John Abbott was born in London in 1751. In England, he was given drawing lessons and, through his drawing instructor, was introduced to Dru Drury, a collector of insects who had been president of the Linnean Society. These two encounters encouraged him to collect insects and draw them, but his father was training him to be an attorney.
Finding legal paperwork not to his liking, he emigrated to Virginia in 1773. After 2 years in Virginia, he relocated to Georgia, where he served as a private in the Third Georgia Continental Battalion during the Revolutionary War. For his military service he received several hundred acres of land, and worked as a planter and schoolmaster.
In Virginia he had collected American insects and bird skins, and drew and painted insects and birds. Some of the specimens and paintings were shipped to England for sale. Some of the paintings, after sale, adorned books on birds, insects, and spiders written by various authors, not necessarily with acknowledgment to Abbott.
In all, Abbott produced over 3,000 drawings of a quality that was very high for that time. Some of the insect illustrations included not only adults, but also larvae and the plants on which they fed, and even observational notes. He died about 1840.