Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel

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RAFINESQUE, Constantine Samuel, botanist, b. in Galata, a suburb of Constantinople, 22 Oct., 1783; d. in Philadelphia, Pa., 18 Sept., 1842. He was of French parentage, and his father, a merchant, died in Philadelphia about 1791. The son came to Philadelphia with his brother in 1802, and, after travelling through Pennsylvania and Delaware, returned with a collection of botanical specimens in 1805, and went to Sicily, where he spent ten years as a merchant and in the study of botany. In 1815 he sailed for New York, but was shipwrecked on the Long Island coast, and lost his valuable books, collections, manuscripts, and drawings. In 1818 he went to the west and became professor of botany in Transylvania university, Lexington, Ky. Subsequently he travelled and lectured in various places, endeavored to establish a magazine and a botanic garden, but without success, and finally settled in Philadelphia, where he resided until his death, and where he published “The Atlantic Journal and Friend of Knowledge, a Cyclopædic Journal and Review,” of which only eight numbers appeared (1832-'3). The number of genera and species that he introduced into his works produced great confusion. A gradual deterioration is found in Rafinesque's botanical writings from 1819 till 1830, when the passion for establishing new genera and species seems to have become a monomania with him. He assumed thirty to one hundred years as the average time required for the production of a new species, and five hundred to a thousand years for a new genus. It is said that he wrote a paper describing “twelve new species of thunder and lightning.” In addition to translations and unfinished botanical and zoölogical works, he was the author of numerous books and pamphlets, including “Caratteri di alcuni nuovi generi e nuove specie di animali e piante della Sicilia” (Palermo, 1810); “Précis de découvertes et travaux somiologiques entre 1800 et 1814” (1814); “Principes fondamentaux de somiologie” (1814): “Analyse de la nature” (Palermo, 1815); “Antikon Botanikon” (Philadelphia, 1815-'40); “Ichthyologia Ohioensis” (Lexington, 1820); “Ancient History, or Annals of Kentucky” (Frankfort, 1824); “Medical Flora, etc., of the United States” (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1828-'30); “American Manual of the Grape-Vines” (1830); “American Florist” (1832); “The American Nations, or the Outlines of a National History” (2 vols., 1836); “A Life of Travels and Researches in North America and South Europe” (1836); “New Flora and Botany of America” (4 parts, 1836); “Flora Telluriana” (4 parts, 1836-'8); “The World,” a poem (1836); “Safe Banking” (1837); notes to Thomas Wright's “Original Theory, or New Hypothesis of the Universe” (1837); “Sylvia Telluriana” (1838); “Alsographia Americana” (1838); “The American Monuments of North and South America” (1838); “Genius and Spirit of the Hebrew Bible” (1838); “Celestial Wonders and Philosophy of the Visible Heavens” (1839); “Pleasure and Duties of Wealth” (1840); and a “Dissertation on Water-Snakes,” published in the London “Literary Gazette” (1819). “The Complete Writings of C. S. Rafinesque on Recent and Fossil Conchology” have been edited by William G. Binney and George W. Tryon, Jr. (Philadelphia, 1864). See a review of the “Botanical Writings of Rafinesque,” by Asa Gray, in “Silliman's Journal” (1841).