Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Poey, Felipe

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POEY, Felipe (po'-ay), Cuban naturalist, b. in Havana, 26 May, 1799; d. there, 28 Jan., 1891. He was of French and Spanish parentage. He made his studies in his native city, concluding them in the University of Madrid, where he was graduated in law. Having a taste for natural history, he abandoned his practice as a lawyer, and began the study of mollusks, insects, and fishes. In 1825 he sailed for Cuba, and thence, with a collection of specimens, for Paris. There he aided in founding, in 1827, the “Société entomologique,” and contributed notes and drawings to the “Histoire naturelle des poissons.” In 1833 he returned to Havana and devoted himself to the study of natural history, making drawings of specimens with his associate, Juan Gundlach (q. v.), and discovering many new species which are included in Pfeiffer's “Monographia Heliceorum Viventium.” In 1842 Poey was appointed professor of comparative anatomy and zoölogy in the University of Havana, and from 1851 till 1860 he published at intervals his “Historia Natural de la Isla de Cuba” (2 vols., 1860). In 1863 he was appointed to the chair of botany, mineralogy, and geology, and from 1868 till 1875 he published in the “Repertorio Fisico-Natural de la Isla de Cuba,” and reprinted in the “Anales de la Sociedad de Historia Natural de Madrid,” his great work under the title “Synopsis Piscicum Cubensium,” or “Catálogo razonado de los Peces Cubanos,” an atlas of 10 volumes with more than 1,000 illustrations drawn by himself, and the description of about 800 tropical American fishes. This work was purchased by the Spanish government, placed in the “Biblioteca de Ciencias Naturales” at Madrid, and exhibited by the government in the exposition of Amsterdam in 1883, receiving a gold medal and honorable mention. In 1873 Poey was appointed professor of philosophy and belles-lettres, and he held all his chairs in the university during many years thereafter, notwithstanding his advanced age. He was a member of almost every scientific society in Europe and America, and many of his new specimens in life-size drawings are to be found in the U. S. national museum, the U. S. museum of comparative zoölogy, and the Spanish museum at Madrid. His other works, besides the two mentioned above, are “Centurie des Lépidoptères de l'île de Cuba” (Paris, 1832); “Geografía Universal” (Havana, 1836); “Corona Poeyana” (1844); “Geografía de Cuba” (19 editions); “Cartilla de Geografía” (1855); and “Cartilla de Mineralogía” (1878). He had contributed for more than sixty years many papers on natural history to the French, Spanish, and Cuban scientific press, and some of his papers occur in the proceedings of the Academy of natural science of Philadelphia, the annals of the New York lyceum, and other American scientific publications. He also wrote poems, of which “El Arroyo” and “A Silvia” are best known. — His son, Andrés, meteorologist, b. in Havana in 1826, was educated in his native city and in Paris. In 1848 he began to contribute to scientific publications, especially on meteorology and natural philosophy. To his efforts was due the creation of a meteorological observatory at Havana, and during the reign of Maximilian he was director of an establishment of the same kind in Mexico. He has written much in Spanish, French, and English on scientific subjects. Among his writings are “Tratado de Meteorología,” “Memoria sobre los huracanes de las Antillas,” and “Memoria sobre las granizadas en Cuba” (Havana, 1860-2): “Cuban Antiquities,” read before the American ethnological society: “Tableau chronologique des tremblements de terre,” “Travaux sur la météorologie et la phisique du globe,” “Mémoires sur les tempêtes electriques,” and “Le positivisme” (Paris, 1876). The last is an exposition of the principles of Auguste Comte's philosophical system, of which the author is an ardent follower.