Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Godin, Louis

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GODIN, Louis (go-deen'), French astronomer, b. in Paris, 28 Feb., 1704; d. in Cadiz, Spain, 11 Sept., 1760. He was graduated at the College of Louis le Grand, and studied astronomy under Delisle. His astronomical tables (1724) gave him reputation, and the academy elected him a pensionary member. He was commissioned to write a continuation of the history of the academy, left uncompleted by Fontanelle, and was also authorized to submit to the minister, Cardinal Fleury, the best means of discovering the truth in regard to the figure of the earth, and proposed sending expeditions to the equator and the polar sea. The minister approved the plan and appropriated the necessary means, the academy designating La Condamine, Bouguer, and Godin to go to Peru in 1734. The expedition sailed from Rochelle, 16 May, 1735, touched at Cadiz to take two naval lieutenants, whom Philip V. had ordered to accompany it, and proceeded to Santo Domingo, where they remained six months to take observations. They arrived in Quito in February, 1736, immediately crossed the Andes to establish their stations in the interior, and remained two years. When they had finished their task in 1738, at the invitation of the viceroy of Peru, Godin accepted the chair of mathematics in Lima, where he also established a course of astronomical lectures. When in 1746 an earthquake destroyed the greater part of Lima, he took valuable seismological observations, assisted the sufferers, and made plans by the use of which the new buildings would be less exposed to danger from renewed shocks. In 1751 he returned to Europe, but found that he had been nearly forgotten, and superseded as pensioner of the academy; and, as his fortune had been lost in unfortunate speculations, he accepted the presidency of the college for midshipmen in Cadiz in 1752. During the earthquake of Lisbon, 1755, which was distinctly felt at Cadiz, he took observations and did much to allay the apprehensions of the public, for which he was ennobled by the king of Spain. In 1779 he was called to Paris and reinstated as pensionary member of the academy; but he died on his return to Cadiz. He was the author of “Appendix aux tables astronomiques de Lahire” (Paris, 1724); “Histoire de l'académie des sciences, 1680 à '99” (11 vols., 1728); “La connaissance des temps” (1730-'3); “El temblor de tierra de Lima, sus causas, efectos y consecuencias” (Lima, 1748); “Curso de matemáticas para el uso de mis discípulos” (1750); “Observations astronomiques au Perou” (2 vols., Paris, 1752); “Des tremblements de terre en général, de ceux de Lima et Lisbonne en particulier” (1753); and “Les possessions Espagnoles dans l'Amérique du Sud; le Perou, son histoire, ses richesses, et mæurs de ses habitants” (1755). — His cousin, Jean Godin des Odonais, French naturalist, b. in St. Amand, Cher, France, in 1712; d. there in 1792, embarked in 1735 with the expedition for measuring a degree on the equator. To be distinguished from his relative Godin, he added to his surname that of his mother, Odonais. When the commission returned to France, Godin des Odonais became professor of astronomy and natural science at the College of Quito, 1739. At the same time he studied the Indian languages and the flora of Ecuador, and when, in 1743, a marriage with an heiress gave him the means, he resigned his chair and gave his whole time to natural science and the Indian language. He explored Ecuador and the northern provinces of Peru, and collected an herbarium containing more than 4,000 species of plants. He also made drawings of over 800 species of animals. Having lost the greater part of his wife's dowry in speculations, he resolved to try his fortune in Cayenne, where he arrived in May, 1750, and settled on the banks of the river Oyapok. For fifteen years he explored Cayenne and the Brazilian Guiana, north of the Amazon, and collected nearly 7,000 species of plants. From 1765 till 1773 he explored the Amazon. In the latter year he finally returned to France, and settled on his estate of St. Amand. He gave his botanical collections to the museum of natural history, where they are still preserved. In 1784 he was elected a member of the Academy of science, and he labored thenceforth to arrange the notes taken during the many years of his explorations, and published “Flore raisonnée du Perou, comprenant 4,000 espèces, dont plus de 1,500 nouvelles” (6 vols., Paris, 1776, with two volumes of illustrations containing over 750 plates); “Les plantes de la Guyane” (1777); “Faune du Perou” (4 vols., 1778, with two volumes of illustrations); “Plan de navigation libre de l'Amazone, dedié au Duc de Choiseul” (1779); “Flore de la Guyane, explication de l'herbier déposé au museum d'histoire naturelle” (5 vols., 1779), with three volumes of illustrations); “Flore de l'Amazone, explication, etc.” (4 vols., 1780, with one volume of illustrations); “Grammaire de la langue Quichua ou des Incas” (1782); “Dictionnaire de la langue Quichua” (1782); “Vocabulaire des dialectes Indiens de la Guyane” (1783); and “Grammaire comparée des langues Indiennes de l'Amérique du Sud ” (2 vols., 1784). — His wife, Isabel, b. in Riobamba, Peru, in 1728; d. in St. Amand, France, was the daughter of Don Pedro Emanuel de Grandmaison, who was corregidor of Otabala at the time of her birth. At the age of fifteen she married Godin des Odonais. When her husband decided in 1750 to establish himself on the banks of the Oyapok, he asked for passports from the court of Portugal to enable him to return by the Napo and Amazon for his family, which he did not receive for some years afterward. Finally the Portuguese government placed a vessel at his disposal in 1758, but as he was about to embark he fell sick, and employed a man named Orcasaval to act in his behalf. Instead of discharging this mission, the latter remained in the Portuguese settlements to trade on his own account, and Madame Godin, guided by rumor, finally set out alone. On arriving at Canelos, where she was to embark, she found it deserted on account of the small-pox. The thirty Indians composing her escort had successively abandoned her on the route, and she had with her only her son, her two brothers, and four servants. They attempted to row to the mission of Andoas, about 450 miles, from which she could easily reach the Portuguese transport, but lost their guide, and were reduced to the most frightful sufferings in the desert. At the end of three days they all died except Madame Godin, who, after wandering for several weeks through a dense wood, was taken by an Indian to the mission at Andoas. All attempts to find Orcasaval were unsuccessful, and so she never profited by the transport which the Portuguese government furnished her. She had still to travel over 3,000 miles to reach her husband, and, after a long time and much further suffering, she arrived at Oyapok, where he had remained several years waiting for his wife. Afterward they embarked for France, and arrived in La Rochelle, 26 May, 1773. The rest of Madame Godin's life was passed on her husband's estate at St. Amand in Berry. Prince Charles Bonaparte, the naturalist, has given Madame Godin's name to a remarkable species of South American birds, the “Chamæpelia Godinæ,” “consecrated,” he says, “to the memory, which can never be too much honored, of Isabel Godin des Odonais, who, alone and abandoned, travelled across the American continent in its greatest width, sustained by her greatness of soul and her martyrdom to duty.” See her life by Ferdinand Denis, based on family documents, in the “Magasin pittoresque” (1854), and “Les voyages dans les foréts de la Guyane,” by Malouet.