils, Dr Hume decided he would like to do the same. While working towards a PhD with the Natural History Museum, he made up his mind he didn’t want to work anywhere cold, and specialised in oceanic island birds.

Super specimens

Dr Hume now goes to the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean two or three times a year to excavate new specimens to describe and paint. Among his fantastic finds are a complete skeleton of a solitaire bird, an extinct species that was the closest relative of the dodo, on Rodrigues Island, and a complete dodo skeleton in a cave on Mauritius.

His ability to understand the creatures he discovers by looking at their bones allows him to make accurate as well as beautiful paintings: 'Because I describe them, I can work on the material and then actually recreate them as they may have looked like in life through art.'

Bringing the past to life

Mauritius was the sole home of the iconic extinct bird, the dodo. When he first started working on the island, Dr Hume thought everything had been discovered about the dodo, but he found out a lot more as he dug into it.

Now he has been able to recreate the dodo more accurately than ever before, even down to the way it walked and how wide it could open its beak.

Dr Hume spends light days painting and dark days writing scientific papers and books, describing ever more new species of extinct birds.