José Celestino Mutis

José Celestino Mutis

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José Celestino Mutis is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, April 6, 1732 – Bogotá
Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

 (now in Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

), September 11, 1808) was a Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 botanist and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

.

Life


He was born in Cádiz and baptized with the name José Celestino Bruno Mutis y Bosio. He began his medical studies at the College of Surgery in Cádiz, where he also studied physics, chemistry and botany. He graduated in medicine from the University of Seville
University of Seville
The Universidad de Sevilla or University of Seville, in English, is a top-ranked European university in Seville, Spain. Founded under the name of Colegio Santa María de Jesús in 1505, the University of Seville, with a student body of over 50,000, is one of the top-ranked universities in the country...

 on May 2, 1755.

On July 5, 1757 he received his doctorate in medicine. From 1757 to 1760 he was interim professor of anatomy in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

. During those same years he continued to study botany at the Migas Calientes Botanical Gardens (now the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
The is an botanical garden located at , next to the Prado Museum in Madrid ....

), and also astronomy and mathematics.

After three years he decided to leave for America, as the private physician of the new viceroy of New Granada
Viceroyalty of New Granada
The Viceroyalty of New Granada was the name given on 27 May 1717, to a Spanish colonial jurisdiction in northern South America, corresponding mainly to modern Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. The territory corresponding to Panama was incorporated later in 1739...

, Pedro Messía de la Cerda
Pedro Messía de la Cerda
Pedro Messía Corea de la Cerda, 2nd Marquis of Vega de Armijo was a Spanish naval officer and colonial official...

. He sailed on September 7, 1760, arriving at Santa Fe de Bogotá
Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

 on February 24, 1761. During the long transatlantic passage he began writing his Diario de Observaciones, which he continued until 1791.

From his arrival in the Viceroyalty, Mutis concentrated on his botanical studies, beginning work on an herbal
Herbal
AThe use of a or an depends on whether or not herbal is pronounced with a silent h. herbal is "a collection of descriptions of plants put together for medicinal purposes." Expressed more elaborately — it is a book containing the names and descriptions of plants, usually with information on their...

 and investigating for cinchona
Cinchona
Cinchona or Quina is a genus of about 38 species in the family Rubiaceae, native to tropical South America. They are large shrubs or small trees growing 5–15 metres in height with evergreen foliage. The leaves are opposite, rounded to lanceolate and 10–40 cm long. The flowers are white, pink...

, which was considered a panacea for the treatment of all kinds of diseases. He wrote El Arcano de la Quina.

Botanical expedition


Beginning in 1763, Mutis proposed to the king that he sponsor an expedition to study the flora and fauna of the region. He had to wait 20 years for the authorization, but in 1783 the king authorized his expedition (one of three royal botanical expeditions to the New World at about that time). In the interim, Mutis concentrated on commercial and mineralogical projects, not neglecting medicine. He also studied the social and economic conditions of the viceroyalty, and continued to expand his collection of flora and fauna. On December 19, 1772 he was ordained a priest. He was in regular correspondence with scientists in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, particularly Carolus Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

.

Mutis led the Royal Botanical Expedition, established in 1783, for 25 years. It explored some 8,000 km2 in a range of climates, using the Río Magdalena for access to the interior. He developed a meticulous methodology that included the harvesting of the samples in the field together with detailed descriptions, including data on the surroundings of each species and its utility. Hundreds of plants were discovered and described. More than 8,000 plates, plus maps, correspondence, notes and manuscripts were sent to Spain. His museum consisted of 24,000 dried plants, 5,000 drawings of plants by his pupils, and a collection of woods, shells, resins, minerals, and skins. These treasures arrived safely at Madrid in 105 boxes, and the plants, manuscripts, and drawings were sent to the botanical gardens, where they were relegated to a tool-house.

However much of the work was wasted because the results remained unedited and unanalyzed. Also, the collation between the notes and the plates was lost during the transfer to Spain. His work on the species and varieties of Chinchona had lasting influence.

He determined the longitude of Bogotá by the observation of an eclipse of a satellite of Jupiter and was a major influence on the construction of the National Astronomical Observatory.

