Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

(Goujaud) Bonpland, Aimé Jacques Alexandre (France 1773-1858)
botany, exploration

Surprisingly little has been written in English on this great explorer-naturalist, whose name is inevitably linked to the even greater figure Alexander von Humboldt. Bonpland's early years were taken up in the study of medicine and military duty--a not unusual career trajectory--but then he was chosen to accompany Alexander von Humboldt to the New World. The five year adventure would help make von Humboldt the second most famous person (after Napoleon) in the Western World; Bonpland, who had overseen the expedition's botanical collections, received a pension and directorship of the Empress Josephine's botanical gardens at Malmaison. Over the next ten years Bonpland put his New World collections in order, publishing several classic works both under his own name, and as second author to von Humboldt. In 1814 Josephine died, ending this happy period in Bonpland's life. He decided to return to the New World, leaving France at the end of 1816 to take a teaching position in Buenos Aires. Four years later he established a plantation near the Paraná, but its success annoyed the dictator of Paraguay, who had Bonpland confined until 1829. A couple of years after being released Bonpland went back to plantation-managing, setting up the first of a pair of operations that, despite occasional further political intrigues, proved both profitable and satisfying in his old age.

Life Chronology

--born in La Rochelle, France, on 28 August 1773.
--1791-1794: studies medicine in Paris
--1794-1795: military duty for the French Republic
--1796: continues medical studies
--1799-1804: travels in Cuba, Mexico and the Andes with Alexander von Humboldt, collecting some 60,000 specimens and describing 6,000 new species of plants
--1804: returns to France; receives pension and is made superintendent of the botanical gardens at Malmaison under Empress Josephine
--1805: publishes his Essai sur la Géographie des Plantes: Accompagné d'un Tableau Physique des Régions Équinoxiales . . . , with Alexander von Humboldt, first author
--1806: publishes his Monographie des Mélastomées
--1808: appointed botanist to Empress Josephine
--1808-1809: publishes his Plantes Équinoxiales, with Alexander von Humboldt, first author
--1813: publishes his Description des Plantes Rares Cultivées à Malmaison et à Navarre
--1814: publishes his Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, with Alexander von Humboldt, first author
--1816-1820: professor of natural sciences, Buenos Aires; also practices as medical doctor
--1817: made a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences
--1820-1821: runs a plantation near the Paraná River
--1821-1829: detained by the dictator of Paraguay
--1831-1858: runs plantations in Brazil and Uruguay
--1853: Bonplandia, a European botany journal named for him, is inaugerated
--1854: decorated by the King of Prussia
--1856: receives honorary doctorate from the University of Greifswald
--dies at Restauración, Argentina, on 11 May 1858.

For Additional Information, See:

--Taxonomic Literature, Vol. 1 (1976).
--Isis, Vol. 34(5) (1943): 385-399.
--Aimé Bonpland, 1773-1858: Médecin, Naturaliste, Explorateur en Amérique du Sud (2000).
--Le Pêcheur d'Orchidées: Aimé Bonpland, 1773-1858 (1990).

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Copyright 2007 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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