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Magnol, Pierre

1. Dates
Born: Montpellier, 8 June 1638
Died: 21 May 1715
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 77
2. Father
Occupation: Pharmacist
His father was an apothecary. His grandfather, father, and brother were apothecaries. His mother came from a family of physicians.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Montpelier, M.D.
He matriculated in the University of Medicine at Montpellier 19 May 1655. He received his Bachelor's degree 28 August 1657. On 1 August 1658 he recieved his licentiate. 11 January 1659 he obtained his M.D.
After receiving his degree he made a serious study of plants.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist, Catholic
In 1664 he was proposed for the position of demonstrator of plants. The appointment was refused because of his religion. Again in 1667 Magnol was a leading candidate for a profes- sorial position at Montpellier and was denied the postion because of the King's policy to keep Protestants out of public office. He renounced his religion in October 1685.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany
Subordinate: Pharmacology
In his Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum (1689), he was one of the first to classify plants in tables that made possible rapid identifications. He was the first to use the term "family" in the sense of a natural group. In another work, Botanicum Monspeliense (Lyons, 1676), Magnol described 1354 species growing around the area. He almost always gave localities and frequently added notes on the medicinal or other uses. This work was the basis for the Linnaean dissertation on the Montpellier region in 1756. His other works include Hortus regius Monspeliensis (Montpellier, 1697), a catalog of his garden, and the posthumous published Novus caracter plantarum (1720).
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Government, Academia
After 1659 he began to botanize in the area around Montpellier, in Provence, and in the mountainous regions of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Although nothing is said, one must assume that Magnol was practicing medicine; he did stay alive, and his family was not wealthy. At some point in his life he did practice medicine.
On 12 December 1663 Antoine Vallot, the doctor of the king and former doctor of Montpellier, obtained for Magnol a brevet de medecin royal, an honorary title with no royal function.
In 1687 he became demonstrator of plants at the botanical garden of Montpellier. Since this was not an academic position, I treat it as governmental.
He was appointed professor of medicine at the University of Montpellier in 1694. On 13 September 1694, Guy-Crescent Fagon, the doctor of the king, obtained for Magnol a brevet de professeur royal. Magnol occupied one of the four chairs established in 1498.
In 1696 he was named director of the botanical garden. According to A. Leenhardt (Montpelliéraine médecines des rois, n.d., a work cited by others in the bibliography here), Magnol received lettres de noblesse at the same time as his directorship.
He was one of the founding members of the Société Royale des Sciences de Montpellier (1706) and held one of the three chairs in botany.
He was called to Paris in 1709 by the AR.
8. Patronage
Type: Physician
Through Antoine Vallot, an influential court physician, he obtained a brevet de medecin royal in 1663. In 1667 the King opposed his nomination as professor of medicine at the University of Montpellier. Through Guy-Crescent Fagon, another, later, court physician, he obtained a brevet de professeur royal in 1694. Magnol dedicated his Prodromus to Fagon. According to A. Leenhardt, Magnol received lettres de noblesse in 1696. I do not know if Fagon was behind the appointment to the Académie, but I have not found anyone else mentioned.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
Part of Magnol's botanical studies was the medicinal properties of the plants he collected.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Académie Royal des Sciences
He was one of the founding members of the Société Royale des Sciences de Montpellier (1706) and held one of the three chairs in botany.
He was called to Paris in 1709 to replace Tournefort at the Académie Royale des Sciences and was particularly warmly received there by Fontenelle.
He established contacts with many French and Foreign botanists: John Ray, W. Sherard, and James Petiver in London; Hermann and Hotton in Leiden; Commelin in Amsterdam; the Rivinuses in Leipzig; Breyn in Danzig; J.H. Lavater in Zurich; Lelio and G.B. Triumpheti in Rome; G. Ciassi in Venice; Boccone in Palermo; Nappus in Strasbourg; J. Salvador in Barcelona; Jacob Spon in Lyons; and G.C. Fagon in Paris.
  1. Antoine Magnol's biography in J.E.Planchon, ed., La botanique à Montpellier. Notes et documents, (Montpellier, 1884). (the principal source.) L. Dullieu, "Les Magnol," Revue d'histoire des sciences et leurs applications, 12 (1959), 209-24. Q2.R45.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Robert Zander, "Pierre Magnol," Das Gartenamt (Nov. 1959), pp. 245-6.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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