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Malaspina, Alejandro (1754–1810)

Malaspina, Alejandro (1754–1810)

Alejandro Malaspina (b. 5 November 1754; d. 9 April 1810), Spanish naval officer and explorer. Alejandro Malaspina, a Spanish subject born in Mulazzo, in the Duchy of Parma, Italy, entered Spain's navy in 1774 as a midshipman and rose quickly through the ranks. After serving in Gibraltar, he circumnavigated the earth from 1786 to 1788 as commander of La Astrea. As a captain, Malaspina was given command of a five-year around-the-world scientific exploratory mission departing from Cádiz on 30 July 1789. The expedition sailed around the tip of South America and surveyed various Spanish ports. From Acapulco, Malaspina explored northward to the sixtieth parallel, visiting Alaska, Nootka Sound (Vancouver Island), and Monterey, California. His men gathered scientific data and charted the coastline before returning to Mexico. The ships sailed for the Philippines and Australia before recrossing the Pacific to South America and Spain. Prior to publishing his materials, Malaspina fell victim to court intrigue in 1795; he was imprisoned and stripped of his rank. After about eight years in jail, Malaspina was exiled to Parma, where he died.

Not until 1885 did a one-volume account of his expedition appear in print. In the early twenty-first century, however, Malaspina's work has added valuable scientific and visual data to existing knowledge about the natural history of New World areas during the late eighteenth century.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Spanish America .


Donald C. Cutter, Malaspina in California (1960).

Iris H. W. Engstrand, Spanish Scientists in the New World: The Eighteenth-Century Expeditions (1981).

Pedro Novo y Colson, ed., Viaje político-científico alrededor del mundo por las corbetas Descubierta y Atrevida (1885, 1984).

Carmen Sotos Serrano, Los Pintores de la Expedición de Alejandro Malaspina (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Manfredi, Dario. Alejandro Malaspina: La América imposible. Madrid: Compañía Literaria, 1994.

Pimentel, Juan. La física de la monarquía: Ciencia y política en el pensamiento colonial de Alejandro Malaspina (1754–1810). Aranjuez (Madrid): Doce Calles, 1998.

                                Iris H. W. Engstrand

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