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Having begun to collect notes on the naturalists who came to Madagascar from the Natural History Museum in Paris, Dr. Henri Poisson reported in 1943 that he had found 425 more or less complete records. ” And that’s just the beginning. “
The nineteenth century was marked by the numerous and important discoveries of naturalist travelers, most of them prepared and trained in the “Garden of the King”, that is to say, the Museum. Many are gardeners, a profession that allows them to know the exotic plants and their culture, and thus to render excellent services in overseas countries.
At the beginning of this century, the Museum was under the able direction of André Thouin (1747-1823) who was then chief gardener before becoming the first holder of the Chair of Culture. It is especially at this time that travelers can take advantage of this education. The Museum of Natural History of Paris occupies a primordial place in the research in overseas countries.
Under the restoration, Boitard, an historiographer of the Jardin des Plantes, writes: “Not a sailor of any importance, not a lieutenant of a frigate, would have thought his journey complete, if he had not been able to record some memories of it in the Garden Plant. It is through them that the scientific heritage, notably French but also global, is enriched and extended to enable the development of overseas France.
According to Dr. Poisson, the scientific results obtained by researched or voluntary researchers, missionaries, soldiers, seamen, administrators and officials of various departments, settlers, Malagasy scholars, agents of commercial or industrial companies , Can give a huge crowd of useful works and finds of new animal, plant, fossil, etc. species.
Still at the beginning of the 19th century, Aubert du Petit-Thouars (1758-1831), born of a family of famous sailors, is also noted because he is both traveler and botanist. Several of his works are published in the Bulletin de la Société philomatique, from 1801 to 1808. There are also two works on the orchids of the islands of France, Bourbon and Madagascar. The works of this naturalist have become very rare for the most part.
Jean Nicolas Bréon (1785-1864), 24 years old at the Museum as a gardener, is the friend of Adrien de Jussieu. Botanist of the Navy in 1815, he went to Bourbon in 1816, made several trips to Madagascar, on the island of Sainte-Marie and on the east coast in 1824, in the country of Anosy. He introduced to Reunion more than eight hundred species of rare plants, among them the sugar cane of Batavia, tek, and nearly sixty species of fruit trees. A very beautiful tree in the Madagascan forest is called “Breonia”, the “Molopan-gady”.
The unfortunate Louis Armand Chapelier, who came to the Great Island at the age of 16 and who died there at the age of 28 because of unhealthiness, also left a herbarium in the Museum and manuscripts studied and published by the Malagasy Academy.
There is also another very original figure. This is Goudot. He is in turn naturalist and trader, and has a fairly eventful existence. The natives of Toamasina nicknamed him Bibikely, referring to his mania of harvesting insects. He has difficulties with the hova government and is retreating to the north. He is an excellent collector and his notes and letters are most instructive and curious. In 1834 he harvested eggs from Aepyornis.
But the great and sublime figure of explorers and scientists who dominates this century is that of Alfred Grandidier, who brings to France numerous collections of high value of animals, rocks and plants. With his friend Alphonse Milne Edwards and the scholars of the Museum, he undertakes this gigantic work that will be the “Physical, natural and political history of Madagascar”.
“This magnificent monument, until the beginning of the 20th century, contains twenty six beautiful volumes of texts and atlases diverse whose boards are irreproachable. “
Moreover, the English, who occupy so long the Imerina, actively work in natural history. The writings of Reverend Baron, Cousins, Sibree and Ellis’ travels testify to this by the publication of very important documents on numerous subjects published in periodicals.
We can not forget the activity of travelers and missionaries such as Camboué, Callet, Collin, Maroger, Mondain, Wenceslas Bojer and his friend Hilsenberg, Ida Pfeiffer …