S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Chamisso, Mr Adelbert von (botany)

Born: 27 January 1781, Boncourt, Champagne, France.
Died: 21 August 1838, Berlin, Germany.

Adelbert von Chamisso (also known as Louis Charles Adelaide Chamisseau de Boncourt) was a French-Prussian romantic writer and naturalist. His family fled to Prussia in 1790 to escape the French Revolution. Adelbert served in the Prussian army from 1798 to 1807, and was a member of a literary coterie near Geneva in 1811-1812. He studied natural history, particularly botany, at the University of Berlin from 1812 to 1814 and knew both K.H. Bergius* and J.L.L. Mund*. From 1815 to 1818 he was the naturalist of a Russian expedition around the world in the ship Rurick, commanded by Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue of the Russian navy, and initiated by Count Romanzoff. The expedition visited the Cape for 10 days in April 1818, where Adelbert collected with G.L.E. Krebs*, Mund, and L. Maire*. He was primarily interested in botany, but also collected some zoological specimens. On his return he became custodian of the herbarium at Berlin-Dahlem, where he worked with his friend D.F.L. von Schlechtendal.

In 1821 von Chamisso published his Bemerkungen und Ansichten auf einer Entdeckungs-Reise unternommen in den Jahren 1815-1818.... His travels were also described in Reise um die Welt..., forming the first two volumes of his Werke, published in Leipzig in 1836-1839. The next two volumes of this work contained his poems, and the last two volumes his biography. He published an enumeration of the plants collected by the expedition in Linnaea, from 1826 to 1836, with von Schlechtendal as co-author. In 1831 and 1833, again with von Schlechtendal, he published an enumeration of some of C.F. Ecklon's* plants in the same journal. He was commemorated in the name of the South American genus Chamissoa, and the species name Erica chamissonis.

List of sources:

Bauer, A.M. Early German herpetological observations and explorations in southern Africa, with special reference to the Zoological Museum of Berlin. Bonner zoologische Beitraege, 2003, Vol. 52, pp. 193-214.

Bullock, A.A. Bibliography of South African botany (up to 1951). Pretoria: Department of Agricultural Technical Services, 1978.

Chamisso, Adalbert von. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. 5, 1876, pp. 383-384.

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

Hutchinson, J. A botanist in southern Africa (pp. 579, 581). London: Gawthorn, 1946.

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

Webster's Biographical Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam, 1943, 1960.

Compiled by: C. Plug