Thursday, April 14, 2011

André Michaux

André Michaux was a botanist sent by Louis XVI to America to study the plant life there. According to the St. Augustine Record:

About this time of year 322 years ago, French botanist Andre Michaux was visiting in St. Augustine. King Louis XVI sent him to America in 1785 to look for trees to rebuild the forests of France and to collect specimens for the royal gardens and parks. During the 11 years that followed, Michaux would record numerous plants, introduce some of the staples of Southern gardens -- including the camellia -- and nearly get nailed as a spy.

In 1788 he made his way to Spanish East Florida, probably intrigued by the observations and descriptions made by his friend and fellow scientist William Bartram, the leading American botanist of the day....

Michaux was born near the French palace of Versailles, but into a farming family, not the aristocracy. His skill with plants eventually drew recognition from officials in the government of King Louis XVI, but it was the death of his wife while giving birth and his subsequent grief that caused him to accept an opportunity to study botany. While his son was raised by his family, Michaux learned from some of the leading scientists of the day.
In 1782 he was part of a group sent with a new consul to Persia (now Iran). It was a life of adventure, including capture by a hostile tribe. But what thrilled Michaux was the chance to collect new species of plants. He did so well there that he was appointed king's botanist and sent to New York in 1785.

France was desperately in need of new species of trees to rebuild the country's forests, devastated by a series of wars with England. Michaux brought his 15-year-old son with him and quickly went to digging, collecting and sending specimens back to France. He first set up a garden in Hackensack, N.J., and then in 1786, he founded another, larger garden in Charleston. He met with some of the leading citizens of the new United States, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
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lara77 said...

Well, another story proving the intelligence and foresight of King Louis XVI. The King was concerned about France's forests and was eager to see what specimens were growing in the Americas. I also found it intriguing that Michaux's background was not of the nobilty; that was no problem for Louis XVI. The King wanted the best man for the job. Elena Maria, with each story you post on the King I admire His Majesty even more!

elena maria vidal said...

I only recently discovered the King's amazing farsightedness and diligence in this regard. He valued his country's natural resources. And yes, Louis was one to disregard precedence but choose the person best qualified.