Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Thiéry de Ménonville, Nicolas Joseph

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THIÉRY DE MÉNONVILLE, Nicolas Joseph, French botanist, b. in Saint-Mihiel, France, 18 June, 1739; d. in Port au Prince, Santo Domingo, in 1780. He studied law, and for some time practised his profession in his native city, but he soon abandoned the bar for botany, of which he was passionately fond. He formed a plan to naturalize the cochineal insect in the Franco-American colonies, and after landing in Santo Domingo in 1776, in order to learn how to cultivate it, he penetrated to Mexico in the disguise of a Catalonian physician, at great personal risk, as the Spaniards kept the knowledge of this branch of commerce jealously from strangers. With great difficulty he reached Oaxaca, which, he had learned, produced a finer specimen of cochineal than could be found elsewhere, learned the art of planting and raising the nopal on which the insect feeds, bought a large quantity of branches and insects, filling eight chests with them, and succeeded in forwarding them by different routes to Santo Domingo. He sent a part of his cochineals to France, and was successful in rearing and multiplying those that he retained, in the Jardin du roi, which he founded at Port au Prince. He received the title of botanist of the king soon after his return to Mexico. Shortly after his death the cochineal insect disappeared from Santo Domingo. The club of “The Philadelphes” at Cape Français published a manuscript that he left, entitled “Traité de la culture du nopal et de l'éducation de la cochenille dans les colonies françaises de l'Amérique, précédé d'un voyage à Oaxaca” (Cape Français, 1786).