was a Czech Jesuit missionary, noted for his exploration of the Amazon River
The Amazon of South America is the second longest river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined...
and its basin.
Fritz was born at Trautenau, Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...
. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1673. In 1684 he was sent to Quito
San Francisco de Quito, most often called Quito , is the capital city of Ecuador in northwestern South America. It is located in north-central Ecuador in the Guayllabamba river basin, on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, an active stratovolcano in the Andes mountains...
as a missionary. For forty-two years Fritz acted in this capacity among the Indians of the Upper Marañon
The Marañón River rises about 160 km to the northeast of Lima, Peru, flows through a deeply-eroded Andean valley in a northwesterly direction, along the eastern base of the Cordillera of the Andes, as far as 5 degrees 36' southern latitude; then it makes a great bend to the northeast, and...
. He succeeded in converting among others the powerful tribe of Omaguas
The Cambeba people are an indigenous people in Brazil's Amazon valley. They speak the Omagua language...
(Omayas) and in concentrating into settlements indigenous peoples from forty different localities, in the country between the River Napo and River Negro.
An adept in technical arts and handicraft, he also was a linguist having a knack for dealings with the Indians. He was effective and respected, and helpful to the Spanish Government in its boundary dispute with the Portuguese.
At the instance of the Real Audiencia of Quito he began (1687) the cartographical delineation of the disputed missionary territory on the Upper Marañon between Peru and Quito. In 1689 he undertook, in a pirogue
A pirogue is a small, flat-bottomed boat of a design associated particularly with the Cajuns of the Louisiana marsh. In West Africa they were used as traditional fishing boats. These boats are not usually intended for overnight travel but are light and small enough to be easily taken onto land...
, an expedition down the Amazon to Pará
Pará is a state in the north of Brazil. It borders the Brazilian states of Amapá, Maranhão, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Amazonas and Roraima. To the northwest it also borders Guyana and Suriname, and to the northeast it borders the Atlantic Ocean. The capital is Belém.Pará is the most populous state...
, where he was captured and imprisoned for two years on the suspicion of being a Spanish spy.
Charting the Amazon
Poorly equipped with instruments, he completed a comparatively accurate chart of the river's course. This was the first approximately correct chart of the Marañon territory. He was also the first to follow the Tunguragua instead of the Gran Pará (Ucayali) and prove it the real source of the Marañon.
Johann Eduard Wappaeus (1813–1879) writes of him in his Handbuch der Geographie und Statistik
(Leipzig, 1863–70, I, pt. III, 595) as follows:
- "The great respect justly shown at that time by European scientists for the geographical work of the Jesuits led to the admission into their ranks of Father Fritz by acclamation."
In 1707 this map was printed at Quito and extensively copied, e.g. in the "Lettres Edifiantes" (Paris, 1781), VIII, 284, and the "N. Welt-Bott" (Augsburg, 1726, I), also in Condamine
-Places:Condamine is the name of several communes in France:* Condamine, in the Ain département* Condamine, in the Jura département* La Condamine-Châtelard, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence départementCondamine may also refer to:...
, "Relation abrégée d'un voyage fait dans l'intérieur de l'Amérique Méridionale" (Paris, 1745), which contains the revised chart of Father Fritz for comparative study.
The chart was reprinted in Madrid, in 1892, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the discovery of America. There was another reprint in the "Recueil de voyages et de documents pour servir a l'histoire de la géographie", ed. by Schéfer and Cordier (Paris, 1893). Three of his letters are incorporated in the "N. Welt-Bott" (Augsburg, 1726), III, nos. 24, 25; according to Condamine an original report of his travels is to be found in the archives of the Jesuit college at Quito.
The Journal, Travels, and Labours of Father Samuel Fritz, in the River Amazon, 1686–1723
, translated from the Evora MS., edited for the Hakluyt Society by George Edmundson. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1922