Saturday, May 29, 2010

Important Contributions from Spanish Botanists

Jose Celestino Mutis born in 1732 in Cadiz was the author of 'The Botany of Spain'.  He trained as a doctor of medicine and was also a botanist and trained in anatomy, physics, mathematics and astronomy.  His contribution as a botanist was extensive from his time on the South American west coast.  He was in extensive correspondence with Carl Linnaeus and his letters were brought together in a book by Sir James Edward Smith.

For a simple overview of his importance in the field look at

I have found 144 plants credited to him as author in the International Plant List and this quote:
'The herbaria of Mutis's collection are prudently estimated at from 20,00 to 24,000 specimens representing some 5000 distinct species.'

His studies into quinine for pharmacological use were extremely important in the fight against malaria. What an ambassador for Colombia he was! He died in Bogota, the Viceroy of New Granada now known as Colombia in 1808   see images of him and some of his drawings and statues in gardens of  Bogota  see

Hippolite Ruiz left Spain from Cadiz in 1777 for the southern parts of South America. principally Peru and Chile His journal allows us to the continuing relevance of what he saw and wrote for today's world in the face of continuing rape of naturally occurring crops for profit with little concern for its impact on the balance of nature and climate.  For instance he watched what was occurring to the harvesting of the quina tree (from which comes quinine - so vitally important in the treatment of malaria worldwide).  He was appalled at the exploitation and waste of the leftovers after that which had commercial value had been removed. Is this a comment applies to 21st century South America still, the Globe?
'Since the ignorance and greed have led to the production of much soft impure or burned extract with its effective activity much reduced and its medicinal properties changed. This abuse should receive the government's most    . that it can be corrected; otherwise this business so interesting for Spain and so important for mankind will be lost.'  Ruiz too died in Bogota in 1808. The quina tree is the National Tree of Equador and is one of the symbols representing   nature in the shield of Peru.

The Malaspina expedition of 1789 - 94

The Malaspina expedition of 1789 led by an Italian Alessandro Malaspina who worked for the Spanish Navy was carried out under a spanish commission and was a scientific expedition whose collected data surpassed that of James Cook's.  For complex political reasons Malaspina fell out of favour with the Spanish Government and the importance of the expedition was never fully given recognition by the world.

Antonio de Pineda, Luis Nee and Thadeus Haenke were the three scientists commissioned by Carlos IV for the expedition. They all made their contribution to the botany and gardens of Spain.

 But the fate of these men is another story or ten....
At least give them a thought if you ever get to the Real Jardin  Botanico in Madrid

No comments: