S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Beaulieu, General Augustin de (botany)

Born: 1589, Rouen, France.
Died: 1637, Toulon, France.

Augustin de Beaulieu commanded one of the ships of Briqueville's expedition to Africa in 1612. He made two voyages to the East Indies. On the first of these, which left France in 1616, he commanded the smaller of two ships, but returned in the larger one, with cargo. In 1617 the French government sent him with 50 ships to combat the serious threat posed by Algerian pirates and he succeeded in defeating their fleet.

On his second voyage to the East Indies he was in command of three ships, only one of which (the Montmorency) completed the voyage. His small fleet sailed from Honfleur on 2 October 1619 and arrived in Table Bay on 15 March. Tents and a forge were erected on shore. De Beaulieu explored the area around Table Mountain, found good soil and water, and described some of the plants, trees and animals that he encountered, including an edible bulb which formed part of the food supply of the local Khoi. His description of the Khoi was also fairly detailed. He found the latitude to be 34 degrees south, and the magnetic declination one and three quarter degrees West. He also measured the height of Table Mountain, which he reported to be 1350 pieds du Roy (French feet) above sea level. As this is only 438 meters the result is clearly an error. He attempted to leave Table Bay on 3 April, but was becalmed until 12 April. During that time he visited Robben Island.

After leaving the Cape de Beaulieu visited Madagascar, the Comores, and the Malabar coast of India, reaching Sumatra on 1 December 1620. One of his ships was lost in a conflict with the Dutch. However, he managed some trade and set out on the return journey in February 1622. His ship stayed in Table Bay from 5 to 30 May 1622. On 24 May, when it was calm, he went ashore to collect some bulbs that he had seen in flower during his earlier visit. He may well have taken some species of Narcissus and other plants back to France and as he was well received by King Louis XIII such plants would probably have ended up in the King's botanic gardens.

An account of de Beaulieu's travels was published only in 1644. A second edition, "Memoires du voyage aux Indes Orientales" was included in M. Thevenot's Relations de divers voyages curieux (Paris, 1664, pp. 1-128). A Dutch translation appeared in 1669.

Upon his return from the East de Beaulieu left the merchant service and joined the navy of King Louis XIII. A few years later he took part in the siege of La Rochelle, France (1628), when control of the town was wrested from the Huguenot Party.

List of sources:
Codd, L.E. & Gunn, M. More references to Cape plants. Veld and Flora, 1982, Vol. 68, No. 3, pp. 93-94.

Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 9th & 10th ed. Edinburgh, 1875-1902.

Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography. London, 1910.

Raven-Hart, R. Before van Riebeeck: Callers at South Africa from 1488 to 1652. Cape Town: Struik, 1967.

Rookmaaker, L.C. The zoological exploration of southern Africa, 1650-1790. Rotterdam: Balkema, 1989.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa. Cape Town: Nasou, 1972.

Strangman, E. Early French callers at the Cape. Cape Town: Juta, 1936.

Compiled by: C. Plug