S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Verreaux, Mr Pierre Jules (ornithology, zoological collection)

Born: 24 August 1807, France.
Died: 7 September 1873, Paris, France.
Active in: SA.

P. Jules Verreaux, French naturalist and taxidermist, was the son of a dealer in natural history specimens in Paris and older brother of J. Alexis Verreaux* and J.B. Edouard Verreaux*. Jules came to South Africa in 1818 with his uncle, the naturalist Pierre Antoine Delalande*, to collect specimens for the Mus?um d'Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) in Paris. They arrived in False Bay on 8 August 1818, just before Jules's eleventh birthday. During their stay of two years Jules learned much about natural history, and particularly taxidermy, from his uncle. In September and October 1818 they collected numerous plants in the vicinity of Cape Town. Thereafter they made three trips into the interior. First eastwards along the coast for an unknown distance, until forced to return by drought and an advancing Xhosa army. Then northwards as far as the Olifants River, collecting many birds and other animals. The third journey took them to Algoa Bay by sea and from there north-eastwards as far as the Keiskama River. On this trip they acquired a vast number of insects, birds, and mammals. They left the Cape for France on 1 September 1820.

During the next few years Jules received further training at the Paris Natural History Museum. In December 1826 he returned to the Cape to collect natural history specimens (to be sold in Paris) and three months later obtained the necessary hunting permit. In Cape Town he met Dr Andrew Smith*, who was superintendent of the museum collection of the South African Institution, which was later incorporated into the South African Museum. Jules was a member of the Institution's successor, the South African Literary and Scientific Institution, by 1832. During his ten years at the Cape he worked with Dr Smith to expand the museum colletions, but also sent many Cape marine fishes (and probably other specimens) to France. He collected mammals, birds, insects, shells, plants and other specimens at least as far as Knysna. However, on 9 March 1828 he was back in Cape Town, for on that day the Lieutenant-Governor put him in temporary charge of the museum (until April 1829) during Dr Smith's journey to Namaqualand. Thereafter he served as curator of the museum until he left the Cape in 1838, and again acted as its superintendent during Smith's absence from 1834 to 1836. He received the museum's entrance fees (1 shilling per person) and also generated an income as a taxidermist. Among others he mounted most of the animals collected by Andrew Steedman*, who returned to England with his collection in 1833. Jules's personal collection was on loan to the museum during his stay at the Cape. In 1837 the museum was housed in the rooms of the South African Literary and Scientific Institution on Looyers Plein and was "filled with specimens of animals and other natural objects indigenous to South Africa, besides others from various parts of the world..." (Cape of Good Hope annual register..., 1837, p. 42).

In July 1830 Jules's younger brother Edouard arrived to help him prepare and pack his collection. Edouard took the collection to Paris, where it was displayed for some time and then sold, and then returned to the Cape with their youngest brother, Alexis. Edouard soon left the Cape again, but Alexis remained to assist Jules in his work. At this time Jules, with Edouard as joint author, published L'Oc?anie en estampes, ou Description geographique et historique de toutes les ?les de Grand oc?an et du continent da la Nouvelle Hollande (Oceania in engravings, or geographical and historical description of all the islands of the great ocean and the continent of New Holland; Paris, 1832).

In 1833 Jules was a shareholder and member of the provisional committee of the Cape of Good Hope Association for Exploring Central Africa, which planned to send an expedition led by Dr Smith into the interior. Both he and Alexis helped to mount the animals that Smith brought back from the interior. He also assisted Baron C.F.H. von Ludwig* in preparing a valuable collection of birds, mammals and other specimens which the Baron took to Germany, in 1836-1837.

When Jules returned to Paris in 1838 he left Alexis behind. Unfortunately his collections and personal documents were lost when the Lucullus, on which they had been sent home, was shipwrecked - a great loss not only to the brothers Verreaux, but to the ornithology of their time. In Paris Jules joined Edouard at the Maison Verreaux (House of Verreaux), a renowned family business that dealt in natural history specimens. The two brothers were master taxidermists and the firm became well known for its life-like mountings of mammals and birds. In 1842 Jules went to Australia, returning in 1848 with over 11 000 specimens, mainly birds, mammals and insects. From 1865 to his death in 1873 he worked as Aide-naturaliste (Curator) at the Paris Museum, though he fled to England for some time during the Franco-German War.

From 1847 to his death in 1873 Jules published (in French) about 50 papers, ten or so of them with Edouard as joint author and a few others with M.E. Mulsant. Most of these contained descriptions of new species from various regions of the world, including Australia, West Africa, Gabon, New Caledonia, Madagascar, Colombia, Tibet, China, and Reunion. One was a monograph containing a systematic classification of the hummingbirds (family Trochilidae, with M.E. Mulsant and Edouard Verreaux, 1866). According to Winterbottem & Clancey (1964) he described almost as many South African birds as Dr Andrew Smith did. One of these was Promerops gurneyi (Gurney's Sugarbird), collected by Thomas Ayres* and described by Jules in 1871. He also published a note on the Secretary bird of the Cape (1856).

Many species of animals and plants were named after Jules Verreaux. Among those still in use are Cyanomitra veroxii (Grey Sunbird), originally named after him by Dr Smith in 1831; Aquila verreauxii (Verreaux's Eagle), named after him and Edouard; and Praomys verreauxii (Verreaux's Mouse), named after him by Dr Smith in 1834.

List of sources:
Annual report of the South African Institution, 1830. South African Quarterly Journal, 1830, No. 3, pp. 315-324.

Berlioz, J. Les premieres recheches ornithologiques Francaises en Afrique du Sud. The Ostrich, 1959, Supplement 3, pp. 300-302.

Cape of Good Hope Association for Exploring Central Africa. Prospectus..., 1833. (National Library, Cape Town, SABP 4; also in South African Commercial Advertiser, 15 June 1833, p. 1, Prospectus of a plan for an expedition into central Africa).

Cape of Good Hope annual register, directory and almanac (title varies), 1836, 1837.

Clinning, C. Southern African bird names explained. Johannesburg: Southern African Ornithological Society, 1989.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 2, 1972.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. & Ryan, P.G. Roberts birds of southern Africa (7th ed.) Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, 2005.

Kilburn, R. & Rippey, E. Sea shells of southern Africa. Johannesburg: Macmillan, 1982.

Kirby, P.R. an early nineteenth century South African habitat group. Southern African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB), 1945, Vol. 3, pp. 341-346.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Pappe, L. Synopsis of the edible fishes of the Cape of Good Hope, 2nd ed. Cape Town: Brittain, 1866.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African Literary and Scientific Institution. Regulations.... Cape Town: G. Greig, 1832. (National Library, Cape Town, SABP 4).

Summers, R.F.H. A history of the South African Museum, 1825-1975. Cape Town: Balkema, 1975.

Varley, D.H. Pierre-Antoine Delalande, naturalist, and his Cape visit, 1818-1820. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library, 1956, Vol. 11(1), pp. 6-13.

Winterbottom, J.M. & Clancey, P.A. The development of ornithology in South Africa. Lantern, September 1964, Vol. 14(1), pp. 13-22.

Compiled by: C. Plug

Last updated: 2020-04-23 17:30:14