Antonio de Ulloa

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ULLOA Y DE LA TORRE GIRAL, ANTONIO DE

(b. Seville, Spain, 12 January 1716; d. Isla de Léon, Cádiz, Spain, 5 July 1795), natural history.

A mariner by profession, Ulloa was commissioned by the government, along with Jorge Juan y Santacilla, to accompany the expedition sent to America by the Paris Academy of Sciences to measure an arc of meridian (1736-1745). While returning to Spain he was captured by the English but took advantage of his stay in Britain to further his education. Upon reaching Madrid, he published, with Jorge Juan, Relación histórica del viaje a la América meridional (1748). The sections devoted to geology and other technical matters, written by Ulloa, include the first scientific description of the platinum found in the sands of the Río Pinto (Magdalena) in Colombia in 1736:“a stone of such resistance that it is very difficult to break or shatter it by striking it on a steel anvil.”It was studied by William Watson (1750) and by Fran–ois Chavanneau in the Vergara laboratory (1786). Ferdinand VI sent Ulloa on a mission throughout Europe to learn about the most recent scientific discoveries. Ulloa participated in the creation of the royal natural history collection (1752) and of the naval observatory at Cádiz (1754). In 1758 he was appointed general manager of the mines of Huancavélica, Peru, and later assumed high posts in the Spanish navy. He also served as first Spanish governor of Louisiana (1766-1768).

Ulloa’s observations embraced many fields. In the catalog of nature that he entitled Noticias americanas: Entretenimiento fisico-histórico sobre América meridional y septentrional-oriental (1772) he discussed “climates and the products of the three kingdoms–vegetable, animal, and mineral.” The work called Observación en el mar de un eclipse de sol (1778) presents a certain interest. His scientific avocations so absorbed Ulloa that he began to neglect his duties as a high-ranking naval officer and was court-martialed, although he was cleared of the charges. Conversaciones . . . con sus tres hijos may be considered a didactic work.

Noticias secretas de América (1826), published after Ulloa’s death and that of Juan y Santacilla, is a confidential report on the situation in America that had been sent to the marquis of Ensenada.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Original Works. Ulloa’s writings include Relación histórica del viaje a la América meridional. . ., 4 vols. (Madrid, 1748), written with Jorge Juan y Santacilla; Noticias americanas: Entretenimiento fisico-histórico sobre América meridional y septentrional-oriental (Madrid, 1772); Observación en el mar de un eclipse de sol (Madrid, 1779); Conversaciones de Ulloa con sus tres hijos (Madrid, 1795); and Noticias secretas de América (London, 1826), written with Juan y Santacilla.

II. Secondary Literature. Juan Sempere y Guarinos, Escritores del reinado de Carlos III, VI (Madrid, 1785), 158-176, is important. See also Julio Fernández Guillén y Tato, Los tenientes de navio Jorge Juan y Santacilla y Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral y la medición del meridiano (Madrid, 1935). On his description of platinum, see Mary Elvira Weeks, Discovery of the Elements, 6th ed. (Easton, Pa., 1956), ch. 16, esp. 409-412.

J. Vernet

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