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NATURALISTS iN VENEZUELA

A space destined to describe the most outstanding features of important scientists dedicated to the natural sciences who have developed their work in our country.

Obviously the list is by far not complete. That is why we will be adding new names to it as time permits. In any case, we invite our readers to send us to contacto@aprosima.com, information that they consider may be useful to complete it.


Lisandro Alvarado

Aníbal Lisandro Alvarado was born in El Tocuyo, Venezuela, on September 19, 1858 and died in Valencia, Venezuela, on April 10, 1929. He studied medicine at the Central University of Venezuela. In addition to being a physician, he was a naturalist, linguist, historian, ethnologist.

In the development of these activities were determinant, first the approach to the positivist ideas and then to the neoclassical ones, as the knowledge that he acquired first hand of the Venezuelan reality, when traveling it extensively in his condition of medical professional, both in private and public practice, traveling through numerous states such as Lara, Barinas, Portuguesa, Apure, etc., even in the capital city, becoming Surgeon Major of the Army of the Center at times when the country was suffering serious guerrilla clashes.

This allowed him to develop, in turn, research work on flora, fauna, popular customs and languages.

He was the author of numerous scientific works, which have been collected in 8 volumes, and thanks to his extensive research work, he was elected as a member of the Academies of Medicine, Language and History.


Aimé Bonpland

Aimé Goujaud Bonpland (La Rochelle, France, 1773- Corrientes, Argentina, 1858), was a naturalist, physician and botanist, known for the expedition to America that he made with Alexander von Humboldt between 1799 and 1804, through Spain, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Cuba, Mexico and the United States.

They arrived in Venezuela in 1799. They began their journey in eastern Venezuela, then left for Caracas, and then to the states of Miranda, Aragua, Carabobo, Guárico, Apure, and Bolivar, where they explored the Orinoco and returned to the state of Anzoátegui, ending their transit through our country.

As a result of his travels through the continent, he published his work in four volumes "Journey to the equinoctial regions of the new continent" and in collaboration with Humboldt, seven volumes of "Nova genera et spacies plantarum". He also collected in the "Jardin des Plantes de Paris" a herbarium of 60,000 Latin American plants, 6,000 unknown in Europe.

In addition, he collected a remarkable collection of insects, which were studied by the French entomologist Latreille and published in the Collection of Observations of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, in 1811.

From 1805 to 1814 he was Intendant of the Malmaison, a country residence with numerous exotic plants. During this period he met and befriended Simon Bolivar. He then decided to return to the American continent, settling in the south where he continued his research activities until his death.


Adolfo Ernst

Adolfo Ernst, Venezuelan naturalist, botanist and zoologist, great-great-grandfather of the president of our Association, born in Silesia, Germany, in 1832 and died in Caracas in 1899, was a Venezuelan-German. He enrolled at the University of Berlin where he studied natural sciences, pedagogy and modern languages.

He arrived in Venezuela in 1861. In 1867, he founded the Society of Physical and Natural Sciences of Caracas and in 1874 the National Museum, later Museum of Natural Sciences, he gave a great impulse to the National Library, of which he was director from 1876. He participated in the organization of the Universal Exposition of Vienna (1873), the International Exposition of Agriculture in Bremen (1874), the International Exposition of Chile (1875), the International Exposition of Philadelphia (1876) and the Columbian Exposition of Chicago (1891).

Starting in 1874, he organized the chair of Natural History at the Central University of Venezuela. He is considered the founder of the Venezuelan positivist school, and disseminated in his professorships Lamarck's transformism, Darwin's natural selection and Lyell's principles as the basis of geology.

Ernst published more than 478 works on various disciplines, the most numerous being those on botany, zoology, ethnography, etc. Including studies on different regions of Venezuela, such as the valley of Caracas, Lake Maracaibo, the Andes Mountains, Venezuelan Guayana, the island of La Orchila, the copper mines of Aroa and the diamond mines of Betijoque. As well as articles on various indigenous groups such as the Guajiros, Ayamanes and Warao, on indigenous languages and on physical anthropology.

His written work was compiled in 10 volumes by the Presidency of the Republic in 1988.


Hermano Ginés

Pablo Mandazen Soto, known as Brother Ginés, was born in a small town in Navarra, Spain. After receiving his teaching diploma in 1930 at La Salle de Premiá de Mar, near Barcelona, and choosing the name Brother Ginés, he continued his higher studies in religion in Belgium, arriving in Venezuela in 1939 to become a teacher at Colegio La Salle. He finishes his formal studies in Natural Sciences at the Central University of Venezuela in 1949, where he does his postgraduate studies in Zoology and then graduates as Doctor in Sciences in 1952.

