Naudin, Charles

views updated


(d. Autun, France, 14 August 1815; d. Villa Thuret, near Antibes, France, 19 March 1899)

horticulture, experimental botany.

Villa Thuret, near Antibes, France, 19 March 1899), horticulture, experimental botany.

Naudin was the son of a petty entrepreneur whose financial successes were rare. His childhood and youth were thus marked by frequent moves and numerous schools but also by an extraordinary determination to prepare for a medical, and then a scientific, career. After receiving the baccalaureate in science at Montpellier in 1837, he moved on to Paris. Working as bookkeeper, tutor, private secretary, and gardener, he earned his doctorate in 1842 and awaited an opening in the French educational system. He occupied minor posts until 1846, when, recommended by his lifelong friend and supporter, the botanist Joseph Decaisne, he joined the herbarium staff at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle and became professor of zoology at the Collège Chaptal. Almost immediately Naudin was obliged to resign these posts and to seek his livelihood elsewhere in Paris and in the provinces. He had been struck by a severe nervous disorder which left him totally deaf and in constant pain; his public career, so arduously earned, had to be abandoned. He finally settled at Collioure, in 1869, and established a private experimental garden devoted especially to problems of acclimatization and earned his living by the sale of seeds and specimens. In 1878 he became the first director of the experimental garden at Antibes given to the state by the family of the horti- culturist Gustave Thuret. Thus, not until age sixty- three did Naudin find financial security and suitable institutional support. His plaint rings true: “Happy is the professor who enjoys an assured income and whom the government provides with assistance and collaborators."

Throughout these years of insecurity and frequent isolation, Naudin pursued a remarkably varied program of research and horticultural promotion. His primary interests focused on acclimatization and economic botany and on the relation of hybridization to the formation of new biological species. The gardens at Collioure and Antibes were directed toward the introduction into France and her colonies, notably Algeria, of foreign plants of potential eco- nomic value. Naudin demonstrated exceptional skill as horticulturist and arboriculturist, and the garden at Antibes soon became a primary means of communi- cation among French botanists and agronomists and their foreign colleagues. Naudin himself paid particular attention to the economic potential of the Australian import Eucalyptus for dry and saline areas of southern France.

By far Naudin’s most celebrated scientific work was done on problems of plant hybridization. His research began in 1854 and continued for two decades. Decaisne had suggested hybridization as a seemingly fruitful approach to the issue of species stability; Linnaeus’ famous experiments (1759) with speedwell and goats- beard had suggested that man might indeed modify nature’s creations. Working primarily with Datura species, Naudin pursued this suggestion and arrived at results of interest to the history of both the study of inheritance and of evolution theory. He ascertained that the first generation of hybrids was relatively homogeneous in appearance and that reciprocal crosses produced identical results. From this first generation of hybrids he then produced a second and thereby established that second-generation hybrids display extraordinary diversity; “disjunction”of all the species’ characters seems to occur, with new and unexpected combinations appearing in the offspring. His contemporary Gregor Mendel also recognized these phenomena, but, unlike Naudin, he marshaled the data from the second generation and sought its explanation in the statistical distribution of hereditary factors. Naudin overlooked this crucial step and could only emphasize the seemingly chaotic distribu- tion of characters in second-generation hybrids, a phenomenon now called segregation.

Hybridization proved effective for Naudin in the limited production of new species. His faith in evolution was real but constrained. He held that the present diversity of specific forms had been produced from a reduced number of aboriginal forms. Hybridization was the primary agency of change, not natural selection or environmental action. The ancestral or primary forms were of basic importance; all other species were secondary productions and might or might not exhibit permanence. Naudiifs scheme, remarkably consonant with the century-old conclusions of Linnaeus, thus reveal his belief in the reality of species transformation as well as his res- ervations regarding proposed evolutionary mech- anisms. Hybridization, the object of Naudin’s most prolonged and assiduous investigations, thus provided a seemingly plausible alternative mechanism. At the same time it ensured the creation of but one more explanation of evolutionary change in those confused years between 1859 and 1900, when the phenomena of inheritance were brought by Darwin to the center of attention of natural history and left there unresolved.


I. Original Works. Naudin published voluminously and widely. The principal listing of his scattered writings is the Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers, IV, 575–576; VIII, 483; X, 901; XVII, 459. These lists are nonetheless incomplete. His major papers on hybridization are “Réflexions sur l’hybridation dans les végétaux,”in Revue horticole, 4th ser., 4 (1855), 351–354; “Sur les plantes hybrides,”ibid., 10 (1861), 396–399; “Nouvelles recherches sur l’hybridité dans les végétaux,”in Annales des sciences naturelles, Botanique, 4th ser., 19 (1863), 180–203, which offers only the “Conclusions”to Naudin’s foremost contribution to the study of heredity, published under the same title in Nouvelles archives da Muséum d;histoire naturelle, 1 (1865), 25–176; and “De l’hyhridité considérée comme cause de la variabilité dans les végétaux,”in Comptes rendus … de l’Académié des sciences, 59 (1864), 837–845.

Other publications include “Les espèces affines et la théorie de l’évolution,”in Bulletin, Société botanique de France, 21 (1874), 240–272; Le jardin du cultivateur (Paris, 1857); Manuel de l’amateur des jardius, traité général d’horticulture, 4 vols. (Paris, 1862–1871), written with Joseph Decaisne; Mémoire sur les eucalyptus introduits dans la région méditerranéenne (Paris, 1883), also published in Annales des sciences naturelles, Botanique, 5th ser., 16 (1883), 337–430.

II. Secondary Literature. The principal account of Naudin’s life is Marcelin Berthelot, Notice historique sur la vie et les travaux de M. Naudin, lue à l’Académie des sciences le 17 décembre 1900 (Paris, 1900); see also E. Bornet’s brief notice in Comptes rendus… de l’Académie des sciences, 128 (1899), 127–128. The only comprehensive study of Naudin’s scientific inquiries, especially those dealing with plant hybridization, is Louis Blaringham, “La notion de l’espèce et la disjonction des hybrides d’après Charles Naudin (1852–1875),”in Progressus rei botanicae, 4 (1913), 27–108, Shorter accounts are H. F. Roberts, Plant Hybridization Before Mendel (Princeton, 1929), 129–136; R. C. Olby, Origins of Mendelism (London, 1966), 62–66; Jean F. Leroy, “Naudin, Spencer et Darwin dans l’histoire des théories de l’hérédité,”Actes du XIe Congrès international d’ histoire des sciences, V (Warsaw- Krakow, 1968), 64–69; and A. E. Gaisinovich, Zarozhdenie genetiki (“The Origin of Genetics”; Moscow, 1967), 54–71.

William Coleman