Rojas, Arístides (1826–1894)

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Rojas, Arístides (1826–1894)

A physician by training, Arístides Rojas is best known for his outstanding contributions to history and natural science research in Venezuela. He wrote prolifically on geology, botany, seismology, geography, pedagogy, literary criticism, and especially on national history and folklore. His impressive collection of print, art, and archaeological objects of Venezuela's past became the core of the Bolivarian Collection now housed at the John Boulton Foundation in Caracas.

Rojas, born on November 5, 1826, was educated with the children of the political elite and was a pupil of Fermín Toro, the renowned educator. Rojas's father's bookstore served as a cultural hub for the most important intellectual and political figures of his time. Rojas started publishing on Venezuelan customs and folklore as a university student during the mid-1840s. He studied medicine at the University of Caracas, graduating in 1852, and began practicing in rural areas. After additional training in the United States and France, Rojas practiced medicine in Puerto Rico, before returning permanently to Venezuela in 1864. While maintaining his medical practice, Rojas published treatises on botany, seismology, and geography and helped establish the Venezuelan Society for Physical and Natural Sciences and created the Bibliography Society.

Upon the death of his wife, he abandoned medicine to dedicate himself fulltime to scholarship. Two of his works—El elemento vasco en la historia de Venezuela (1874) and Estudios indígenas: Contribución a la historia Antigua de Venezuela (1878)—earned important awards in Venezuela. He helped organize the Venezuelan exhibit for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 held in Chicago. A government contract granted in 1890 to gather his entire historical works in a multi-volume set was cut short by his death on March 4, 1894. Rojas enjoyed international recognition and was a member of the Zoological Society of France and of the Academy of Physical and Natural Sciences of Havana; he was an honorary member of the Chilean Academy of Letters. For these accomplishments, Arístides Rojas has been called the founder of professional historical research in Venezuela.

See alsoVenezuela: Venezuela since 1830 .


Grases, Pedro. Cuatro varones venezolanos: Valentín Espinal, Arístides Rojas, Manuel Segundo Sánchez, Vicente Lecuna. Caracas, 1953.

Grases, Pedro. Bibliografía de don Arístides Rojas, 1826–1894, 2nd ed. Caracas: Fundacíon para el Rescate del Acervo Documental Venezolano, 1977.

                                      Luis A. GonzÁlez

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Rojas, Arístides (1826–1894)

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