Trivia

Hard

James Bond, The Iconic And Fictional British Spy, Was Named After A Real?

Canadian Spy
American Ornithologist
South African Mercenary
English Minister
A photo of ornithologist James Bond taken at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia in 1974.
Jerry Freilich/Wikimedia

Answer: American Ornithologist

The name James Bond is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable English names in the world thanks to more than half a century of spy novels, movies, and video games starring the dashing and fictional British spy. What might surprise fans of Mr. Bond’s daring spy antics though is that his namesake wasn’t a spy, soldier, or other man of mystery and combat prowess, but an ornithologist—a scientist who studies birds.

Ian Fleming was a keen bird watcher and living in Jamaica when he started working on what would become the Bond franchise. At the time, the leading expert on birds of the Caribbean was an American ornithologist by the name of James Bond. When Ian Fleming went in search of a name for his spy, the name James Bond, the author of a bird book he was familiar with, stood out to him. Fleming later described the moment, “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”

Fleming wrote to the real James Bond to ask if he’d mind him using his name (he didn’t) and the two of them had a friendly relationship over the years with Fleming sending Mr. Bond the occasional autographed novel and memorabilia.

Films in the Bond franchise have also paid homage to the origin of James Bond’s name. In Die Another Day (2002), an early scene in the movie taking place in Cuba shows James Bond flipping through a copy of the book Birds of the West Indies (a real book written by the real James Bond). Bond later introduces himself, as part of his cover while in Cuba, as an ornithologist. The same book also appeared in a promotional on-set photo for the 2015 film Spectre.

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