James Bond, ornithologist

Although the character was inspired by many real-life spies, the author Ian Fleming took the name James Bond from an ornithologist.

James Bond
Jerry Freilich / CC BY-SA

In 1952, Ian Fleming living in an estate in Jamaica and writing his first James Bond book,  Casino Royale. (The estate, by the way, was called Goldeneye – named after either a 1941 book or a WWII spy plan that Fleming had worked on.) His protagonist was a spy inspired by many real spies that Fleming knew during the war, and also a fictional spy from the writings of Denis Wheatley. But he didn’t have a name for this new character.

Fleming needed the name to be extremely nondescript. In his own words,

I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find. […] Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure.

Fleming was a bit of a bird-watcher, and he happened to have a book on his shelf called Birds of the West Indies. The author: the ornithologist James Bond.

You can see a picture of the real James Bond above – and he is a very unlikely inspiration for this literary figure. Bond (the real one) was amused by this homage, and twelve years later actually surprised Fleming with a visit. He got a signed first-edition out of it, and endless bragging rights I imagine.


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