Bonaparte, Lucien Jules Laurent

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Bonaparte, Lucien Jules Laurent

called Charles Lucien

(b. Paris, France, 24 May 1803; d. Paris 29 July 1857)


Bonaparte was the son of Napoleon’s younger brother, Lucien (1775–1840). His mother was Alexandrine de Bleschamp. In 1822 Bonaparte married his cousin Zénaïde Charlotte Julie, the daughter of the king of Naples and Spain. They had twelve children.

Soon after his marriage Bonaparte went to the United States, where he started a brilliant career as a naturalist. At twenty-five he returned to Europe and settled in Italy, beginning his great political activity. He advocated the organization of scientific congresses, which in Italy also served as the opportunity for meetings of independents and reformers. Upon the accession of Pope Pius IX, Bonaparte became a member of the pope’s party. Next he was a member of the Radical party and of the supreme junta that seized power in the Roman states. After the pope’s flight to Gaeta in November 1848, Bonaparte became a deputy from Viterbo; having been made vice presisdent of the Assemblée Nationale Romaine, he was also on the commission to draw up the constitution. When the Italian republic fell and French troops marched into Rome, he left Italy and went to France. He was not allowed to remain in Marseilles and therefore continued his trip. In Orléans he was arrested but released, then fled to Le Hâvre, where he took a boat for England. In 1850, once again allowed to live in Paris, Bonaparte left politics and turned exclusively to his scientific work. He had begun with a few essays in botany, but his zoological research became very important. While in the United States he had published numerous ornithological notes in the Journal of the philadephia Academy of Sciences and applied himself to the continuation of Wilson’s work on birds.

As early as 1831 Bonaparte became interested in the great principles of classification and was critical of Cuvier’s concepts. He classifield the Insectivore before the Rodentia and separatated the Chiroptera from the Primates. Besides the morphological characteristics, he considered the physiological data, such as in the case of birds, “the perfect or imperfect condition” of the chicks at birth. Bonaparte raised the Batrachia to the rank of a subclass. He then united the saurians and the ophidians (Reptilia), placing the iguanodons at the head, as “the most perfect of cold-blooded and air-breathing animals.”

In ichthyology Bonaparte made use of the location, the structure, and the relationships of the branchiate in the classification of fishes. He made a distinction between two new “sections,” the Physostomi and the physoclisit, according to whether for not the alimentary canal (the franchise, according to Bonaparte) communicates with the air bladder. In general classifications, Bonaparte carefully reconstituted the synonymy of a species, minutely described its coloration (often illustrated by beautiful plates), and considered both its behavior and its geographic distribution.

Bonaparte tried to establish our knowledge of various zoological groups once and for all, and published numerous synopses, conspectuses, and catalogs. He urged zoologists to study local fauna and conceived the writing of a general work on the fauna of France, Histories naturelle général et particuliére des animaux qui vivent en France. This was to be carried out in collaboration with Victor Meunier, and its prospectus is dated 1857. Bonaparte’s death prevented the realization of the project. He had visited many museums in the United States and Europe and was deeply interested in he Museum d’Histories Naturelle. He hoped for the creation of a special gallery in which to exhibit the native fauna, with an accompanying professorship for its study. The teaching of natural sciences, according to him, should effect the study of agriculture and be conceived so as “to reach those who do not have the time to study.”

Bonaparte had many friends abroad. In the United States he had known Audubon, and in Leiden he was friendly with J. C. Temminck and H. Shlegel. He was also a member of numerous learned societies and academies: the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the Academy of Sciences and Literature of Baltimore, the Academy of Sciences of Berlin, and the Royal Acadamy of Turin. In 1839 Agassiz de feated Bonaparte for election to corresponding membership of the Académie des Sciences de Paris by one vote, but Bonaparte was elected on 18 March 1844.

Bonaparte left his personal library to the Muséum d’Historie Naturelle. It contains works on the natural sciences, meteorolgy, history, and politics. It also includes his extensive correspondence, not yet cataloged.


I. Original Works. Bonaparte’s writings include American Ornithology or the Natural History of Birds Inhabiting the United States, 4vols. (Philadelphia, 1825–1833); Observations on the Nomenclature of Wilson’s Ornithology (Philadelphia, 1826); “The Genera of North American Birds and a Synopsis of the Species to Be Found within the Territory of the United States,” in Annales du Lycée New-York, 11 (1826–1828); “Tableau comparatif des ornithologies de Rome et de Philadelphie,” in Nouveau journal des savants (1827); “Fauna Italica,” I conographia della fauna italica per le quato classi degli animali vertebrati, 3, vols. (Rome, 1832–1841); “Amphibia Europaea ad systema nostrum verterbratorum oridinata,” in Memorie della Accademia delle scienze di Torino (1840), 385–456; “Monographia leuciscorum Europaeorum,” in Actes du Congrés zoologique pisa (1840), p. 150; “Systema vertabratorum,” in Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, 18 (1840), 247–305; Catalogo metodico degli uncelli eurpei (Bologna, 1842); Catalogo metodico dei mammiferi eurpei (Milan, 1845); Catalogo metodico dei pseci europei (Naples, 1846); Con spectus systematis erpetologie et amphibilogiae (Leiden, 1850); Conspectus systematic ornithologiar (Leiden, 1850; rev., enl. ed., 1854); Monographie des Loxiens (Leiden, Düsseldorf, 1850;), Writtene with H. Schlegel; Conspectus generum avium, 2 vols. (Leiden. 1850–1857;); Discours, allocutions et opinions de Charles Louis Prince Bonaparte dans le Conseil des Députés et l’Assemblée Constituante de Rome en 1848 et 1849 (Leiden, 1857); and Iconographie des piegeons non firgurés pur Madame Knip [Mlle. Pauline de Courcelles], 2 vols. (Paris, 1857).

II. Secondary Litterature. Works on Bonaparte are Élie de Beaumont, Notice sur les travaux scientifiques de S. A. le Prince Charles Louis Bonaparte (Réflexions sur ce travail par M. Richard du Cantal) (1886); Biographie du Prince Charles Bonaparte, Prince de Canion, fils de Lucien, J. P. Jules Paultet, trans,; and the article in Dietionnaire de biographie francaise, VI (Parise, 1954). There is also an anonymous notice on Bonaparte’s works in Revue et magazine de zoologie, 11 (1850).

G. Petit

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Bonaparte, Lucien Jules Laurent

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