Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Palisot de Beauvois, Ambrose Marie François Joseph

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PALISOT DE BEAUVOIS, Ambrose Marie François Joseph (pah-le-so), Baron de, French naturalist, b. in Arras, France, 27 July, 1752; d. in Paris, 21 Jan., 1820. After finishing his studies he was appointed advocate to the parliament of Paris in 1772, and afterward receiver-general. He then devoted himself to the study of natural history, and especially that of botany, and, after extensive explorations in Africa, went to Santo Domingo in 1788. He was admitted into the colonial assembly and the superior council, opposed the abolition of the slave-trade, and wrote in 1790 a pamphlet in which he accused English philanthropists of sinister motives in supporting this project. He also went to the United States to ask the aid of the government in reducing the negroes to obedience. On his return from this useless mission in June, 1793, he found the island in insurrection. His collections and manuscripts were destroyed, and he was imprisoned, but he was finally allowed to depart from the island, and sought refuge in the United States in utter destitution. He learned, as he was making preparations to return to France, that he had been proscribed as an emigrant. He then obtained employment in the orchestra of a circus in Philadelphia, but whatever time he could spare was devoted to natural history. The French chargé d'affaires, Pierre Adet, a noted chemist, gave him funds for a journey into the interior of North America, which he had long contemplated. He now made several valuable discoveries, including that of a new species of rattlesnake, and he passed several months among the Creek and Cherokee Indians. He was elected a member of the American philosophical society, to which he communicated a part of his observations; but as he was preparing another expedition the news reached him that his name had been erased from the list of emigrants, and he decided on returning to France. Palisot invented a new method of classification for insects, and proposed another for quadrupeds. He observed the details of the reproductive organs in mosses, and, as the existence of these organs was denied, he confirmed his first researches by new observations. Among his works are “Insectes recueillis en Afrique” (Paris, 1805-'21) and “Réfutation d'un écrit intitulé resumé des temoignages, etc., touchant la traite des nègres” (1814). The third volume of the “Transactions of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia” contains a paper by him on cryptogamic plants, and the fourth, one on a new plant of Pennsylvania (the Heterandra raniformis) and on a new species of rattlesnake, etc. His “Description du mur naturel dans la Caroline du Nord” appears in vol. viii. of the “Annales du muséum d'histoire naturelle” (Paris, 1811), and was reprinted in “Description of the United States,” by Warren (vol. i.). He also published “Mémoire sur les palmiers au général et en particulier sur un nouveau genre de cette famille” (Paris, 1801); “Flore d'Oware et de Bénin” (2 vols., 1804-'21); “Prodrome des mousses et des lycopodes” (Paris, 1805); and, posthumously, “Muscologie” (1822). See a memoir of Palisot, by Thiébaut de Berneaud (Paris, 1821).