Although he was born in England between 1679 and 1682, Catesby was a naturalist who did most of his work in southern America. Patrons from England sent him to the Americas to do research, and he later sold his books and drawings in the form of encyclopedias. He was an artist and observer of animals and plants, and was inspired by contemporary John Ray. He made speculations that were very advanced for his time about migration of birds, and considered himself an ornithologist. As well as studying birds, Catesby was also interested in anthropology and believed that Native Americans came from Asia. Catesby also studied snake venom and was a botanist, and became a member of the Royal Society in 1733. His published works include The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. Another less-famous work was Hortus Britanno-Americanus, or A Curious Collection of Trees and Shrubs. American bullfrogs, Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana, are named after Mark Catesby. One of the Virginia Herpetological Society’s publications takes the name Catesbeiana, also after Catesby.
Catesby was included in the Virginia Group of cottages by Lewis, and was described to have written the “first real natural history of the South.”