In 1940 he founded the La Salle Society of Natural Sciences, an institution dedicated to learning and studying the Venezuelan natural reality, for which he has carried out more than a hundred scientific expeditions throughout the country and which was endowed with a museum of natural sciences, and a library, photo library and cinematheque support.

Subsequently, he created the La Salle Foundation for Natural Sciences, which with his efforts managed to finance the construction of its own building as its headquarters. Likewise, in 1961, he founded the Caribbean Institute of Anthropology and Sociology, to complement the study of man with facts about natural resources.

As a result of his efforts, he was able to establish four campuses and three sub-campuses outside Caracas, where dozens of research professionals work together with hundreds of professors to train thousands of students in their high schools, university technical schools, university technological institutes and research stations. He was also involved in anthropological and sociological studies of indigenous ethnic groups in the Orinoco Delta.

After a long and fruitful life, he died in Caracas at the age of 99.


Alexander von Humbolt

Celebrated German naturalist, who was born in 1769 and died in 1859 in the same city of Berlin. He was a polymath, geographer, astronomer, humanist, naturalist and explorer, considered one of the founders of geography.

He had the opportunity to be in Venezuela as part of his first trip to Latin America in the company of the French naturalist and botanist Aimé Bonpland, where he disembarked on July 16, 1799 in Cumaná, in the east of the country, and went on to visit important places in the east of the country such as the Araya peninsula, Cumanacoa, the Caripe valley, the Guácharo cave, the Guanoco asphalt lake, the San Fernando missions, and then to the capital Caracas, disembarking in the port of La Guaira to explore the surrounding area. They then visited the states of Aragua, Carabobo, Guárico, Apure and Bolívar, where they got to know and explore the Orinoco River and some of its tributaries. They finished their expeditions in Venezuela leaving through Cumaná, the same city through which they arrived. They studied the natural resources of the flora, fauna, its mountainous geography, its rivers, etc.

In the continuation of that trip and in another later one, they dedicated themselves to study and learn about the nature and societies of other countries of the continent, such as Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, etc.

In the 33-volume scientific work entitled "Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent" published later by both naturalists, they made known to the world their enriching experiences, as well as the existence of innumerable new species of plants and animals that they found in their expeditions, in addition to aspects of the customs of the inhabitants, including what they observed in indigenous communities.


Alfredo Jahn

Alfredo Jahn, Caracas, Venezuela, October 8, 1867-June 12, 1940, was a naturalist who combined his career as an engineer, whose studies began in Germany in the branch of military engineering and culminated at the Central University of Venezuela, with studies in ethnology and ethnography, which he enriched with countless expeditions through Venezuelan territory.

He participated in the construction of the Caracas-Valencia and Caracas-La Guaira railroads and the trans-Andean highway.

At the UCV he was a student of Dr. Adolf Ernst, who led him to take an interest in Natural Sciences. Throughout his life he collected a herbarium of more than 1,200 plants, preserved in the National Herbarium of Caracas. He founded and presided over the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences in 1933, and was a member of the National Academy of History.

In 1887, together with the chemist and researcher Vicente Marcano, he made an ethnographic and ethnological expedition to the Upper Orinoco. He was in charge of the geographical and botanical part, which began the work of measuring and triangulating the mountain ranges and sites and cities between Valencia and Caracas. He also carried out the topographic survey of the Valencia lake´s basin and several scientific expeditions to the western region of Venezuela.

Of his scientific work, the following stand out: La cordillera venezolana de los Andes (1912); Los aborígenes del occidente de Venezuela (1927); Historia, etnografía y afinidades lingüísticas (2 v., 1927); Una importante contribución a la hidrografía de la Guayana venezolana (1931); Los cráneos deformados de los aborígenes de los valles de Aragua (1932) and Aspectos físicos de Venezuela (1941) published on the anniversary of his death.


Tobías Laser

Tobias Lasser was born in Agua Larga, Falcon State, Venezuela, on May 24, 1911 and died in Caracas, on May 25, 2006. He was an outstanding botanist, founder of the Botanical Garden of Caracas, belonging to the Central University of Venezuela; Founder of the Faculty of Sciences and the School of Biology of the Faculty of Sciences of the Central University of Venezuela.

He graduated in 1935 as a medical doctor from the Faculty of Medicine of the UCV and completed a Master of Science at the University of Michigan, United States. In 1941 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He was a member and president of the Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences of Venezuela, president of the Venezuelan Society of Natural Sciences and professor at the Pedagogical Institute of Caracas.

He had an outstanding activity as editor-founding director of the publications "Flora de Venezuela" and "Acta Botanica Venezuelica". Also, among his several books and scientific articles published are noted: "Botánica General", "Nuestro Destino Frente a la Naturaleza", "Materia Prima", "Clave analítica de las familias de las Traqueophyta de Venezuela".

