Jill Hunting

A former wine and food writer and editor based in Sonoma and Napa, Jill Hunting is the author of two works of narrative nonfiction.

Finding Pete: Rediscovering the Brother I Lost in Vietnam (2009) explores the mystery of the 1965 death of her brother, a 1963 Wesleyan graduate and civilian aid worker. For Want of Wings: A Bird with Teeth and a Dinosaur in the Family (2022) follows the little-known 1872 Yale scientific expedition led by O.C. Marsh, on which her great-grandfather Thomas H. Russell (Yale 1872 Ph.B., 1875 M.D.) discovered the famous fossil Hesperornis regalis. Russell, a lifelong New Haven resident and Yale faculty member for 29 years, was a direct descendant of Yale founders James Pierpont and Noadiah Russell and the son of prominent abolitionist, friend of John Brown, and Skull and Bones founder William Huntington Russell. 

As Jill crisscrosses the U.S. on her journey into prehistory, national history, and family history, she advances a view of history as nonlinear and full of unexpected intersections. She encounters unexpected resources that converge, like fragments of a fossil, to form an exquisitely patterned work of historical exploration.

Lynn Novick (Yale 1983) has said of For Want of Wings: “Jill Hunting has given us the story of a beautiful, intimate, and unforgettable journey that shows how ineffably the past is woven into the present, how our ancestors’ complicated lives shape our own, and what is gained when we come face to face with our history.”

David Skelly, director of the Yale Peabody Museum and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has said, "“Jill Hunting is a great storyteller, and this is a truly great story. As she notes, Hesperornis is perhaps the least famous of the most important fossils ever discovered. Hunting’s book should change that. As Darwin emphasized, an intermediate form like Hesperornis helps us understand how evolution works in ways that are fundamental to understanding both the past and the future of our planet.”

Jill is a graduate of Wheaton College (Mass.) and San Francisco Theological Seminary. She lives in Pasadena, California. 

Exactly 150 years ago this day, on October 27, Thomas H. Russell made his groundbreaking discovery near Russell Springs, Kansas.

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