Saturday, December 29, 2018

Pierre-André Latreille

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Pierre-André Latreille “studied theology and was ordained [as a] priest in 1786, after which he retired to Brives and spent his leisure in the study of entomology.” (4) 

"In 1790, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was declared. This law required clergymen to take an oath that they would guard with care the dioceses confided to them, support the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and be loyal to the nation, to the law, and … to the king.” (3) For one reason or another, Fr. Latreille did not attend the oath ceremony, and was subsequently arrested. He “endured a long imprisonment, first in Brive then in Bordeaux (from November 1793 to January 1795).” (2) During his imprisonment, he noticed  a rare kind of beetle, and commented on it to the prison doctor. “The ... doctor was so impressed by [the young man's] knowledge that, according to, “[the doctor] sent the beetle to a 15-year-old local naturalist named Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent. Bory de St.-Vincent was already well aware of Latreille’s remarkable work and because of Bory de St.-Vincent’s efforts, Latreille and one of his cellmates were released. This was fortunate because a month later Latreille’s other cellmates were executed.” I think the site is leaving something out, because a 15 year old man is not likely to have much power in local government, on average, but that may be my own modern biases.

“Latreille was also the first person to attempt to classify arthropods (an invertebrate animal like a insect or spider), and he added greatly to the number of known genera and then grouped the genera into families.” (3) His book, published in 1796, “marks the beginning of modern entomology,” and because of this he is known as the Father of Entomology. (1) Three years after he published the book, he became the head of the entomology department at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Then, “in 1829 he succeeded Jean Lamarck as professor of zoology in crustaceans, arachnids, and insects at the National Museum of Natural History.” (1)


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