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Cavanilles, Antonio José

Cavanilles, Antonio José

(b. Valencia, Spain, 16 January 1745; d. Madrid, Spain, 10 May 1804),


In his youth Cavanities specialized in the study of mathematics and physics and obtained a doctorate in theology. Because he failed to secure the professorship to which he aspired, he accepted the post of guardian to the sons of the duke of Infantado and accompanied the duke to Paris in 1777. In 1780 he became fascinated with botany and took courses given by the renowned naturalists A. Laurent de Jussieu and Lamarck. He published, in 1785, the first of ten monographs that constitute his Monadelphiae.

His return to Spain in 1789 marked the beginning of a rivalry with the director of the Madrid Botanical Gardens, Casimiro Gómez Ortega, and the botanist Hipólito Ruiz. In 1791 he was ordered to travel throughout the peninsula to study its botanical wealth; and, starting in 1799, he collaborated on the newly created Anales de histoaria natural. In 1801 he was given a professorship and the directorship of the Madrid Botanical Gardens; and the Spanish government ordered that any expeditions exploring Spanish America at that time send the Botanical Gardens examples of any herbs, seeds, and other plant forms that might be collected.

His disciples were Mariano Lagasca (1776– 1839) and Simon de Rojas Clemente (1777– 1827).


I. Original Works. A complete listing is in the study made by E. Alvarez López. The following are the most important: the series of ten monographs entitled Monadelphiae classis dissertationes (Paris, 1785; Madrid, 1790); Icones et descriptions plantarum quae aut sponte in Hispania crescunt aut in hortis hospitantur, 6 vols. (Madrid, 1791–1801), in which 712 plants were listed according to the Linnaean classification and which gives data on some American plants; Observaciones sobre la historia natural, geografia, agricultura, población y frutos del reyno de Valencia, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1795–1797; new Zaragoza edition, 1958), a work in which he attempts to fix the natural wealth of the region studied; and Descripción de las plantas que Don A. J. Cavanilles demostró en las lecciones púhlicas del año 1801 (Madrid, 1803. 1804).

II. Secondary Literature. Works concerning Cavanilles are Luis Valdés Cavanilles, Archivo del ilustre botánico D. Antonio Joseph Cavanilles (Madrid, 1946); E. Alvarez López, “Antonio José Cavanilles”, in Anales del Jardin botánico de Madrid, 6 , pt. I (1946), 1–64, an important study; Eduardo Reyes Prósper, Dos noticias históricas del inmortal botánico y sacerdote hispano-valentino Don Antonio José Cavanilles, por Don Antonio Cavanilles yCenti y Don Mariano Lagasca, con anotaciones y los estudios biobibliográficos tie Cavanilles v Centi y de Lagasca

Juan Vernet

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