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Falkner, Tomás


Jesuit missionary; b. Manchester, England, Oct. 17, 1707; d. Plowden Hall, England, Jan. 30, 1784. Falkner studied physical and mathematical sciences with Newton, who was said by a contemporary to have considered him his favorite pupil, and medicine with Richard Mead. As physician for a cargo of slaves, Falkner came to Buenos Aires in 1730 and was converted to Catholicism. He entered the Society of Jesus on May 14, 1732, and was ordained in 1739. Between 1743 and 1751 he worked, with some interruptions, in the Reductions in the pampas and highlands of what is now the province of Buenos Aires. From 1752 to 1756 he was in Santa Fé, and from 1756 to 1767, in Córdoba. During all those years in addition to his priestly labors, he continued to practice medicine, so necessary in those regions where there was a scarcity of medical care. After the expulsion of the Jesuits (1767) he returned to England where he resided until his death. Only two of his writings, both fragmentary and abridged, are extant, but the first is so valuable that it is now considered a classic of its type: A Description of Patagonia (London 1774; reprinted by A. Neumann, Chicago 1935), which, according to present-day usage, would now be titled "A Description of the Province of Buenos Aires." The second work is Of the Patagonians (Darlington 1788; reedited by G. Furlong, Buenos Aires 1929).

Bibliography: g. furlong, Tomás Falkner y su "Acerca de los patagones," 1788 (Buenos Aires 1954). r. f. doublet, "An Englishman in Rio de la Plata," Month 23 (1960) 216226.

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