In March 1762, at the inauguration of the chair of mathematics at the Colegio del Rosario, he expounded the principles of the Copernican system and of the experimental method of science, leading to a confrontation with the church. In 1774 he had to defend the teaching of the principles of Copernicus, as well as natural philosophy and modern, Newtonian physics and mathematics, before the Inquisition
Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

.

In 1784, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

.

Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt...

 visited Mutis in 1801, during his expedition to America. Humboldt stayed with Mutis for two months, and greatly admired his botanical collection.

Mutis died in Bogotá on September 11, 1808 at 76 years of age, a victim of apoplexy. Because much of his botanical work was lost or unpublished, he is known to history not as a great scientist, but as a great promoter of science and knowledge.

Works

  • Botany
    Botany
    Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

    : He studied the flora of his surroundings, and produced a marvelous collection of plates of Colombian plants that are now located in the Royal Botanical Garden
    Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
    The is an botanical garden located at , next to the Prado Museum in Madrid ....

     in Madrid.

  • Linguistics
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

    : He studied the Indigenous languages of the area. By order of King Charles III
    Charles III of Spain
    Charles III was the King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788. He was the eldest son of Philip V of Spain and his second wife, the Princess Elisabeth Farnese...

    , he developed a series of elementary vocabularies of various languages (about 100 words in each language). King Charles was responding to a request from Tsarina Catherine the Great to provide vocabularies of all the languages spoken in his realms, in order to develop a monumental dictionary of all the languages of the world. The dictionary was in fact published, but the compilers had the unfortunate idea to publish it in alphabetical order, which makes it nearly impossible to consult.

  • Other sciences, including important contributions to industrial processes, like silver mining and the distillation of rum.

Legacy




His likeness is well known to Spaniards, because his image was used on the old banknotes of 2,000 pesetas. This was the first in a series of banknotes commemorating Spain in America. On the reverse was a drawing of the Mutisia orchid, named in his honor.

His likeness also appeared on the 200-peso bill in Colombia from 1983 to 1992.

José Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens
Bogotá Botanical Garden
The Bogotá Botanical Garden, aka José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden , is Colombia's biggest botanical garden, located in Bogotá. It features greenhouses in which plants from every Colombian region, altitude, and climate are exhibited...

, a park and center of scientific investigation, is named in his honor in Bogotá. It includes climate-controlled exhibits of the flora in all climate zones of Colombia. There is also an exhibit of 5,000 Colombian orchids, one of Colombia's greatest and most exquisite showcases.

The town of Bahia Solano on Colombia's Pacific coast in the Department of Choco's official name is Puerto Mutis, in honor of Jose Celestino Mutis. The airport there is Aeropuerto Jose Celestino Mutis, as well. This town is located north of the city of Buenaventura and north of the San Juan River - the largest river in South America to empty into the Pacific Ocean.

Other expeditions


The four expeditions authorized by King Charles III to the Spanish colonies were those of Hipólito Ruiz López
Hipólito Ruiz López
Hipólito Ruiz López , or Hipólito Ruiz, was a Spanish botanist known for researching the floras of Peru and Chile during an expedition under Carlos III from 1777 to 1788...

 and José Antonio Pavón to Peru and Chile (1777–88); Mutis to New Granada
New Kingdom of Granada
The New Kingdom of Granada was the name given to a group of 16th century Spanish colonial provinces in northern South America governed by the president of the Audiencia of Bogotá, an area corresponding mainly to modern day Colombia and parts of Venezuela. Originally part of the Viceroyalty of...

 (1783–1808); Juan de Cuéllar
Juan de Cuéllar
Juan José Ruperto de Cuéllar y Villanueba was a Spanish pharmacologist and botanist...

 to the Philippines (1786–97); and Martín Sessé y Lacasta
Martín Sessé y Lacasta
Martín Sessé y Lacasta was a Spanish botanist, who relocated to New Spain during the 18th century to study and classify the flora of the territory.-Background:...

 to New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

 (1787–1803).

External links