Pierre Magnol

1638 (Montpellier, France) – 1715 (Montpellier)

A pioneering botanist and innovator in the classification of plants, Magnol was the first to use the term ‘family’ of a natural grouping. The magnolia was named in his honour, by Linnaeus. Based most of his life in Montpellier, renowned for the study of botany and medicine, Magnol’s best-known students were Tournefort and Jussieu; Tournefort dying relatively young, Magnol succeeded him at the Jardin du Roi in Paris before returning to Montpellier. Ray (who was impressed by him), Sloane and Locke (who both became friends) were among those who visited him, Locke receiving seeds for the physic garden at Oxford.

Pierre Magnol knew…

Aimé Bonpland

Amadeo Bonpland

1773 (La Rochelle, France) – 1858 (Santa Ana, Argentina)

Bonpland became friendly with Jussieu and Lamarck after graduating from university. He met Humboldt by chance, staying at the same hotel in Paris; they travelled together for five years undertaking wide-ranging and often pioneering scientific research in Central and South America, and visited Jefferson in Washington. Humboldt credited Bonpland in all 23 volumes of his published research, rather than just the two that he collaborated on. Bonpland translated a Spanish work for Cuvier (who later thanked him for the continuing supply of South American specimens), and met Banks.

Herman Boerhaave

Hermann Boerhaave

1668 (Voorhout, Netherlands) – 1738 (Leiden)

The immensely influential Boerhaave established the practice of clinical teaching, and the institution of the teaching hospital. Such major figures as Linnaeus (who went on to become a student) and Voltaire came to visit him. Other students included Albinus (who went on to be recalled as a professional colleague), Musschenbroek, van Swieten, Haller, La Mettrie and Pringle. ‘sGravesande was a younger colleague. Fahrenheit visited and corresponded (Boerhaave was a pioneer of the clinical use of the thermometer); Sloane was another correspondent. Haller described Boerhaave as the teacher of all Europe.

Herman Boerhaave knew…

Carl Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus;Carl von Linné

1707 (Råshult, Sweden) – 1778 (Uppsala)

Linnaeus was substantially responsible for the binomial classification system for plants and animals still used today. A physician as well as scientist, he met, studied with and became a lifetime friend of Boerhaave, and started an extensive correspondence (and professional love/hate relationship) with Haller. Other significant correspondents (his network was Europe-wide) included van Swieten, Pallas, Gmelin, Müller, Amman, Lexell and Guettard — as well as his disciple Forster, his translator Darwin, and his friend and mentor Jussieu. Solander was his beloved protégé, and Artedi his brilliant young friend.

Bernard de Jussieu

1699 (Lyon, France) – 1777 (Paris)

Jussieu, a modest man, developed a naming system for plants that, unlike Linnaeus’s, was morphologically-based. Trained in medicine, he went with his elder brother (already a botanist) on a research trip to Spain, developing there into a botanist himself. Lamarck (his student and assistant for 18 years), Lavoisier and Guettard all studied with him; Buffon and Duhamel du Monceau were Jardin des Plantes colleagues. Sloane and Linnaeus (who attended his lectures and greatly respected him) corresponded. Réaumur prompted his investigation of fresh-water polyps (which he correctly identified as animal), while Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu was his nephew and successor.

Jean-Étienne Guettard

1715 (Étampes, France) – 1786 (Paris)

Guettard, famously blunt, was a pioneer of geological field-work. He studied botany with Réaumur and Jussieu. Linnaeus corresponded, naming a genus after him; Haller and the amateur botanist Rousseau were also in contact. Lavoisier’s father was a friend of Guettard, who employed the young Lavoisier as an assistant (encouraging him to go on to study chemistry); they made several geological field-trips together, and were commissioned to produce the first (unfinished) geological map of France. Daubenton was a close colleague. Buffon approvingly quoted Guettard’s Polish researches, despite the animosity between them.

Antoine Laurent de Jussieu

1748 (Lyon, France) – 1836 (Paris)

Much of Jussieu’s classification of flowering plants is still in use. Bernard de Jussieu was an uncle and an important influence. Jussieu was godfather to one of Lamarck’s sons; Lamarck and Fourcroy were colleagues of Jussieu at the Jardin des Plantes, while Berthollet and Fourcroy were with Jussieu fellow-members of a project led by Lavoisier to better understand the role of vegetation in the natural cycle. Hooker and Owen were met on visits to England. De Candolle was an early supporter of Jussieu’s system, Banks and Ampère correspondents, and Bonpland a student then friend.

Alphonse de Candolle

1806 (Paris) – 1893 (Geneva)

A chance conversation with a friend of his father Augustin de Candolle convinced him to change his mind and pursue botany as a career. De Candolle dined with Darwin in London (Henslow another guest) and had an extensive correspondence with him (including about de Candolle’s ability to move his scalp muscularly). Wallace also corresponded, as did Galton — the latter engaging in a lively exchange of views through which de Candolle persuaded him that he’d overstressed heredity against environment. Gray was another correspondent, and met him three times. Nägeli was one of his students.

Alphonse de Candolle knew…

Joseph Dalton Hooker

1817 (Halesworth, England) – 1911 (Sunningdale)

William Hooker was his father (and predecessor at Kew), Henslow his father-in-law. He went on Ross’s Antarctic expedition, and catalogued plants from the Galápagos Islands for his hero Darwin, becoming his lifelong best friend and confidant, later advising him on the most diplomatic way to present his theory of natural selection and establish his primacy over Wallace. Huxley (another close friend of Hooker’s ) was, with him, Darwin’s strongest supporter. Fitch illustrated his work (until a dispute over pay ended the relationship), while Gray (a professional colleague) and Galton were both close friends.

Ignaz Venetz

Ignace Venetz

1788 (Visperterminen, Switzerland) – 1859 (Sion)

Venetz picked up on and developed ideas about puzzling aspects of glaciation before his better-known friend and colleague Charpentier, whom he helped to persuade. They were in the habit of meeting and discussing ideas, as they did when Agassiz (and Schimper) came to stay with Charpentier in 1836; it was these two younger men who developed a full theory of glaciation and of a widespread ice-age.