Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Falkner, Thomas

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FALKNER, Thomas, clergyman, b. in Manchester, Eng., 6 Oct., 1707; d. in Plowdenhall, Salopshire, England, 30 Jan., 1784. He studied under his father, who was a distinguished surgeon in Manchester, and afterward attended the hospitals in London. He went as a surgeon on board of a ship, visiting Guinea, and then proceeded to Cadiz, where he re-embarked in 1731 for Buenos Ayres, and during an illness there was nursed so devotedly by the Jesuits, that on his recovery he determined to join the order. He entered one of their colleges, and was sent in 1734 to evangelize the vast territory comprised in the viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres, and the country south of the Rio de la Plata. He had extraordinary success in his missionary labors, which was largely due to his ability in curing the sick, his dexterity in surgical operations, and his knowledge of mechanics. During forty years he lived at different stations on the Chaco, the Paraguay, the Tucuman, and on the Pampas. The station of St. George flourished so well that in 1773 it had 7,000 civilized Indians, five churches, three convents, two hospitals, a college, and a library. He was employed by the Spanish government in 1750 to draw a map of the coast of South America from the south of Brazil to Tierra del Fuego, which on its completion was printed in 1761 at Quito, and is noted for its accuracy. He also designed a chart of Paraguay in 1757, a chart of the Tucuman in 1759, and several others of less importance. On the expulsion of the Jesuits he was sent to Spain, and afterward went to England, where he became chaplain in an old English Roman Catholic family near Worcester. Here he wrote his “Description of Patagonia and of the Neighboring Countries of South America” (Hereford and London, 1774; German translation, Gotha, 1775; French translation, entitled “Description des terres Magellaniques et des pays adjacents,” 2 vols., Geneva and Paris, 1787). This work is valuable for its descriptions of the countries in which he lived; but Falkner's superficial knowledge of natural history diminishes the value of his account of the natural productions of South America. He also published “A Treatise on the Language of the Indians of South America”; “Botanical, Mineral, and like Observations made by himself on the Products of South America”; “A Treatise on South American Distempers cured by American Drugs.” Several South American plants were introduced by him into the European materia medica.