He carried out numerous scientific explorations in the country and abroad, participating in the discovery and cataloging of several botanical species, including Coccoloba lasseri in Panama.


Manuel Nuñez Tovar

Manuel Núñez Tovar was born in 1872 in Caicara de Maturín, Monagas state, and died in Maracay, Aragua state, on January 27, 1928. He was a Venezuelan naturalist, researcher, parasitologist and entomologist. For his work in this discipline he is considered as the "first Venezuelan entomologist" and also as "one of the most illustrious doctors of Monagas".

He graduated as a medical doctor from the Central University of Venezuela in 1895, after studying the first two years of his career at the First Category Federal College of Barcelona, Anzoátegui state. He dedicated himself to his profession until 1909, when he became part of the Public Hygiene Commission of the state of Monagas. That same year he began his studies in entomology, a branch of biology that studies insects, in which he dedicated himself to the investigation of the transmission of diseases, publishing numerous works and monographs, identifying the Necator americanus as the cause of anemia in patients who had suffered from malaria. His work led to the discovery of several species of mosquitoes that bear his name.

He later moved to Maracay where he was appointed doctor of his garrison. He took advantage of his stay to collect numerous animal species in the Valleys of Aragua and in the surrounding areas of Lake Valencia.

He gathered an important entomological collection, acquired by the Venezuelan government, which is kept in the Directorate of Malariology and Environmental Sanitation of the Ministry of Health in Maracay.

Among his main works are:

Dipterological index of Venezuela: with geographical distribution by states.

Venezuelan disease-transmitting insects.

Mosquitoes and phlebotomes of Venezuela.


Henry Pitier

Henri François Pittier was a naturalist engineer, geographer, painter, naturalist and botanist who was born in Switzerland in 1857 and died in Caracas in 1950.

He visited Venezuela for the first time in 1913 as an advisor in the installation of an agricultural school in the state of Aragua. When some of his observations were not accepted, he returned to the United States, taking some plants from the central states. After returning in 1917 required by the government for a project, at the age of 62 he settled definitively in our country in 1919, and from that moment on he began a fruitful work in the scientific field, mainly in botanical studies, but he also stood out as a phytogeographer, conservationist and educator.

Founded the Commercial Museum of Venezuela, attached to the National Herbarium, now the Botanical Institute. He contributed to the increase from 2,000 to 12,000 the catalogued cards in said Herbarium. He founded and directed the magazines "Museo Comercial" and "Boletín Comercial e Industrial". He was director of the Cagijal Astronomical Observatory of Caracas, achieving the acquisition of new and modern equipment for the same.

Under his direction, in 1937 the first national park in Venezuela, called "Rancho Grande", was created in the coastal mountain range in Aragua State, which was renamed Henri Pittier National Park.

Pittier was the author of the publication of nearly 300 scientific works, his main work being the "Manual de las plantas usuales de Venezuela", published in 1926.

Before his arrival in Venezuela he had graduated as a civil engineer at the University of Jena in Germany, later receiving a doctorate in philosophy. He taught at the "Château d'Œx" school and at the geography department of the University of Lausanne, where he received the title of "Doctor Honoris Causa in Sciences".

Subsequently, he made trips to the Mediterranean, the Near East and Central America. He settled in Costa Rica, where he founded the National Meteorological Institute, assumed the direction of the Physical Geographic Institute, where today operates the National Herbarium; a meteorological station; a geography service and a museum of natural sciences. He also co-founded the National Museum.

He then traveled to the United States to work in the Ministry of Agriculture, and published in 1907 his work "Primitia Flora Costaricencis", based on his studies of the flora of Costa Rica.


Aristides Rojas

Arístides Belisario Rojas was born in Caracas in 1826 of Dominican parents and died in the same city in 1894.

In 1844 he enters the Central University of Venezuela to study philosophy. In 1846 he enrolled in medical school at the same university, graduating in 1852. After practicing rural medicine in our country, he traveled to the United States, Europe and Puerto Rico, attending courses and cultural and scientific activities, returning to Venezuela in 1863.

In addition to being a physician, he was a naturalist, historian and an excellent writer and journalist, who contributed significantly to the dissemination of scientific, historical and geographical topics. He was vice-president of the "Sociedad de Ciencias Físicas y Naturales".

His brothers were José María Rojas Espaillat, an outstanding lawyer and diplomat, as well as Carlos Eduardo and Marco Aurelio Rojas Espaillat, outstanding in entomological studies in Venezuela.

Among his printed work is his book "Miscelánea de Literatura, Ciencia e Historia", published in 1876, in which he compiles interesting writings on these subjects that appeared in the press, and in 1878 he published his work "Estudios Indígenas. Contribution to the ancient history of Venezuela".

He died on March 4, 1894. Since September 21, 1983 his remains rest in the National Pantheon of Venezuela.


Eduardo Rolh