Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Augustin Pyramus De Candolle

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DE CANDOLLE, Augustin Pyramus (1778-1841), a celebrated botanist, was born at Geneva, February 4, 1778. He was descended from one of the most ancient families of Provence, and his ancestors had been expatriated for their religion in the middle of the 1 Gth century. His father was a famous printer, and syndic of the university and republic. Though a weakly boy he showed great aptitude for study, and distinguished himself at school by his rapid attain ments in classical and general literature, and specially by a faculty for writing elegant verse, which led Florian to antici pate that he might become famous as a poet. He showed remarkable powers of memory, Avhich proved of the greatest service to him in the science to which he ultimately devoted himself. His interest in plants was first roused while he was residing with his mother at a remote country village during the siege of Geneva in 1792. He began his scientific studies at the college of Geneva, by attending the courses of Saussure and Vaucher, the latter of whom first inspired him with the determination to make botanical science the chief pursuit of his life. In 1796 he removed to Paris, where he resided with Dolomieu, attended various courses of lectures on natural science, and gained the friendship of Jussieu and Desfontaines. Hi? first productions, Historia Plantarum Succidentarum (4 vols., 1799) and Astragaloyia (1802), introduced him to the notice of Cuvier (whose chair in the College de France he supplied in 1802), Humboldt, Biot, and Lamarck, who afterwards confided to him the publication of the third edition of the Flore Franchise (1803-15). The introduction to this work contained the first exposition of his principle of classification according to the natural as opposed to the Linnean or artificial method. Having been elected (1804) doctor of medicine by the medical faculty of Paris, he wrote, as an inaugural work, the Essai sur les proprietes medicinales des plantes com- parees avcc leurs formes exterieures et leur classification naturelle, and soon after, in 1806, his Synopsis plantarum in flora Gallica descriptarum. At the desire of the French Government he spent the summers of the following six years in making a botanical and agricultural survey of the whole kingdom, the results of which he published in 1813. In 1807 he was appointed professor of botany in the medical faculty of the university of Montpellier, and in 1810 he was transferred to the newly founded chair of botany of the faculty of sciences in the same university. He was an admirable lecturer, and the gardens under his charge were much improved during his occupancy of the chair. From Montpellier he removed to Geneva in 1816, having been invited by the now independent republic to fill the newly created chair of natural history. The rest of his life was spent in an attempt to elaborate and complete his " natural " system of botanical classification. The results of his labours in this department are to be found in his Regni vegetabilis systema naturale, of which two volumes only were completed (1821) when he found that it would be impossible for him to execute the whole work on so extensive a scale. He accordingly commenced in 1824 a less extensive work in the same direction his Prodromus systematis regni vegetabilis, but even of this he was able to finish only seven volumes, or two-thirds of the whole. It was carried on after his death by his son Alphonse, who in 1834 had succeeded him in his professor ship. He had been for several years in delicate health when he died on the 9th September 1841 at Turin, whither he had gone to attend a scientific reunion. De Candolle received diplomas or the honour of membership from most of the learned societies of Europe, and was a very frequent contributor to their Transactions. Louis Philippe decorated him with the cross of the Legion of Honour. He was highly esteemed in his native city, where he was for a long period rector of the academy and a member of the legislature. For an estimate of his place as a botanist see BOTANY, vol. iv. p. 80. See Flourens s iZloge de Candolle (1842), and Pe la Rive s Candolle, sa Vie et ses Travaux (1851).