Herrera, Alfonso Luís

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Herrera, Alfonso Luís

(b. Mexico City, Mexico, 3 July 1868; d. Mexico City, 17 September 1942)


Herrera’s father, also called Alfonso Herrera, was a well-known scientist. Herrera received a degree in pharmacy in 1889 from the School of Medicine of Mexico. That year he was appointed professor of botany and zoology at the Normal School, where in 1902 he established the first chair of general biology in the country. His textbook Nociones de biologia (Mexico City, 1904) was translated into French as Notions de biologie et plasmogénie comparées (Berlin, 1906).

In 1889 Herrera was also appointed assistant to the natural history department of the National Museum and from 1894 to 1897, he published catalogs of the collections of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibia, anthropology, and fishes and invertebrates. He joined the National Medical Institute in 1890 as assistant of natural history. In 1900 he proposed the creation of a commission of parasitology at the Department of Agriculture. Appointed chief, he remained with the commission for seven years. In 1915, also at the Department of Agriculture, he organized the Direction of Biological Studies, then the largest center for biological research in the country. He was director of the center until his retirement in 1930.

Herrera was interested in problems of biological adaptation to high altitudes. He did extensive research in this field, publishing his results in La vie sur les hauts plateaux (1899), for which he received an award from the Smithsonian Institution.

In addition to botany, zoology, and pharmacology, Herrera studied intensively the structure and origin of living matter. This subject, the center of his research activities until his death, involved him in a series of controversies, both scientific and religious.

He was a member of many scientific societies, received the Palmes académiques from the French government, and was elected to the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.


I. Original Works. Herrera’s works include Recueil des lois de la biologie générate (Mexico City, 1897); La vie sur les hams plateaux (Mexico City, 1899), written with Vergara Lope; Una nueva ciencia: la plasmogenia (Mexico City, 1911); and Farmacopea Latino-Americana (Mexico City. 1921).

II. Secondary Litrature. For information on Herrera. see E. Beltrán. “Alfonso L. Herrera. Un hombre y una época,” in Revista de la Sociedad mexicana de historia natural, 3 (1942). 201–210, and “Alfonso L. Herrera (1868–1968). Primera ligura tie la biologia mexicana,ibid 29 (1968), 37–110.

Enrique BeltrÁn

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