Aaah, the suave secret agent with his impeccable suit, impeccable manners, and impeccable taste in…birds?
Turns out the world famous spy in reality only spied on birds.
James Bond was born January 4, 1900. He had the perfect accent of New England, British, and upper-class Philadelphia, he graduated from Cambridge, and joined an expedition to the Amazon to collect biological specimens for Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences.
He continued on to become an ornithologist, despite his lack of training (he graduated school to become a banker), and became very well-versed in Caribbean bird species. He published a book called Birds of the West Indies in 1936, as well as dozens of papers, books and field guides, and for them was awarded many medals and awards.
And this is where Ian Fleming comes in.
In 1961, Bond was reading a review for one of his book’s latest editions in a London newspaper and was surprised to find references to guns and women. He soon discovered that James Bond was a character in a series of novels by Ian Fleming, so he and his wife wrote a light-hearted letter to the author joking about stealing Bond’s name.
Little did they know that’s what actually happened.
Fleming wrote back, apologizing for using the man’s name without permission, and explained that as a birdwatcher, Bond’s book was his favorite and frequently referenced bird guide. When he started his first novel, he wanted a very unassuming name for his adventurous hero. He wrote: “It struck me that this name, brief, unromantic and yet very masculine, was just what I needed and so James Bond II was born.” He event went so far as to say that James Bond was the “dullest name I’ve ever heard.”
Again he apologized, saying that “In return I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit,” he wrote. “Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion.”
While not at all angry, the whole situation did liven up the Bond’s lives a little. One time he was stopped at the airport for a “fake” passport, and was double-checked by the occasional bank teller. Young women prank called their house, calling for 007. But just like the fake Bond, the real James Bond and his wife took every event with perfect good humor.