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Plumier, Charles

1. Dates
Born: Marseille, 20 Apr. 1646
Died: El Puerto de Santa Maria (near Cadiz), 20 Nov. 1704
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 58
2. Father
Occupation: Artisan
His father was a thrower (which I take to mean a silk thrower).
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French, European Culture
Death: Spanish
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order
He learned the craft from his father. At the age of sixteen he entered the Order of Minims and studied physics, mathematics, and drawing. Later he was sent to Rome, where influenced by Paolo Boccone, he abandoned mathematics for botany. After returning from Rome, he lived at the convent in Bormes where he met Tournefort with whom he botanized. While I find it impossible to say with assurance, it appears to me that he received the equivalent of a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
He entered the Order of Minims in 1662.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural History, Botany
After his return from his second voyage he published Description des plantes de l'Amerique which contained 107 plates engraved at royal expense. Nova plantarum americanarum genera (1703), which contains 40 plates and description of 106 new genera. Traité des fougères de l'amerique (1705), with 172 plates was published upon his return from his third voyage.
Plumier's duty on his first voyage was to collect plants to form a natural history collection of plants. Surian gathered plants with the intent for medical application and chemical analyses. After Surian and Plumier quarreled, Plumier traveled alone on the following two voyages as the royal botanist. He died while waiting for the ship that would take him to Peru in search of the cinchona tree.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Patronage
He entered the Order of Minims in 1662. After completing his studies, he lived at the convent in Bormes, near Hyeres.
In 1689, at the request of Louis XIV, he accompanied J. Surian, a physician from Marseilles, on a voyage to the Caribbean. Later he undertook two more voyages to the islands and S. America. He died while waiting to embark on his fourth voyage.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
Louis XIV requested him to accompany a physician on a voyage to the Caribbean. He undertook two more voyages as the 'botaniste du roi'. The king subsidized his publications.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Pharmacology
Although it is unclear that medicinal plants were Plumier's goal on the first voyages, the final one was aimed at the cinchona tree: quinine.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Michaud, Biographie universelle, new ed., 33, 536-9. CT153.B6
  2. Ignaz Urban, "Plumier, Leben und Schriften nebst einen Schlussel zu einen Bluten-pflanzen," Beihefte zum Repertorium specierum novarum regni vegetabilis, 5 (1920), 1-196.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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