Georg Marcgrave

Birth: 1610


Georg Marcgrave (1610-1644), also Marggraf (marg-graf) was a famous German traveller, naturalist and astronomer. He was born in Liebstaedt, Saxony, in 1610. He studied mathematics, and in 1636 accompanied to Brazil Dr. William Piso, the newly appointed governor of the Dutch possessions in that country. He afterward entered the service of Count Maurice, of Nassau, whose liberality supplied him with the means of exploring a considerable part of Brazil. He spent six years in traveling through the countries between Rio Grande and Pernambuco rivers, during which he collected a great number of facts in geography, natural history, and astronomy.

With a view to increasing his knowledge, he went to the coast of Guinea, where he fell a victim to the climate. Fearing that through accident another might appropriate his materials, he wrote his manuscripts on natural history in cipher. These were deciphered by Joannes de Laet, who published the observations of Piso and Marggraf, with notes, under the litle "G. Pisonis, de medicina Brasiliensi libri quatuor; Georgii Marggravii historiae rerum naturalium Brasiliae libri octo" (Amsterdam, 1648). The work contains an immense number of new plants, to which he gave the names that were current among the natives of Brazil. Most of them have since been discovered again, and the descriptions of Marggraf have been recognized by naturalists as generally correct.

Piso published a work in 1658 which combined the observations of himself and Marggraf, in which there is inserted a treatise of the latter entitled "Tractatus topographicus et meteorologicus Brasiliae, cum eclipsi solari; quibus additi sunt illius et aliorum Commentarii de Brasiliensium et Chilensium indole et lingua." Marggrafs premature death prevented him from completing a great work, the title of which, as given by Laet, was "Progymnastica mathematica Americana tribus sectionibus comprehensa." It was intended to contain everything relating to the astronomy, geography, and geodesy of Brazil. A creeping-plant of the Antilles, belonging to the guttiferous family, has been named Marggravia in honor of its discoverer.

Georg Marcgrave later died on the coast of Guinea in 1644.


Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography pg. 204. (1900)

Neil Safier, "Beyond Brazilian Nature: The Editorial Itineraries of Marcgraf and Piso's Historia Naturalis Brasiliae" in Michiel Van Groesen, ed. The Legacy of Dutch Brazil. New York: Cambridge University Press 2014, pp. 168-186.

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