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Tercentenary of Two French Botanists

Nature volume 141, page 1003 (04 June 1938) | Download Citation



THE year 1638 saw the birth of two notable French botanists, Guy-Crescent Fagon, who was born in Paris on May 11, 1638, and Pierre Magnol, who was born at Montpellier on June 8, 1638. Both were physicians, both were connected with botanical gardens and both were members of the Paris Academy of Sciences. Fagon was a nephew of Guy de la Brosse (died 1641) who first suggested and eventually, in 1626, laid out the "Jardin Royal de herbes medicinales"in Paris, the site of which was a piece of waste ground where the refuse of centuries had collected. It is now the Jardin des Plantes. After taking his degree in medicine in 1664, Fagon offered to procure plants for the garden, and through Antoine Vallot (1594–1671) the superintendent, who was also physician to the King, was appointed to travel in the Alps, Pyrenees, Auvergne and other parts. He afterwards became professor of botany and chemistry in the garden and in 1698 was made director. It was through him that two famous botanists, Joseph Tournefort (1661–1708) and Charles Plumier (164–1704) were sent on collecting expeditions, one to the Levant and the other to America. He wrote on tobacco, cinchona and other matters, and held high office as a doctor. He died in Paris on March 11, 1718. Magnol was associated with Montpellier ail his life. He took his degree there, assisted the professor of botany, in 1694 was given the chair of medicine and three years later was made director of the botanic garden, which had been founded aboub 1558. His writings referred mainly to the plants which grew in the neighbourhood of his native city. He died on May 21, 1715, leaving a son, Antoine, who followed in his footsteps. The genus Magnolia was named after him, by his countryman Plumier.

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